Fighting Against the Growing Heroin Epidemic

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"We have to find a better way to communicate to these kids that this is serious," said Jan Ivinson, who lost her son to drug addiction.

After five years of fighting addiction, Ivinson lost her son, Tom, to heroin at the age of 24.

"We had a wonderful family-- did all the right things, we ate dinner together every night, he played varsity ice hockey in high school-- just a phenomenal kid. He went to a graduation party tried heroin and he was hooked. One time [was all it took]," said Ivinson.

That's a sobering thought during graduation season.

There is an epidemic, and ER visits are becoming more common. At Sparrow, Dr. Richard Maier said they see at least one drug dependence related visit each day.

"My son had two friends die in two weeks," said Char, another mother at the Opiate Epidemic Conference in Mason, Friday. Parents, doctors and probation officers from all over Jackson and the Tri-County region came together to learn about overcoming drug addiction.

For ten years, Char's son has been a recovering addict. He's still recovering, so she asked us not to print her last name.

"Counties don't want to talk about it. Nobody wants to talk about it-- because who wants to move into a county with a heroin epidemic? Who wants to go to a school with a heroin epidemic?" said Char.

Those closest to the problem say the textbook addict starts on prescription pain killers after an athletic injury. Thinks like tramadol, vicodin, oxycontin, hydrocodone or tylenol with codeine. The recovering athletes get hooked. When the drugs run out they switch to heroin.

"The signs and the symptoms of opiate use and abuse, look just like a teenager-- you're tired, you're irritable, you're not sleeping, you're falling asleep at the dinner table, you're wearing clothing that may or may not be out of season," said Judge Jodi Debbrecht Switalski of the Oakland County District Court.

Friday's conference spread the message-- "We need to educate our kids that drugs are not recreational," said Char. "There is no such thing as a recreational drug."

A message Char said kids need to hear starting in elementary school.

"Any parent obviously loves their child more than they love themselves, and to sit back and not be able to help is the most horrifying feeling-- to see your child suffer like that. Because addicts truly are suffering. They don't want to be addicts," said Char. "For years, I just got mad and didn't understand why he just wouldn't stop. As I educated myself I understood it's just not that easy."

Doctors recommend parents ask their physicians about the addiction potential of any medications. They also recommend locking up any prescription drugs in the house. RADEO will be holding another educational seminar in Ann Arbor June 6. To register, just click on the link above.

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