‘The devil is
in our town’
Stairway to Heroin II hits home with recollections of those lost to
addiction, message of hope to those struggling
Perttunen - Enterprise Staff
Oct. 16, 2014
OCONOMOWOC — Candid discussion silenced a crowd of more than
800 people Tuesday evening, when community members heard
firsthand how heroin has devastated the lives of their
friends and neighbors in Lake Country.
The Stairway to Heroin II presentation at the Oconomowoc
Arts Center included stories of loved ones lost to
addiction, journeys back from the brink, law enforcement’s
perspective and the medical community’s input into the
Oconomowoc High School senior
Augie Badura, 17, shares his story at the Stairway to Heroin
II presentation. His older brother Archie Badura, 19,
overdosed on heroin in May.
A parent’s worst nightmare
Jody Medinger warned the audience that what she had to say
was a parent’s worst nightmare.
She woke up from a nap on Jan. 4, went downstairs and found
her daughter Samantha, 24, dead on the living room couch.
Her daughter, she said, was a high-honor student who had
been raised with a drug-free philosophy.
“There is a misconception that this only happens in bad
families, in poor families, in families who don’t care,”
Medinger said. “That’s not true. This disease does not
discriminate. Samantha was known as the kid who didn’t do
drugs. I knew all her friends and I knew all her friends’
But the seed for addiction was planted when Samantha was
prescribed opiate painkillers after surgery on her wisdom
“My good, smart, kid made one stupid, boneheaded decision,”
Medinger said. “She chopped up a pill and snorted it and she
— these are her words — ‘fell in love.’” Medinger said
Samantha would struggle with heroin and opiate addiction for
“Unbeknownst to myself, her father, her boyfriend, her
doctor and her family, she had started using again,”
Medinger said of that fateful day. “She had decided to take
a shot before she went out for the evening with her
boyfriend. Samantha did not intend to die that day; she
intended to go out to dinner with her boyfriend.”
Speaking to a hushed audience, Medinger said her heartbreak
proves that addiction can claim anyone.
“Samantha was gorgeous, sassy, gutsy, intelligent, funny and
a wildly creative artist,” she said. “Heroin took it all,
every last bit of Samantha, then it took her life.”
“I grew up in this town and my daughter grew up in this
town. And the devil is in this town. The devil’s name is
Chris Gleason, director of
Rosecrance McHenry County, talks about his road to recovery,
emphasizing that recovering addicts need hope and a strong
sense of what they are good at to stave off addiction.
Flames held high
at Badura prayer vigil
Though painful to hear, stories like Medinger’s drive home
the point that heroin is a very real problem among the
community’s youths, said Oconomowoc High School Principal
Joseph Moylan. “If we shy away from this discussion as a
community, we are putting kids at risk,” he said.
Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel also did his
best to put things in perspective.
He said he has met too many families who are still
struggling to comprehend how this addiction sunk its claws
into their child. They’ve slid report cards across the
table, marked with all A’s — or produced photographs of
their child in a Boy Scout or team uniform.
“They wanted to convince me that their child wasn’t a bad
child.” Schimel said. “Out of all of these parents who’ve
experienced these tragedies, I’ve yet to meet the one where
their child was the ‘bad’ child.”
Schimel also shared figures that highlight the epidemic.
Wisconsin has seen the number of opiate-related deaths per
year nearly quadruple from 2000 to 2011, he said, jumping
from 2.19 per 100,000 to 8.08 per 100,000. The number of
visits to hospitals for heroin and opiate overdoses has also
quadrupled. Using Narcan, EMS and hospital personnel — along
with heroin users themselves — have brought more than 5,000
people who’ve overdosed back from the brink of death this
Additionally, Waukesha County has submitted the
second-highest amount of heroin to the state crime lab,
which Schimel attributes to both the prevalence of the drug
and the county’s aggressive policy to thwart it. Another
telling figure, he said, is that needle exchanges in the
southeastern Wisconsin region have jumped from 170,000
needles exchanged in 2008 to more than 700,000 in 2012.
“Every way you measure this, we’re in trouble,” Schimel
said, noting that figures like traffic deaths have
fluctuated from year to year, while the amount heroin deaths
has not stopped climbing.
“If we saw traffic deaths going up and up and up like this,
what would be prepared to do about it?” he asked. “I think
we’d do crazy things. Like putting a roundabout every 200
Gains are being made using options like the drug treatment
court, Schimel said, but stemming the tide of addiction will
require continued funding and potentially drastic measures.
“Are we making progress? Yes. But we are driving a Model A
and the problem just blew by us in a red Ferrari.”
High school seniors share their stories
A trio of high school seniors shared their experiences with
the devastation heroin can cause. Augie Badura and Emma Pond
spoke of the brothers they lost to addiction, while Ashley
Herbst spoke of how she battled back from the brink.
Augie, 17, said he lost his older brother Archie, 19, in
May. Archie, he said, was extensively involved with the St.
Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Nashotah and beloved by the
“We thought he might someday grow up to work at the church,”
Augie said. “Not be dead at 19 years old.”
After a childhood filled with fun, friends and laughter,
Augie said his brother started smoking marijuana in high
school, rationalizing that it was the best cure for his
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Efforts to send
him to boot camp could not halt his developing addictions,
With the assistance of counselors and other school staff,
Archie was able to graduate in 2013 — a milestone that meant
a lot to him and his family.
But, Augie said his family could see him slipping away after
“He turned down great schools and job opportunities,” he
said. When Archie started using opiates and told his
brother, Augie said that he thought it was just a phase and
didn’t tell his parents. When Archie confided later that he
had used heroin for the first time, he told his brother he
would never do it again. In retrospect, Augie said he should
have sidestepped all of those assurances and
rationalizations to get him the support he needed.
Senior Emma Pond shared memories of her brother Daniel
juggling, doing the “Carlton” dance from “Fresh Prince of
Bel-Air” and making people laugh in any situation. He became
addicted to pain pills after he received them during
recovery from a torn ACL, she said.
Senior Ashley Herbst shared her story as a recovering
addict, who was able to battle back from the brink after her
secret use of heroin was discovered by Milwaukee Police on
She had been at the point, she said, where she was using all
of her money on drugs and “wasn’t using to feel high
anymore, but to feel normal.”
Herbst will be nine months sober this month.
Moylan offered measures he believes can help combat these
addictions before they begin.
First, he said, students must realize that they’re not
invulnerable, a phenomenon he called the Superman myth.
“They believe ‘it can’t happen to me, I’m invincible, I can
quit whenever I want,’” he said. “So you drink a little
beer, you smoke a little pot; it’s no big deal, everybody
does it. But, no heroin addict ever started by using
Parents bear a responsibility, he added, and some must ditch
preconceptions about their own behaviors.
“They believe things like ‘I did it when I was younger, so
it can’t be that bad,’ or ‘If I take the keys and nobody
drives, it’s OK to have a drink at my house.’ These messages
to our children reinforce the need for our kids to use to
feel better,” he said. “It starts them on a path we may not
see them return from. We need to end the adult participation
in the cycle.”
Moylan also suggested parents and other adults make use of
the prescription drop-off at the police station.
“You have to know what a gift having a drop-off in the
community is,” he said, noting that pills can’t just be
returned to the pharmacy. “You have an opportunity to get
those drugs now out of your house when you’re not using them
and nobody will get into your personal supply.”
‘There is a face and a name to it’
Adding student and family testimonials to the program has
made it a more powerful presentation, Moylan said, adding
that the program was presented to students at the high
school and middle school earlier on Tuesday.
“It makes it more real for the kids,” he said. “There is a
face and a name to it. These are kids that they see every
day, that they like, that are popular. It’s heroism for them
to stand in front of the peers and share their story.”
NASHOTAH — A brief candlelight prayer vigil
for Archie Badura, held at the St. Joan of Arc Catholic
Church in Nashotah, immediately followed the Stairway to
Heroin II presentation on Tuesday evening.
Augie Badura, center, and
parents Andy and Lauri are overcome with emotion Tuesday
evening at the prayer vigil for Archie Badura, who died of a
heroin overdose May 15. The vigil was held at the St. Joan
of Arc Catholic Church in Nashotah.
Those in attendance
held their candles high and slowly cycled through the church
as the young man was fondly remembered — and light was shed
on the addiction he and others have dealt with, or will deal
Members of St. Joan of Arc
Catholic Church raise their candles Tuesday evening as “This
Little Light of Mine' is performed as part of a prayer vigil
for Archie Badura.
People were invited to
bring a picture of a loved one that has been lost to
addiction, suicide or mental illness to place on Archie’s
memorial, or to bring along someone who is in recovery from
— Enterprise Staff
A closer look
at random drug policies in other districts
Pewaukee has had policy in place for 10 years, Arrowhead for 8
Perttunen - Enterprise Staff
Oct. 9, 2014
OCONOMOWOC — As the
Oconomowoc Area School District fine-tunes a random
drug-testing policy to bring before district parents and its
school board, the architects of that plan say they are aware
that other schools in the county have approved similar
The policy being mulled in Oconomowoc would require students
to comply with random drug tests as a condition of
participation in any school athletics, clubs or
organizations. Testing could extend to other school-related
privileges, such as the ownership of a parking pass, as
“The impetus for this policy stems from the students we lost
last year due to drug use,” said Lisa Dawes, the district’s
director of student services and special education.
Pewaukee policy has been in place for decade
Pewaukee High School’s random drug testing policy has been
in place for a decade now.
PHS Principal Marty Van Hulle remembered when the district
started discussing the policy in February 2003. The school
board had charged administration with the task of surveying
the community to gauge what steps they wanted the district
“We were just trying to deter students from using drugs,”
Van Hulle said. “There was no watershed moment, we were
trying to be proactive.”
The policy applies to any club or group that has an adviser
or coach. It applies to approximately 75 percent of the
student body, Van Hulle estimated.
OHS Athletic Director Scott Raduka said linking random drug
tests to the combination of privileges proposed in his
district could affect an estimated 1,043 students, which
affects approximately 70 percent of the student body.
Currently, no OASD students are tested.
The first time a student tests positive for banned drugs in
Pewaukee, no matter what type of drugs, he or she will miss
30 percent of the season, Van Hulle said. The second offense
yields a 50 percent suspension and the third offense is a
lifetime ban from participation. Results are not referred to
To date, Van Hulle said the policy had its desired impact
and has not needed to be tweaked in the last 10 years.
“The key was that it had to be truly random and
confidential,” he added. “The testing company generates a
list of numbers, that we then match to the corresponding
students. If a student is absent, they don’t take the test
that day, but are on the list for next month.”
In the system used by PHS, even the dates are randomly
generated. The whole testing and communication of results is
handled by the professionals at the laboratory, Van Hulle
Extending the policy to include students’ parking privileges
is something his district did not consider, he said, and he
is not aware if that can be done.
“This policy took a lot of time, a lot of communication and
a lot of involvement with students and parents,” Van Hulle
said. “It’s not an overnight decision, to say the least.”
Now that it’s been implemented, Van Hulle said he’d
recommend a similar policy for every school district.
“I don’t think that it’s ever a bad thing to try and deter
kids from things that are unhealthy or illegal,” he said.
Confidentiality is key at Arrowhead High
Arrowhead Union High School formulated its random drug test
policy just two years after Pewaukee’s was put into place.
Superintendent Craig Jefson was just starting his tenure
during its first year of implementation, but knew that the
policy was riding a wave of community support.
“There was extensive surveying done of the community and
parents,” he said. “They felt like it was everybody’s
responsibility to deter students from drug use — including
law enforcement, medical professionals and also the
responsibility of community members and parents. They felt
the school had to play a role and asked what we were going
to do about it.”
Maintaining strict confidentiality and clear objectives have
been crucial parts of the process, Jefson said. Random
number generators generate numbers monthly, which correspond
to 20 students tested per campus.
The results of those tests, administered by ProHealth Care
professionals during the school year, are only shared with
Jefson as yearend figures, he said, and the assistant
principals are the only ones who know individual results.
“It’s as confidential as possible,” he added. “We didn’t
want to become Big Brother, we didn’t want to be punitive.
We just wanted to give students another reason to say ‘no.’
If we’re the excuse that they need, let us be that excuse.”
The district didn’t want anything else to muddy the
objective when crafting the policy, Jefson said. Linking the
testing to parking passes was debated, but ultimately the
district didn’t want to go that route and was uncertain if
it was legally permissable.
Jefson estimated 60 percent of the student body is involved
in athletics, 30 percent in music and 35 percent in other
activities. The cumulative cost for testing is $12,000 to
$15,000, which is picked up by the school district. With
that level of investment, Jefson said it is important to
focus on results.
“Though we don’t have many tests come back positive — and
most of those are for nicotine — the assistant principals
feel strongly that this policy is a deterrent,” he said. “To
back that up, there have been student surveys and anecdotal
conversations with students where they cite it as a
There must be vigilance in being aware of unintended
consequences, Jefson said.
“A kid who tests positive could continue using chemicals and
decide to quit the activity where he or she was doing
positive things,” he said. “This would be counterproductive.
Coaches have to help students who may be reactionary to
realize that we are offering help.”
And the parents still play the most important role, he
What will Oconomowoc do?
Whether to implement the policy in the Oconomowoc district —
which would apply from seventh grade on up — is a decision
that the school board will discuss and make a decision on
over the course of the next few months. Board President Don
Wiemer said this topic was visited nearly 10 years ago and
tabled because of concerns, such as how the district would
deal with false positives.
Some of those concerns have been addressed since then, with
input from the district administrative team, alcohol and
other drug abuse coordinator, high school principal,
athletic director and the district’s AODA committee.
A parent information night, where residents will be
empowered to ask questions on the proposed policy, is being
held at the Oconomowoc Arts Center at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27.
Community U to
tackle area drug problem
VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News
Oct. 1, 2014
growing problem of illegal drugs, especially heroin, is a
community issue that Hartford Rotary’s new president, Police
Chief David Groves, hopes the club and the community can
address together and see results.
Part of that effort includes a program called Hartford
Community U at Hartford Union High School at 6:30 p.m.
“I looked around and thought about what things we (the
Rotary) would like to address as a pressing issue,” Groves
said. “It’s our goal to share hope with the many members of
our community dealing with the issue of illegal drug use.”
The free community-wide forum will feature presenters from
the perspectives of education, advocacy, prevention and law
enforcement. There will also be presentations from family
members and former addicts regarding the impact these issues
are having on lives.
“Narcotic abuse and addiction has become an epidemic in our
society,” Groves said. “The Hartford Rotary Club believes
that an informed community is a safer community.”
Groves said the drug problem affects the community in ways
that aren’t easily seen.
Groves said his department has been dealing with local human
“Some have confided in us that even when they tell people
about an upcoming drug test, still one in four don’t pass,”
Groves said. “So this is not a small thing.”
Groves said Washington County in 2012, according to the
Wisconsin Department of Justice, was one of the seven
counties in the state that submitted 30 or more heroin cases
to the state crime lab.
“That same year the county was also in the top 11 for heroin
overdoses,” Groves said.
Al Davies, EMS coordinator at Aurora Medical Center in
Hartford, has worked to train local police officers and
emergency personnel how to administer Narcan, a drug used to
revive people who have overdosed on heroin.
“There’s been a serious increase in the volume of people we
see who have used it,” Davies said. “There’s been a marked
rise this year from last year. I know Narcan has been used
on several occasions by emergency personnel around here.”
Groves said many robberies and other crimes committed in
Hartford and the area are related to people needing money to
purchase illegal drugs.
learn signs of drug use
MCALPINE - Daily News
Sept. 25, 2014
West Bend School District principals and
administrators listen as Hartland Police Department
Detective Matt Harper explains how a variety of items are
connected to illegal drug use. The educators spent Tuesday
and Wednesday learning how to spot students who may be
impaired from drug or alcohol abuse during a workshop held
at the district’s Education Service Center.
Linda McAlpine/Daily News
Fluttering eyelids, body tremors,
loss of balance — these physical signs may indicate a person is
impaired from alcohol or drugs, symptoms that more than a dozen
principals and administrators in the West Bend School District have
spent the past two days learning about.
“We’re not going to pretend that we don’t have drugs in the West
Bend School District. We want to be proactive so we can continue to
keep our children safe,” district Superintendent Ted Neitzke said
Wednesday during a break in the workshop “Drug Impairment Training
for Educational Professionals.”
The West Bend Police Department organized the training sessions, led
by Steve Krejci of the Milwaukee Police Department and Matt Harper,
a detective with the Hartland Police Department.
On Tuesday, the educators learned about drugs — legal and illegal —
that can be abused, from depressants and stimulants to hallucinogens
Wednesday’s session was dedicated to learning the physical symptoms
connected to drug and alcohol abuse, and becoming acquainted with a
variety of items that can be associated with drug use.
“You might not see the heroin, but if you start finding discolored
cotton balls laying around, you might have a student who is
injecting heroin,” Harper said. “The cotton balls are used as a
Finding bits of tin foil or the corners of plastic bags — the
packaging that some drugs come in — can also be a sign of drug use,
Harper pointed out some ordinary household
products can be abused to produce a drug “high.”
He also shared some of the ways that students
may use to conceal alcohol or drug usage.
“This kind of training is really beneficial for
educators because they get to see and touch the different drugs and
the paraphernalia that is associated with drug abuse,” Harper said
during a break. “They’re learning what to look for that might tip
them off to a student using drugs in addition to the physical
Krejci said the workshop also teaches the
educators what the current drug trends are in schools.
Janelle Townsend, assistant principal at the
West Bend high schools, said one of the things that impressed her
was “how creative students can be when it comes to concealing
Harper demonstrated several items that can
easily be purchased online to “hide their stash.”
Principals from the district’s elementary,
middle and high schools attended the workshop.
“I can guarantee that after these sessions, they
will start to look at their students differently,” Neitzke said of
those who attended the workshop. “They will now have a level of
awareness about drugs that maybe they didn’t have before and they
will start seeing things that they didn’t before.”
Neitzke said the district will hold meetings in
the near future to share information about drug and alcohol abuse
“We also want to create a
culture amongst our students that if they see something, they should
say something,” Neitzke said. “We will also be looking at writing
district policies that include a higher level of consequences for
students using drugs or alcohol but that also include a level of
support to help them.”
County drug coalition reviews ‘five pillar’ approach to stopping
By Matt Masterson - Freeman
Sept. 25, 2014
WAUKESHA — The Drug Coalition of
Waukesha County convened for its second meeting
Wednesday to continue discussing possible solutions
for the area’s ongoing opioid crisis, while also
looking at some of its youngest victims.
The group — comprised of representatives from county
government, health care, law enforcement and
education — invited two members from the Wisconsin’s
Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention
Committee Heroin Ad-hoc Committee to talk about what
the state has done to curb opioid addiction.
Christy Niemuth, prevention coordinator for
Wisconsin’s Division of Mental Health & Substance
Abuse services, introduced a “five pillar“ strategy
that seeks to balance public order and health to
forge a safe and healthy community. The pillars
include prevention, law enforcement, treatment, harm
reduction and workforce issues. “We needed to
broaden our scope,” she said. “We felt that if we
focused our efforts on those five buckets... we
could really begin developing some specific
recommendations for folks working in each of those
fields and come up with a collaborative,
community-wide approach that would affect all
Data from a recent Ad-hoc Committee report was also
presented showing the number of counties in
Wisconsin that have reported heroin overdoses has
grown from 20 in 2008 to more than 50 in 2012, the
most recent year with available data.
The coalition split into three smaller groups during
Wednesday’s meeting, based on three of the pillars:
reduction, law enforcement and treatment. Following
hourlong individual discussions by the groups, the
full coalition came back together and offered
possible solutions such as increasing the county’s
drug court and creating a new drug awareness
education system to replace DARE.
County Executive Dan Vrakas also suggested compiling
a list of local organizations that families in need
could use as a resource.
While much of the meeting focused on solutions, the
group was also reminded of the problems faced by
children and infants in homes affected by addiction.
County Board Supervisor Christine Howard said there
are 17 known drug-affected babies in Waukesha
County, which prompted her to invite Amy Baumann,
vice president of programs for Safe Babies Healthy
Families, to attend Wednesday’s meeting. The local
organization works with families to make sure
children have a safe and healthy living environment,
but Baumann said the group is seeing more referrals
for drug-affected babies than ever before.
“There are times where we will get a referral per
week and I can tell you five years ago we probably
had none on our caseload,” she said. “It is just
becoming such a hardship for us just to service
these families because they take so much more time
than our traditional families.”
Each of the coalition’s three subgroups said they
plan on meeting again on their own in the coming
weeks and a meeting of the full body was scheduled
for early November.
Heroin Task Force ramps up efforts
By Denise Seyfer - News Graphic
Sept. 18, 2014
OZAUKEE COUNTY — Outreach and education are continuing in
the county’s ongoing assault against illegal drug use and
the nature of addiction. Over the past eight months,
community leaders and citizens have pressed on, meeting as
the Ozaukee Heroin Task Force committees. The group, which
is comprised of Starting Point of Ozaukee, local and county
law enforcement, the Ozaukee County Public Health Department
and other community leaders and concerned citizens, met as a
whole on Tuesday, providing updates on committee discussions
and outlining upcoming efforts.
Their task is no easy one, as leaders have stated
consistently in the past.
“It is without question the single worst crime problem I’ve
seen in Ozaukee County in my 34 years of law enforcement,”
Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Lt. Rod Galbraith said in January
as efforts to tackle the problem began.
Members of the community education committee detailed four
goals, which centered around a marketing campaign aimed
toward parents, public and private schools and students and
the faith community to curtail drug addiction, especially to
committee, comprised of the Ozaukee County Counseling
Center staff and other community leaders promoted hiring
a new addiction specialist to work on maintaining drug
sobriety through outpatient treatment services.
Cedarburg Police Chief Thomas Frank
spoke for the law enforcement committee, which initiated
greater usage of the Tip 411 service – an anonymous,
interactive tip line accessed through an app or a text
message to the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office using
text keyword OZSO and send your message to 847411.
Law enforcement has put effort into
having a more active presence on social media. Frank
said officers would like to have license plate readers –
equipment that can be mounted on the outside of police
squads to document thousands of plates within an
eight-hour shift to be used for data collection and
tracking of individuals who might be engaged in illegal
According to Starting Point of
Ozaukee Executive Director Shea Halula, heroin overdoses
are reported to be most prevalent among those ages 18 to
26 years old. So the task force is urging parents to
engage their children – a group who is sometimes seen as
perpetuating a problem through defense mechanisms of
denial or inadequate education on warning signals,
information from the task force said.
Other efforts are also heightening
the anti-drug efforts, including September as national
recovery month and Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 19 through Oct.
26 in schools across the country. This year’s theme is
“Your voice can make the right choice.” Homestead High
School in Mequon will be the site of the next heroin
panel on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.
A common theme noted by local
sheriffs, police officers and counselors is that those
who latch onto heroin start drinking and using marijuana
in their early teens.
“These are typically kids that take
risks, eventually start using pills, LSD, Ecstasy and
eventually start using opiate-based prescription
medications,” Galbraith said. “Sooner or later they try
heroin and once they do, they are hooked. At this point
it becomes a downward spiral and is just a matter of
time before they hit bottom.”
In information provided at the
meeting, Jim Bohn, the coordinator of this year’s task
force events, said the goal is to raise awareness of the
increasing and dangerous use of heroin in Ozaukee County
through a more upbeat and positive outreach program.
This issue touches many high school
age students, he said, and he is hoping to rally the
community around heroin and drug addiction, which will
continue to get worse without community intervention at
A goal of the task force is to aid
in informed decision-making, especially as county and
municipal entities determine budgets so that they
allocate adequate resources needed to battle this
problem, not only from the law enforcement perspective,
but also from an educational and treatment perspective.
Seyfer can be reached at
Clean for a year, former heroin addict tells her story
5 OF A SERIES
McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 13, 2014
Debbie Murphy talks about her
daughter’s success in recovering from heroin addiction.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
MUSKEGO - Megan Murphy is a pretty,
talkative 23-year-old from Muskego with long permed hair
and a sobriety tattoo.
counts those she knows who died from heroin or opiate
overdoses. She comes up with 22 names. She met many in
various rehab stints.
“Emily, Jay, David, Nick ...,” says Megan, whose arm is
stamped with a long tattoo reading, “I will never
falter. I will stand my ground. There is danger in
starting a fire. You never know how many bridges you
“Emily, she was absolutely beautiful. So good-looking.
Her mom works with my best friend. She overdosed. Her
mom found her in her room. Nick, he was sober two years
then all of a sudden a friend said he overdosed. This
girl Nicole, she had three little boys.”
has been sober for a year.
is a success story,” says Debbie Murphy, of her
|“The addiction is
so much more powerful than the fear of death. People are
wrecked.” - District Attorney Brad Schimel
that success story that Waukesha County District
Attorney Brad Schimel is hoping to replicate with a drug
court that’s existed for about 2 1/2 years. The heroin
addicts the county sees fit Megan’s profile. They are
not the “back-alley addicts” that people used to imagine
when they thought of heroin, he says.
Locking people up the traditional way wasn’t working
because it was a “period of forced sobriety” that
lowered people’s tolerance and they would sometimes die
of overdoses once released as a result, he said. If they
complete the program, they can avoid the ruinous nature
of a felony. There are drug screens and support groups,
regular visits before the judge. “We get into everything
in their lives,” Schimel says.
the time people get here, they have exploded. It’s
destroyed everything,” he says. “The addiction is so
much more powerful than the fear of death. People are
drug court doesn’t take people who are drug dealers or
have violent records. The dealers who cause overdoses,
though, are a completely different story. The DA has led
the state in the number of reckless homicide
prosecutions of heroin dealers under the Len Bias law.
He says the number is more than 26; before heroin, the
tactic was extremely rare. Now a prosecutor in Schimel’s
office does only that.
would like to see other measures implemented, such as
making it mandatory for doctors to check a new
prescription monitoring database that will alert them to
a patient who is doctor shopping. Now, they have seven
days to put prescriptions in the database, and he’d like
a requirement that they go in sooner. The rest is
need parents and physicians to be our partners in this,”
said Schimel. “We will only win this if we reduce the
Winning this would mean fewer Megans with stories to
tell about the horrors of heroin. And the supply refers
to pills, not just heroin.
the depths of addiction
agreed to tell her story to also help educate the
community about how heroin addiction works. In less than
a decade, heroin and opioid pill use have skyrocketed in
Waukesha County, alarming addiction experts and law
Debbie Murphy pauses while
talking about her experiences with her daughter, Megan,
as she battled heroin addiction.
human stories, other experts also say, lies a community
lesson: Take pills seriously.
“Opioids should go in a lockbox,” Dr. Michael Miller,
director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers
Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, says. Overflow pills
should be turned in to law enforcement for disposal.
attributes her initial draw toward pills to low
self-esteem. In high school, she weighed 205 pounds and
was teased, desperate to fit in, an artistically
was self-medicating,” says her mother.
concurs. “I was trying to fill that insecurity but then
I would become empty again.”
Marijuana made her hungry, and she wanted to lose
weight. Guys on the football team wouldn’t “glance at
me” but did drugs. Pills made her insecurities vanish
and seem insignificant. At first.
friend told her pills were a hangover cure. Her father
had a slipped disc and a legitimate prescription for
Vicodin. At first, he didn’t notice some were missing.
She hung out at a George Webb’s and a guy there gave her
more. She met a Waukesha girl who was in a beauty school
Megan Murphy talks about her experiences with addiction and
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
said, ‘I can get Percocet, Oxy.’ The whole circle was
full of pill addicts.”
is how law enforcement officials say pill and heroin use
works. It’s organized around user networks who are
loosely connected, almost like a social network.
went to beauty school but dropped out. She worked at a
local BP and figured out who the addicts were. At the
worst of it, she was couch surfing, dating another
addict, driving to Chicago malls to steal power tools
and mixers for money (she was caught once and ended up
with a charge), and driving to Milwaukee drug houses to
get heroin. She wasn’t worried about being shot because
the dealers would protect their customers.
feel protected,” she said. “They make you feel like
much pill use was in high school?
lot. I was snorting OxyContin on my desk after school
one day. The teacher went to make copies. When she came
back, she said, ‘You’re in a good mood.’”
boyfriend got her to switch to heroin. One day, she told
him she was “pill sick” because she was withdrawing from
not having pills, and he suggested they drive to
Milwaukee to get heroin instead.
didn’t care because it got me unsick,” she said.
Megan Murphy talks about
her battle with addiction and the people she knew who lost
Sometimes, they drove to Chicago because the heroin was
cheaper, buying from dealers who would use five
throwaway phones to stay ahead of law enforcement. At
one drug house in Milwaukee, the dealer let them use in
his bathroom. The house was raided, but police let them
go with a stern lecture because they were after the
dealers (after putting a gun to her head).
went to Rogers’ treatment program multiple times.
senior year at Muskego High School, Megan graduated -
barely. Her GPA had plummeted to 1.8. During the
ceremony, she was “high as a kite,” her mother said.
Murphy discovered her daughter’s heroin addiction when
she noticed jewelry was missing - including her
husband’s wedding ring. Charge cards had unexplained
expenses. She confronted Megan and called police.
wanted them to come to our house and scare her. I wasn’t
going to lose my kid,” she says.
toll on the family
addiction takes a toll on parents; Debbie gained 40
pounds. She almost lost her job because of time spent
away from work. She ended up caring for her daughter’s
baby in her 50s.
stresses the whole family,” she says. She and her
husband (who works in IT) have four other children,
she didn’t realize was her daughter had a vial of
heroin, which police found, and Megan ended up convicted
of a felony. This was a few years before the drug court
started out with pills, recreational use, from her dad’s
cabinet. Then she started robbing people. It broke my
heart,” Debbie says.
However, the months that Megan spent in jail helped her
break the addiction.
a different person. I have my daughter back,” Debbie
was a mother with more knowledge than most. Debbie works
in a pain management clinic.
had blinders on,” she admits. “Now there’s more
awareness. I have my eyes open now.”
explained the drug trade in detail. People go to Florida
because crooked doctors will give prescriptions to
anyone. The pharmaceutical companies made it harder to
snort the pills, so people use a complex process that
involves freezing and microwaving them.
finally quit because “it takes everything. You have no
money. No place to live. No family. They all hate you,”
she said. “You don’t have friends - you just think you
were dying around her. The epiphany came when she was
hanging out with a local heroin addict who lived in his
were people all over. And I thought, ‘This is how life
is going to be. I don’t want a life like that.’ I didn’t
want people to say, ‘Oh, her? That was Megan. She had
two kids. She was a nice person. She was addicted to
heroin, and she died.’”
Waukesha County Drug Treatment Court
By the numbers:
111 - Applications reviewed by staffing
Accepted: 92 (83%), denied: 19 (17%)
15 - People currently on waiting list
75 - Total enrollment since start of
12 - Successful graduations (34% of all
23 - Unsuccessfully discharged from
program (20 for noncompliance, 1 reoffended, 1
voluntary, 1 death)
40 - Current caseload
* Sex: 50 men, 25 women
18-25: 46 (61%)
26-32: 23 (31%)
33-40: 4 (5%)
41-50: 2 (3%)
Caucasian: 69 (92%)
Hispanic: 2 (3%)
Other (biracial): 4 (5%)
(All figures from March 2012 inception
through June 2014)
- Source: District Attorney Brad Schimel
The U.S. Department of Justice Drug
Enforcement Administration encourages people to safely
dispose of old or unused prescription medications.
Needles, sharps or inhalers will not be accepted.
The National Take Back Initiative in our
area is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at
the following locations around the county:
Delafield: Walgreens, 2901 Golf Road
Elm Grove: Walgreens, 15350 W. Bluemound
Pewaukee: Pewaukee Police Department, 235
Hickory St., Pewaukee
Oconomowoc: Oconomowoc Police Department,
St. Paul Street collection point, 174 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Mukwonago: Walgreens, 212 N. Rochester
New Berlin: Unused and expired
prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can be
dropped in the lobby of the Police Department, 16300 W.
National Ave. from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Waukesha: Waukesha Police Station, 1901
Source: U.S. DEA
a controversial cartel and its colorful leader bring heroin here
4 OF A SERIES
McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 12, 2014
— If you wrote a novel about Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s
exploits, no one would believe it. They might believe
the gunfight that killed an archbishop at a Mexican
airport, but you’d probably lose them when he escaped
prison in a laundry cart. And they’d never believe the
beginning of his end started in Milwaukee.
Experts say the Mexican cartel Guzman co-leads controls
80 percent of Chicago’s drug market (including heroin)
and brings 25 percent of all drugs into the U.S. As with
any monopoly, this generated avid government attention.
This isn’t just the story of a distant cartel, though;
Waukesha gets almost all of its drugs from Milwaukee,
and Milwaukee from Chicago, says Capt. Frank McElderry,
who runs Waukesha County’s Metro Drug Unit. And those
drugs — fueled by a much purer form of heroin than in
the past — have led to a crisis here.
Whereas the poppy fields grown by Johnson & Johnson off
Australia’s coast are used to make legal opioid pills,
poppy fields in Mexico and Central America supply our
area’s heroin and are targeted by the government’s “war
on drugs.” The profit margin for both? Billions. The
drugs are chemically similar and produce the same high.
Two Great Lakes partially penning in Wisconsin ensure
it’s not going to be a major illegal drug hub for
elsewhere but rather an “end-destination state,” says
James Bohn, who runs the local DEA office. Heroin comes
to Milwaukee from Mexico, sometimes brought directly
from the border by illegal immigrants, but usually
through Chicago, concurs Mark Manthy of the Wisconsin
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
“The border is porous,” says McElderry. “It comes over
speedboats are 1980s stereotypes. Cocaine is waning.
Feds put pressure on the “the Caribbean theater,”
pushing cartels to border routes, says Jack Riley,
who runs the Chicago DEA region (Afghan heroin goes
Chicago is a perfect drug
distribution point for a Mexican cartel: A
transportation center, it has the Midwest’s largest
Mexican population, is near populous cities, and
organized street gangs help deal. “This is their
main hub,” Riley says. “They have a toxic business
relationship with the street gangs here. In the last
two years, heroin has become the drug of choice,
hand-in-hand with an explosion in prescription drug
The cartel that emerged from
agricultural northwestern Mexico and cornered
Chicago’s market starting in about 2006 — Sinaloa —
is the world’s most powerful. Violence in Juarez?
Them. Fast and Furious? The Los Angeles Times says
40 guns ended up with the cartel’s enforcer.
Guzman was declared a foreign
kingpin and indicted in multiple federal courts — a
“modern-day Pablo Escobar,” says Bohn. Others call
him Zorro. After his prison escape, he went into
hiding, but married a beauty queen and raked in
billions. The Chicago Crime Commission labeled
Guzman “public enemy number one.”
The last gangster called that?
“How the cartels work influences
places like Wisconsin,” says Bohn.
Authorities got their big break
when Guzman called Chicago twins Margarito and Pedro
Flores to a Mexican mountaintop in 2005, just 10
years after OxyContin’s launch had spiked American
pill demand (most heroin addicts start with opioid
The twins’ immigrant father had
cartel ties. The brothers, in their 20s, ran
barbershops and restaurants as covers in Chicago’s
Pilsen and Little Village areas, says the book “El
Narco.” They agreed to become Chicago’s wholesale
point; the cartel would funnel them millions in
cocaine and heroin.
The cartel’s logistics
coordinator was son of Sinaloa’s co-leader. Vicente
Zambada-Niebla is a “narco junior,” impetuous,
flashy, with bodyguards and military weapons. Think
Sonny Corleone. Pretty boy Vicente, one Chicago
magazine said. The link between Mexico and Chicago,
who made sure drugs got there and cash got back,
Zambada was critical, court records show.
U.S. Attorney General Eric
Holder called heroin a growing, urgent public health
crisis this spring, saying the government was
stepping up enforcement at all levels of the “supply
chain” from opioid pills to heroin. The DEA has
opened more than 4,500 heroin investigations the
last three years; heroin seized along the Southwest
border is up 320 percent.
A Milwaukee drug investigation
led authorities to the “head of the snake.” U.S.
Attorney Steve Biskupic indicted a group of
Milwaukee cocaine dealers. Authorities followed them
to the Flores twins, who were also indicted without
fanfare for cocaine dealing, the same year as that
“They fled to Mexico, where they
became much bigger traffickers,” says Bohn.
Making a deal — with
Three years later, the twins
resurfaced — to a Milwaukee agent. They wanted to
deal. “Suffice it to say, they made a business
decision and a personal safety decision,” Riley says
Bohn’s uncomfortable talking
about them. The case was transferred to Chicago with
“It was a collaborative effort,”
he said. “Lots of people deserve credit.”
Riley says the twins exemplify
the government’s strategy: striking at the “heart”
of the organization. He describes them as the “ideal
choke point targets” who could lead downward to
Milwaukee street dealers causing violence and upward
to cartel leadership. It all stemmed from a street
deal in Chicago tracked to Milwaukee and that back
to the twins, who had suburban Illinois stash
The twins turning Sammy the Bull
was a big deal because they were in contact with
Zambada, even Guzman himself. “Over the last five
years regarding Sinaloa, we’ve sent shock waves
through them. This is the new face of organized
crime,” says Riley.
What happened next sounds more
like an episode of “Homeland,” though, than “The
Authorities needed the brothers
to stay undercover to build the case. If they don’t
operate as usual, the cartel might suspect. It’s
alleged this is what federal authorities did — sort
of a Fast and Furious operation with drugs.
Bohn says the Milwaukee office
would never do this, and Flores/Zambada stuff is
“above (his) pay grade.”
Riley, the guy above Bohn’s pay
grade, says, “We would never purposely let drugs go.
Not on my watch. No — that didn’t happen.”
Did the twins continue dealing
drugs without DEA’s permission or knowledge?
“Criminals are criminals,” Riley says. “This is a
dirty business, where people get killed every day.”
But he says he doesn’t think
they were doing so.
Court records describe
controlled deliveries. During one month in 2008,
court documents say, authorities seized over $15
million and made a controlled delivery of $4 million
from a Flores stash house to track it to Mexicali.
Zambada was observed counting
drugs. Margarito Flores received 13 kilograms of
heroin for $715,000. The DEA seized just 8 kilograms
back, court records say. The heroin was 94 percent
“How much can you get rid of in
a month?” Guzman asked in one recorded conversation.
“Around 40,” Pedro Flores
allegedly responded — 40 kilos of heroin.
In the trial of a twins’
Milwaukee- linked contact, the Chicago Reader said,
a Milwaukee drug agent was “asked if the twins were
important enough to the DEA that the agency would
permit them to continue importing drugs to the U.S.
during the initial phase of their cooperation, from
April to November 2008.” According to the Reader,
the agent replied, “They weren’t in our control. We
couldn’t stop them.”
When the agent met the twins in
Mexico, he said, according to the Reader: “(T)he
conversations were a matter of the twins ...
explaining essentially what their value could be to
us and us explaining to them why it was important
for them to turn themselves in.”
When asked if the twins kept
sending drugs to the United States, the agent
replied, “I suspected so,” the newspaper said.
“It has come out in the legal
proceedings ... that the twins, in exchange for
providing incriminating information and the wiretap
recordings that were used to indict Zambada, were
permitted to continue importing cocaine and heroin
by the ton into Chicago and distributing the drugs
throughout the country,” claimed Chicago magazine.
The feds busted Zambada in
Mexico in 2009 as youths across Waukesha County were
dying of a purer form of heroin his cartel
introduced to the Midwest; the twins’ cooperation
gave them a case. Zambada made noise — battling for
classified documents, including those about Fast and
Furious, the scandal in which agents allowed guns to
reach criminals to trace them.
Zambada claimed cartel leaders,
including Guzman, were working with the government
through a cartel lawyer given immunity and claimed
the government gave the cartel “carte blanche” to
smuggle “tons of illicit drugs to Chicago” in
exchange for information on rivals, court documents
“Factually infirm and legally
unsupported,” slammed the government. But the
government admitted the lawyer WAS an American
informant and they’d tossed his indictment. Riley
says Zambada’s charges were “obviously legal
posturing. A judge in Chicago denied his motion.”
Presuming this is not a lie, why
would the government want to cooperate with a
cartel? Zambada argued it was overall drug strategy
— “the end justifies the means” — to divide and
conquer cartels. Bohn points out criminals often
Then, Zambada was given a deal,
announced a few months ago. He could get only 10
years in prison. He must cooperate and relinquish $1
billion, the plea shows.
Meanwhile, authorities here were
back to disrupting lower-level dealers.
The latest target: An
Oconomowoc-area network. A user screws up. Gets
caught in a traffic stop or cops get a Crimestoppers
tip. Now they will give up a dealer; the drug unit’s
goal is to “interdict dealers,” McElderry says. Drug
deals go down in Walmart, Walgreens, and Brookfield
Square Mall parking lots.
It’s just people who know people
who know people. The local “kingpin” is a Milwaukee
man who moved to Oconomowoc. He’s jobless and
homeless, McElderry says. At this level, “there’s no
money in heroin.” One man on the supply chain got
pills for cheap through BadgerCare and sold them for
The largest county heroin case
was “Operation Lake Effect.” Court documents show
two Pewaukee brothers got heroin from a Milwaukee
man who got it from a guy who relocated to Chicago.
They sometimes used a Greyhound bus. The network
caused five overdose deaths.
DA Brad Schimel says Lake Effect
was the “first big ring” here but usually dealers
set up in Milwaukee, leaving Waukesha County full of
“end users.” Milwaukee is “a lot more anonymous.”
Some Lake Effect defendants
ended up with more prison time than Zambada might,
but there’s a lot he knows, and Guzman might be
coming to Chicago. A few months ago, after 14 years
on the lam, U.S. agents arrested Guzman at a Mexican
“It’s a very big arrest,” says
Bohn. “The question is, what will take his place?”
Riley says he can’t talk about Guzman because of the
ongoing case but added generally that, “whenever you
remove ... the CEO of a major corporation who’s been
running it for 20 years, the organization begins to
fragment, alliances switch, communication becomes
undisciplined. There’s a lot of chaos that happens.”
mythology holds that snakes regenerate. You can take
Bill Gates out of Microsoft, Bohn muses, but
Microsoft remains. As for the twins? Riley goes mum.
Witness protection is a good bet.
Coming Saturday: One woman’s journey through drug
Fishing hats and CDs: How Big Pharma marketed a new drug
Analgesic qualities were focus, not possible addiction
3 OF A SERIES
McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 11, 2014
were plied with plush toys, fishing hats, and CDs with
songs like “Get in the Swing with OxyContin.”
were flown to Sun Belt resorts for national pain
management and speaker conferences, the tab picked up by
Purdue Pharma, the Connecticut company that had just
introduced a powerful new opioid pill on the market
the five years after the drug’s launch in 1995, Purdue
held 40 conferences and paid for 5,000 physicians,
pharmacists and nurses to go, according to a journal
article by physician Art Van Zee. The message: Forget
fears about prescribing opioids to a more general pain
population. This isn’t heroin. This pill has a unique
time release mechanism that means it’s not very
addictive at all.
OxyContin sales grew from $48 million to $1.1 billion in
Pharmaceutical companies - not just Purdue - spend
billions each year on promotion (OxyContin is far from
the only opioid on the market - there’s also Vicodin,
methadone, and fentanyl, for starters.) But Purdue took
marketing to new levels.
problem is, it wasn’t all true.
was devious. It was ruthless. It was just a big lie,”
says Peter Jackson, whose daughter, Emily, 18, died
after ingesting OxyContin prescribed for an uncle who
had passed away of cancer. He now runs a national
advocacy group against prescription opioids.
“They were systematically lying to doctors for many
years, coming up with bogus graphs and all kinds of
things,” said Jackson. “The track record of sales for
OxyContin follows directly from that; it just shot up.”
understate addictive properties
By 2007, three of Purdue’s executives had pleaded guilty
to misbranding the drug by understating its addictive
properties. They were convicted of criminal misdemeanors
and paid a massive fine. But the drug remained on the
Purdue is a family-owned Connecticut company, founded by
psychiatrist brothers. Sent questions, including one
asking about addiction risk (studies are mixed, but many
experts consider the drug highly addictive for some
patients), the company responded in writing:
more than a decade, Purdue has been working with
policymakers and health experts to address the risks
associated with prescription opioids. We believe the
pharmaceutical industry has the responsibility and
unique ability to help evolve the analgesic market,
which is why we’ve taken a leadership role in developing
opioids with abuse-deterrent properties.”
People have used opium in a cruder sense throughout
history; morphine, invented to help wounded soldiers,
was named after Morpheus, Greek god of dreams, according
to History Today.
German scientists working for Bayer, known for aspirin,
created heroin (the word “heroisch” means “heroic” in
German) from morphine in 1874, trademarking and selling
it as a cough suppressant, according to the White House
Agency for National Drug Control Policy. Doctors
worldwide soon prescribed heroin.
According to History Today, heroin was Bayer’s first
“commercial medicine.” By 1928, though, a regulatory era
began as Congress banned heroin after murders in New
Illegal heroin spiked during the Vietnam War, as anyone
who has seen the movie “American Gangster” knows.
Purdue’s spokesman provided research showing OxyContin
is just 2.7 percent of opioid pill prescriptions. But
OxyContin’s launch sent statistics soaring, coming on
the heels of a decade-old national pain movement that
slowly liberalized doctors’ prescribing habits.
Official agencies and groups now embraced the pain
movement’s concept of “balance.” In 2001, the federal
Drug Enforcement Administration and 21 other
organizations issued an unprecedented statement urging
“balance” in opioid regulation - finding a way to
regulate abuse without stopping legitimate use for pain.
Numerous states passed Intractable Pain Acts to shield
doctors from punishment who used controlled substances
to treat patients in pain. Professional societies worked
against what was called “opiophobia.” Studies showed
regulatory bodies used outdated terms and were too
restrictive, and medical boards started rewriting
These actions gave Purdue’s marketing the legitimacy it
needed to many doctors (although some researchers and
associations were taking drug company grants).
Then, data started to come in, showing more abuse than
expected. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention found that over 60 percent of drug overdose
deaths now involve pharmaceutical drugs, mostly opioids.
Heroin deaths doubled in nine years, according to the
Recently seized heroin. It is
often packaged in small amounts for easier distribution at
cheap prices. People addicted to opioid painkillers
frequently turn to heroin because the drugs are chemically
Photos from Waukesha
County Metro Drug Unit
Medical examiner’s statistics for the last 11 years of
Waukesha County overdose deaths show most of the 385 who
died had ingested opioid pills. According to the medical
Drug overdose deaths rose from 15 in 2003 to a high of
59 in 2012. Last year, there were 37. About 17 percent
were suicides. Almost all of the rest were accidents,
with a few undetermined.
almost 80 percent of drug overdose deaths since 2003,
people had opioids in their bodies (heroin or
prescription pills), often in combination with other
prescription drugs or alcohol. In 21 percent, oxycodone
was the opioid found (that’s the drug in OxyContin;
however, Purdue Pharma points out that oxycodone, also
developed by scientists long ago, is found in many
Heroin was found in 55 cases; the peak year was 2012,
with 20 deaths. Morphine was found in 74 more cases.
Sometimes, because heroin metabolizes so fast, medical
examiners only detect morphine. However, sometimes
people die from taking morphine. People also died after
ingesting opioids like methadone and fentanyl.
More victims were male. The average age was 37, dropping
from a high of 51 in 2004.
reason those poppies put Dorothy to sleep as she headed
to Oz. According to the CDC, overdoses occur because the
drugs depress people’s breathing.
Purdue’s marketing efforts were critical, says Dr.
Michael Miller, who runs the addiction recovery center
at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc; now opioids
were prescribed to a general pain population, a huge
market - some 76 million Americans. Previously, opioids
were restricted to surgical use and terminal cancer
Opioids that aren’t heroin still are not controversial
for “end-of-life” patients. But Andrew Kolodny, a
leading opioid addiction expert, says that wasn’t a big
enough market for a “blockbuster” drug - terminal
patients won’t be on the drug long. Backs, knees - now
those were fair game too. However, some doctors say the
term “non-chronic cancer pain” is not easily defined; as
anyone whose loved one has suffered from pain knows, it
can be truly debilitating; and some cancer patients are
in remission and aren’t “end-of-life” either.
The question becomes where and how to find balance - how
much risk can and should society tolerate to stop the
pain of millions? Should risk be stopped with regulation
and limiting access, merely with education (put pills in
a lockbox) or a mixture?
answer depends on which part of the elephant a person
sees: If you’re a grieving parent whose child used
heroin, you might fall one way; if you’re a doctor with
suffering patients, another.
Jackson is frustrated that years after convictions and
with public health costs of OxyContin well known
(including its heroin link), more hasn’t changed
(although in 2010, Purdue reconfigured the pills so they
can’t easily be crushed and snorted. The company also
stopped selling a higher dosage).
There is evidence the reformulation pushed some pill
addicts to use heroin instead. James Bohn, who runs the
local DEA office, says people also turned to other forms
was at their sentencing hearing in Virginia in 2007 and
we thought, ‘Oh here’s a victory, finally, they’re
convicted.’ We thought that would change things, but if
you look at the statistics, their sales kept going up,
they didn’t take a setback at all,” says Jackson.
Americans want opioids for pain. Patients don’t just
want their pain controlled, doctors say; they want it
eliminated. Their expectations have changed.
“It’s a great drug,” insists UW-Madison pharmacology
professor June Dahl of OxyContin. Dahl was one of a few
researchers whose pain management advocacy helped relax
doctors’ attitudes toward prescribing opioids. “It’s no
different than morphine in any real sense,” she says.
David Cleary, who now runs the UW’s Pain & Policy Group,
which advocates international and national medical use
of opioids for serious pain relief, provided a study
showing only 3.6 percent of opioid users try heroin.
However, research says 80 percent of heroin users start
with opioids; Kolodny thinks there is an even bigger
prescription pill crisis.
“OxyContin is continually overprescribed by doctors for
people with many types of moderate pain who should never
have been given this drug in the first place,” says
Jackson. “This widened use can be directly traced to the
marketing campaign of Purdue Pharma.”
Dahl could change one thing, it’s “Purdue’s marketing,”
she says. She was one of their speakers; respected
researchers she knew were hired by Purdue and were
“doing the asking.” Now she feels “possibly used.”
Purdue had marketing down to a science. Drug companies
identified physicians with many chronic pain patients
and gave a lucrative bonus system to OxyContin sales
representatives who reached them, Van Zee wrote,
training sales reps to say the addiction risk was 1
percent (Kolodny says it’s about 25, but others say it
ranges from below and above that and depends on the
Parent questions FDA
Jackson believes enough attention isn’t given to the
Food and Drug Administration, which had the power to
stop the drug. The FDA’s small staff size for overseeing
promotional materials compounded things, said Van Zee.
FDA’s response has been to weigh the risks and benefits.
Last year, in response to a petition from Kolodny’s
group, the FDA ordered changes to extended-release
prescription opioids’ labeling to “more effectively
communicate the serious risks of misuse, abuse, neonatal
opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS), addiction, overdose,
and death.” But the FDA stopped short of other requests,
saying chronic pain is also a public health crisis in
America with societal costs.
law already requires that such prescriptions can’t be
refilled; a new one is required. There are also “strict
record-keeping and reporting” rules reflecting the “high
potential for abuse,” says the FDA. In Wisconsin, there
is a new database that allows doctors to track whether
patients are “doctor shopping.”
public hearing last year, the FDA heard from two groups:
Those with lost loved ones who wanted the drugs
restricted, and those concerned restrictions would block
legitimate pain relief, including some prominent medical
marketing mattered. Ashley Wazana, a doctor writing in
the Journal of the American Medical Association,
reviewed 29 scholarly studies, which showed interactions
between doctors and pharmaceutical companies started as
early as medical school. Most physicians met with reps
four times a month.
Interactions with pharmaceutical reps made doctors
quicker to prescribe drugs. Although professional
societies developed guidelines, many doctors were not
aware of them.
need to figure out how to put the genie back in the
bottle,” Miller says.
question is how, and to what degree.
Coming Friday: The cartel connection.
researchers played role in increasing opioid use
Parent: Experts must fight use of opioids for non-cancer pain
2 OF A SERIES
McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 10, 2014
professor June Dahl agrees to meet midway between the University of
Wisconsin-Madison — where she’s worked since 1957 — and Waukesha
County, which is in the throes of a heroin and opioid pill crisis.
We discuss her life’s work changing how pain is treated. Then, it’s
time to cut to the chase: Is it fair to link her efforts (and those
of a handful of other national pain researchers) to the heroin
The analytical Dahl — who, at 84, is among the oldest active
Wisconsin professors — reflects, then says candidly: “It appears
that the promotion of better pain management has led to more
liberalization of the prescribing of opioids, which has led to an
increase in the availability of the drugs, which has led to some
people abusing them, and then, when they can’t get pills, to heroin
as criminals promoted it.”
And there it is. Just a few
researchers have done as much to promote pain management as Dahl and
other UW researchers. But in a complicated irony, the pain
researchers both caused pain and eliminated it.
Dahl and other researchers talk about “balance” — the point between
regulation of legal opioids (like morphine, Vicodin, methadone,
fentanyl and OxyContin) and medical access to them and where society
should fall (no one argues heroin should be legal anymore, although
it once was).
That pendulum has shifted several times throughout the last 100
years as society tussled with the allure of the poppy, which opioids
(both heroin and pills) derive from, producing a similar high. Since
2000, that balance has moved dramatically to access as prescription
opioids were prescribed increasingly to a general pain population in
Waukesha and elsewhere. And that matters because heroin use also
exploded in the past decade, and research shows that most heroin
users start with prescription opioids, usually taking them from
people with legal prescriptions.
Big Pharma helped relax doctors’ attitudes toward prescribing
opioids with an unprecedented marketing campaign, but the UW and a
few other researchers built the intellectual foundation first.
Before the late 1990s, people generally couldn’t get opioids from
family doctors; they were for surgeries and terminal cancer care,
says Dr. Michael Miller, addiction center director at Oconomowoc’s
Rogers Memorial Hospital. He’s an intellectual who has served on
many national and state boards. And to Miller, and other experts,
it’s clear how this happened.
If you complained of knee, back or other chronic
pain before the late 1990s, you left the doctor’s office with
ibuprofen. For decades, doctors, especially those in primary care,
feared opioids’ addictive nature. Now, prescriptions are easy to
get, Miller says.
“There was a big push to market this to a much
broader market — the chronic pain market,” says Miller.
And that was a very big market, he stresses —
some 76 million Americans.
researchers had role
It was on the campus of Wisconsin’s flagship
university that this effort grew.
How influential were the UW researchers in
changing doctors’ prescribing patterns? “Very,” says Miller,
emphatically. “The driving force.”
Was their influence national? He nods, then
Miller believes David Joranson and Dahl were the
most influential. He thinks they were “well-intentioned” but should
“revisit” their theories.
Dr. Michael Miller
However, the UW researchers don’t
hide their role in changing how pain is treated across the nation;
they’re proud of it. After all, the relaxation in prescribing of
legal opioids has also alleviated the pain of millions and their
efforts to make treating pain a priority for society have become so
accepted that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker just declared September
Pain Awareness Month, saying pain costs $100 billion in lost
A UW site praises Dahl as “catalyst for the new
pain standards in the USA.” A Joranson bio says he helped “develop
consensus about the use of opioids in chronic pain.” The group
considered pain relief “a human right,” says a glowing UW Alumni
Others see the darker side. As with yin or yang
or the creation of any new technology, the increase in prescriptions
was a double-edged sword; for all its potential, it’s widely
recognized as fueling the rise in heroin use, a cheaper drug whose
users almost always start with prescription opioids, which, after
all, come from the same poppy plant.
“Their influence was enormous,” says Andrew
Kolodny, a leading national opioid addiction expert, of the UW
researchers. “They played a central role in ushering in this
In Greek mythology, stories capture the tragedy
of unintended consequences. There’s Daedalus, brilliant inventor,
whose benevolent attempt at genetic engineering caused negative
Dahl chafes at the well-intentioned label.
“It implies we were wrong,” she says.
Others strongly disagree.
Dahl says opioid and heroin deaths are a small
percentage of the population, and the media largely ignore the
broader crisis of undertreated pain (including in cancer patients).
Prescription opioids killed over 16,000 Americans in overdoses one
recent year, and heroin thousands fewer (alcohol kills some 88,000 a
But drug overdose deaths are now the leading
form of U.S. injury death, and three of four involve opioid pain
relievers, the government says. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
called heroin an “urgent and growing public health crisis” this
spring, saying heroin deaths are up 45 percent, and tying them to
opioid pill abuse. Nationwide, opioid prescriptions rose tenfold in
five years after OxyContin’s 1995 release (southern states have
highest rates; we’re 31st).
Peter Jackson, whose daughter Emily, 18, died
after taking OxyContin, is incensed by the revelation in the media
several years ago that the UW’s Pain & Policy Study Group — which
Joranson founded — took several million dollars from drug companies
— including Purdue Pharma, OxyContin’s maker — to help fund research
arguing for less regulation in the past decade.
Joranson, now retired, who did not return
requests for comment, founded the UW group in 1996, a year after
Purdue introduced the powerful new pill that resulted 11 years later
in criminal convictions against three executives for misrepresenting
its addictive properties.
Dahl has never been part of the UW pain and
policy group. She worked closely with it though and coauthored
important research on the topic with Joranson. Dahl took drug
company grants because there’s a “deficit” of money for pain
She won’t take them now but insists, “I was
never told what to say.”
Joranson’s group, which hasn’t taken drug
company money for four years and is run by a new leader, is doubling
down on its mission.
They want global impact.
“Our advocacy for balance implies that the
medical community must pay attention to deaths related to opioid
use,” insists David Cleary, the group’s current director. “Patients
and physicians alike need to have correct information about how to
use these medicines properly. We believe strongly, however, that
broad restrictions on access are not the most effective way to
achieve that goal.”
He explains the group’s “role is to ensure
access to controlled substances, where it is deemed medically
appropriate. ... In many cases achieving balance has required the
removal of regulatory restrictions that were barriers to opioids for
Cleary says the group’s budget was $9 million
from 1999 through 2012, and $1.7 million of that came from
unrestricted grants from pharmaceutical companies. The rest came
largely from grants from foundations as well-known as the American
Cancer Society and Princess Di Fund. One of the foundations, though,
was the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, started by a Johnson &
Johnson heir. A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary grows poppies for
American prescription drugs in Tasmania.
Asked about that, Cleary says he is not aware of
any links between that subsidiary and the foundation, which he calls
the “largest philanthropy devoted to public health.” There is no
direct taxpayer support of the UW Pain Group, he says.
Cleary, a cancer physician, has “seen up close
the devastating consequences of uncontrolled pain during serious
illness. When opioids are used as prescribed and appropriately
monitored, they are indispensable to patients who need them.”
As to the heroin link, he adds: “It is clearly
important for the whole community to contribute to ensure a balanced
situation. This includes physicians, patients, pharmacists,
regulators, politicians and pharmaceutical companies. A scale that
has tilted too far in either direction is not balanced.”
The problem with the current balancing act is
that people who weren’t prescribed take prescription opioids from
people who were (and sometimes those people switch to the cheaper
and even easier to obtain heroin), and the definition of “serious”
is debated — today it might be someone’s knee or migraines, not just
severe cancer pain.
Jackson wants the group to “take steps to end
deaths and addiction and publicly support the growing tide against
the use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.” Otherwise, he
insists, “the university must close them down.
“Here we are years down the road, with all of
the evidence of the fallout, and they are still holding onto their
old mission,” he says, sounding fatigued.
“I want no diversion, and certainly not of this
magnitude,” Dahl stresses. Diversion means pills used improperly.
She says education is the answer because doctors “prescribe
carelessly,” don’t reassess patients and give out too many pills
(other experts agree).
Dahl was born in Hudson to a telephone operator
mother and railroad father. She obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry, and
followed her chemistry professor husband to Madison in the 1950s,
eventually becoming a tenured pharmacology professor.
cancer treatment to drug of abuse
The 1980s were pivotal in the pain management
movement, which initially focused on terminal cancer patients, who
sometimes couldn’t get opioids. A member of the state’s Controlled
Substance Board, Dahl met Joranson, a staffer.
A turning point came when Congress rejected an
attempt to legalize heroin to treat cancer patients in 1984. A
journal article says up to 80,000 cancer patients were suffering and
26 countries, notably England, allowed medically administered
Dahl and Joranson opposed legalizing heroin (“a
more controversial form of morphine,” she says) but agreed terminal
cancer pain was undertreated. “When people get to the point of death
from cancer, their pain is so severe that only opioids relieve it,”
Joranson was moved, recounted UW Alumni
magazine, by travels overseas to “cancer hospitals where ... doctors
walk past suffering patients, and those in the worst agony are
placed in what’s called a ‘screaming room.’” Dahl saw patients in
India with head and neck cancer, agony visible because of distorted
heads. “There was no oral morphine in all of India,” she says.
New York doctor Russ Portenoy’s 1986 study on
using opioids to treat noncancer patients was influential to Dahl
and many others. Portenoy recently told national media he’s had a
change of heart and was wrong about opioids’ addiction risk being
Portenoy now focuses on serious pain patients
and didn’t want to be quoted. “He’s sort of the guru of this,”
His study of 38 patients was the “scientific
launching pad,” wrote Barry Meier in the book “Painkiller.” In it,
Portenoy concluded “opioid maintenance therapy” can be safe and
Dahl called global and national experts to a
Racine conference. The Wisconsin Cancer Pain Initiative was born;
other states’ initiatives followed. The group distributed thousands
of pamphlets on cancer pain.
Rogers Memorial Hospital
in Oconomowoc is the fourth largest
behavioral health center in the country. It
is where most Waukesha County addicts go for
Eventually, the movement
broadened. At an early 1990s meeting of state pain initiatives,
people asked: Why stop there? Shouldn’t other pain sufferers be
helped? More groups formed.
OxyContin was released in 1995, with a time
release whose marketers claimed made it almost non-addictive;
Kolodny thinks the addiction rate is around 25 percent. Joranson,
who has a master’s degree in social work, started the pain group at
UW the following year. Dahl, who coauthored research with Joranson,
decided they “needed a stick.”
Dahl (with Robert Wood Johnson funding) began
encouraging the Joint Commission, which accredits most American
hospitals and doctors’ offices, to adopt new pain assessment
Miller chaired a board that rejected them,
concerned that patients’ expectations would become unrealistic. Two
years later, they were in place anyway. If you’ve seen the smiley
and frown faces, you’ve experienced them.
Dahl stressed they don’t mention opioids. Others
think the standards were very important because they created a
nationwide mandate that doctors prioritize pain treatment.
“Now screening for pain had to be done in every
primary care setting,” says Kolodny. And once OxyContin came out,
there was a new way to do it.
Meanwhile, Joranson’s group attacked
regulations; the pain movement was systematically dismantling
regulatory barriers to prescribing opioids. In one example, Joranson
spurred the Federation of State Medical Boards to issue a policy
that doctors could be sanctioned for undertreating pain, says
Medicare began linking funding to patient
satisfaction surveys, giving incentive for doctors to prescribe
If pain researchers’ work was kindling, though,
Purdue’s billions were lighter fluid. “Guess who was speaking (at
their conferences)?” Dahl asks. “Me.” She feels “possibly used.”
As she leaves, Dahl tosses out a D.H. Lawrence
quote: “A little morphine in all the air. It would be wonderfully
refreshing for everyone.”
Coming Thursday: A marketing
campaign promises wonders of opioids
How a killer
drug quickly became a community crisis
1 OF A SERIES
McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 9, 2014
Photos of Tony
Pyszczynski in his mother’s Muskego home.
On heroin’s trail
The Freeman is taking an in-depth look at
the epidemic of heroin use in Waukesha County with this
series spanning several parts.
TODAY: A look at the scope, the
numbers, and how heroin and prescription pain pills are
Wednesday: University of Wisconsin
researchers played a role in how opioids became so
commonly prescribed in society.
Thursday: Prescription drug maker
Purdue Pharma was part of a marketing campaign launched
directly at doctors.
Friday: A Mexican cartel was
involved in how heroin gets to Waukesha.
Saturday: Heroin addiction as seen
through the eyes of a Muskego girl and a discussion of
the county’s drug court.
WAUKESHA — A lot’s been written
about “heroin in the suburbs.” Many reports are episodic: This
year’s deaths are increasing, authorities have busted a big ring or
another promising young person has died. It’s left pressing
questions: How did heroin become so prevalent here in Waukesha
County? And why? Drunken driving and domestic violence once
monopolized community concern not that long ago. We’re educated.
Affluent. We parent our children (well, most do). Heroin conjures up
images of 1970s skid rows, not Pewaukee or Muskego. The crisis here
happened fast — in less than a decade.
“It’s a different demographic than other drugs,” said District
Attorney Brad Schimel. “It’s the Eagle Scout. The straight-A
student. The star athlete. These aren’t the bad kids.”
The journey to find answers takes surprising turns, from the
University of Wisconsin-Madison to northwestern Mexico. It evokes
Fast and Furious, unprecedented marketing by Big Pharma, and
university researchers who helped lay the intellectual foundation by
launching a national pain movement that changed society and may have
unwittingly fueled an epidemic.
It often starts with pills
The mythological poison-breathing serpent Hydra had multiple heads.
To properly understand this crisis and its evolution, consider it
Hydra: same body, two heads — heroin and opioid pills, such as
Vicodin, Percocet, the cheaper painkiller methadone, and the
godfather of them all, OxyContin. They are chemically similar,
derived from the same poppy plant, and produce the same high (heroin
was once legally prescribed 100 years ago.) Opioid pills are the
gateway drugs floating around our purses like Tylenol. It almost
always starts there.
“There’s a pill problem in Waukesha County,” Capt. Frank McElderry,
commander of the Metro Drug Unit, said. “It almost always starts
with pills. There are more pills out here than heroin. No one starts
with heroin. You can’t talk about heroin without talking about
Schimel concurs: “I don’t know anyone who started with heroin.”
Parents lock liquor cabinets or mark alcohol bottles but “no one is
monitoring or counting the pills,” he added.
At least 80 percent of heroin users started with opioid pills first,
national research says. While the government gives Mexican drug
cartel leaders distributing heroin most-wanted status, almost at
Osama bin Laden’s level, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary grows opium
poppies used for chemically similar — and legal — prescription
opioid pills. They’re grown in Tasmania, off the Australian coast.
The website of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Tasmanian Alkaloids
boasts poppy fields as pretty as the one that put Dorothy to sleep
in “The Wizard of Oz” (the company makes many household-name
products: Tylenol, Visine, Listerine, and Splenda among them).
Two cohorts use heroin, said Dr. Frank Kolodny, a leading expert on
opioids, which refers to drugs — legal prescription pills and
illegal heroin — deriving from the poppy. There’s an aging cohort
still addicted to heroin from the 1970s in urban areas out east,
and, in the last 15 years, a bigger, growing cohort of young
suburban and rural users throughout America. Like here.
Our growing use of prescription opioids is the underreported crisis
and precursor, he said.
“They are essentially heroin pills.”
Kolodny said the number of heroin users who
started with opioid pills would be even higher except it still
includes aging men addicted in the ’70s. He thinks it’s 99 percent
Legitimate pain relief
Despite their nexus to the heroin problem and
their own addictive properties, prescription opioids clearly have a
legitimate purpose also, as anyone who has suffered pain knows.
This, though, creates a vexing dilemma for society — how to balance
competing public health concerns of people’s pain and people’s
addiction — and where the line should be drawn when it comes to
access. It’s a pendulum that has swung back and forth several times
in the past 100 years.
The widespread legal prescribing of opioids for
the broader chronic pain population (estimated at 2 million
Wisconsinites) — as opposed to terminal cancer patients — is a
relatively new thing, dating only to just before 2000.
Now the notion of treating pain has broad
support. Gov. Scott Walker recently declared September Pain
Awareness Month in Wisconsin, saying, “Chronic pain is the leading
cause of lost work days, and costs an estimated $100 billion in lost
productivity every year and results in higher health care costs.” A
cluster of Wisconsin pain groups for illnesses ranging from
arthritis to dementia joined in the pain treatment advocacy.
Chronic pain these days is often treated with an
opioid prescription. A recent news report said the Drug Enforcement
Administration was tightening regulations on hydrocodone and moving
it from a Schedule III to Schedule II drug in recognition of
addiction risks and misuse (preventing refills, creating
manufacturing quotas, and so on).
It wasn’t always so easy to get opioids for such
legitimate but not life-ending pain in Waukesha or the country. Now
it is. And that, experts unanimously agree, is the root of the
heroin crisis here. People usually start with pills that were
legally prescribed for someone else (a parent, grandparent).
A spokesman for OxyContin’s maker points to a
Food and Drug Administration letter that calls chronic pain “a
serious and growing public health problem” that “contributes greatly
to national rates of morbidity, mortality, and disability; and is
rising in prevalence.”
But there’s obviously a
public health cost too from treating pain so broadly.
Killer on the
The epicenter for the epidemic
locally is the Waukesha County Metro Drug Unit, where McElderry has
mapped drug overdose deaths. They’re spread throughout the county.
Medical examiner’s spreadsheets show opioids were found in almost 80
percent of drug overdose victims here since 2003 — either heroin or,
more likely, pills (hydrocodone came up in 27 of the 385 deaths,
heroin in at least 55, and oxycodone in 80). Most ingested multiple
Example: A 53-year-old Brookfield man died this
year after ingesting morphine (an opioid), Venlafaxine (anxiety
drug), Diazepam (anxiety and seizures), and Temazepam (insomnia).
But “counting bodies” — as the mother of one
victim says — “is the least of it.” More people use heroin than die
from it, average age 22.1 (the age for pill use is higher).
“There is no standard person,” said McElderry.
“It might be the athlete with the professional family or the welfare
Rumors abound — this high school football team
uses pills; that school is “Heroin High” — but there’s no fixed
How bad is it? Beds are full at one of the
nation’s top four behavioral health centers, Rogers Memorial
Hospital in Oconomowoc.
“Alcohol used to be No. 1, but now alcohol and
opioids are pretty much tied,” said Dr. Michael Miller, who runs the
addiction center there. As with other experts, he talks about heroin
and legal opioid pills as if they are almost indistinct. Outpacing
alcohol is a tough thing to do in Wisconsin. “Alcohol used to be 5
to 1,” said Miller.
Crime lab cases, heroin offenses? Waukesha is
near tops statewide. Deaths? Up since 2003, spiking in 2012 — opioid
deaths are now higher than traffic fatalities. Prosecutions? The DA
is getting national attention for prosecuting dealers in overdoses.
Most recently, a 17-year-old Oconomowoc High
School junior was charged with reckless homicide using the Len Bias
law for allegedly supplying the drug to 19-year-old Archie Badura
(there have been over 26 such prosecutions here). A cousin who also
used heroin remains in critical condition as of this writing.
Pill collections? Federal agents incinerated
50,000 pounds last time, third largest nationwide. More American
teenagers now use prescription opioids than marijuana. State opioid
treatment program attendance is up, hospitalizations are up, needle
exchanges are up, using naloxone to stop overdoses is up.
“Heroin has been an extremely serious issue for
six or seven years now,” Mark Manthy, acting director of the
Wisconsin High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a seven-county
effort, said. “Public attention is catching up to reality. It’s very
James Bohn, who runs the local DEA office, says
heroin toppled cocaine as the region’s top drug threat. Second?
“One fuels the other,” he said.
Schimel said the problem is “driving everything
else, increases in burglaries, retail theft, organized retail theft,
identify theft, robberies. It used to be rare to have an armed
robbery in Waukesha. Now they’re routine.”
Although county drug overdose deaths dropped in
2013, drugs that can reverse opioid overdoses are more available.
Addicts in drug court tell officials they’ve overdosed seven times.
So many pills are floating around that sometimes undercover drug
cops run out of money.
In Waukesha, “people take their kids to the
doctor,” McElderry said. “We are an overprescribed society.”
We raised our kids on Adderall and Flintstones
vitamins, and filled our cabinets with opioid pills for knees and
backs prescribed by family docs, and then act surprised they don’t
think pills are bad. During Nancy Reagan’s “just say no” era,
messages were clear: Drugs that weren’t alcohol were bad.
Why would pill users switch to heroin? It’s half
as expensive and easier to get. Doctors stop writing prescriptions;
parents finally lock down the pill supply. Pill withdrawal is so
horrible that driving to Milwaukee’s north side to stick a needle in
your arm becomes the better option.
It makes cops’ jobs tougher when dealers are
bottles prescribed to parents and grandparents legally (by dentists
too). Jack Riley, who runs the DEA’s Chicago’s office, said they
stopped the methamphetamine threat here by restricting precursor
drugs. In this case, the precursor drugs are legal pills, often
prescribed to people who really need them. You don’t find many pill
dealers on street corners; bad docs also aren’t the biggest problem,
although there are some.
“The market came to the people. There’s wealth
here. It was the perfect storm,” said Sheriff’s Inspector Eric
Severson, who ran Waukesha’s Metro Drug Unit until 2006.
Linda Lenz lives in an affluent, cookie-cutter
Muskego subdivision — grassy backyard with barking dog, son Tony
Pyszczynski’s senior picture on the mantle.
Lenz talked to Tony about pot and cigarettes.
She drew up a “contract” so he wouldn’t drink and drive. But the
ground had shifted. Tony, a football player, first took pills at
high school parties, like a kid in the ’80s might a glass of beer.
Linda Lenz looks at a
video showing her son in the hospital after a drug-induced
He studied Buddhism and Chinese and liked to
watch “Antiques Roadshow.” He made her artwork, and it’s good.
He filled notebooks with agony.
“One bad decision can lead to this,” said Manthy.
He switched to heroin because he couldn’t afford
pills. He was found shoeless in a Waukesha street. He went to
Rogers. Tony started bodybuilding as if to muscle the monster out.
In a last selfie, he doesn’t look much like that high school kid.
He died in a Milwaukee parking lot of a heroin
overdose last year, just 23. His mother still has his last text; “I
know. Love u too.” She was at Mayfair when an officer showed up with
Lenz is passionate and mobilized. Officials all
know her. It’s hard to know whether Muskego has a bigger problem or
just has Lenz to highlight it (Waukesha records the most overdose
deaths, followed by Menomonee Falls). She videotapes survivors and
runs a group, Stop Heroin Now.
Linda Lenz watches a
video documenting her son's battle with addiction.
“There are 20 houses with addicts in the
four-mile radius around my house, at least,” she says. “Every heroin
addict I know started with pills. Every one of them.”
But why are there so many
pills now? The answer might surprise you.
(See Part 2 of this series in
How to defeat drug abuse?
Cross-system meeting program seeks solutions for county’s continuing
heroin & opiate crisis
Masterson - Freeman Staff
August 29, 2014
WAUKESHA — Dozens
of officials from local law enforcement, high schools, health care
and Waukesha County government came together Thursday with one
purpose in mind: finding solutions to the county’s heroin and opiate
The meeting was the first in a series of discussions aimed at
analyzing what role each agency and organization has in reducing the
number of heroin- and opiate-related addictions and deaths in the
Attendees included County Executive Dan Vrakas, District Attorney
Brad Schimel, Sheriff’s Department Inspector Eric Severson and
Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Unit Commander Frank McElderry, as
well as representatives from the Waukesha, Menomonee Falls and
Muskego police departments, plus many others, who convened during
the regularly-scheduled Health & Human Services Board meeting at the
Human Services Center. According to a July report from the State
Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Wisconsin saw a 350 percent
increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime
Laboratory by law enforcement between 2006 and 2011.
“We are not winning,” Schimel said. “We are making some progress,
but the problem is moving faster than us. The only way we are going
to win this is if prevention becomes ... number 1. They can’t pop
that first pill.”
He said law enforcement cannot arrest its way out of this crisis
because even if addicts are locked up for two years, many will come
out of prison and immediately begin using again.
Waukesha Police Lt. Joe Hendricks said through July, the city has
possibly already topped its record for most opiate-related deaths in
a single year. Hendricks stressed, however, that the cause of death
in many cases is still pending the Medical Examiner’s final review.
Dr. Steven Kulick, a member of the HHS board and a physician for
Emergency Medical Associates, said part of the problem began when
the Joint Commission — a medical accreditation body — labeled pain
as the human body’s “sixth vital sign.”
“They pushed very, very hard on the provider community to not let
anyone go untreated for pain,” he said. “I think that led us into a
place where we set patient expectations that they would receive very
potent pain medications that in many cases, I would say, are simply
Kulick added that an individual
physician writing a prescription for an opiate such as Vicodin or
Oxycodone might not be aware of how often these drugs are getting
diverted away from their intended user.
Increased education was urged by attendees, not
only for the pharmacists prescribing the drugs, but also for teens
and children in high schools, middle schools and even elementary
“Children are getting into first-line drugs
through medicine cabinets,” Waukesha County Public Health Manager
Nancy Healy-Haney said. “The (early) experimentation has dropped
from the age of 12 to 10. So, yes, it is important to do education
in the middle schools, but it might be helpful to start in the fifth
Severson said parents must understand the
importance of locking up their prescription opiates. He said
Waukesha County sees more deaths each year from heroin and opiate
overdoses than it does from accidental shootings, but the message
has still not gotten across to the parents.
Representatives identified possible solutions
such as privately funding a drug lockbox distribution or
implementing student surveys in local schools to see just how
prevalent the problem is.
Schimel said too many parents have a sense that
their children or their schools could never have a drug problem —
that it is always somewhere else. He suggested a blind study within
local schools to show parents how close the issue hits to home, as
well as a handbook for parents to help keep their kids away from
drugs, or provide resources for help if they are already addicted.
The group plans to meet again next month and
invite more guests, including pharmacists and members of the private
“It is certainly my desire that this is not our
first and last meeting — if it is then we have wasted all of our
time,” HHS Board Chair Joe Vitale said. “There will not be a magic
pill to this, but I do believe that if we all put our heads together
and work diligently at this problem, that in fact, we can get a
better handle on it.”
Heroin dealer sentenced to 3 years in prison
Bend man, 19, sold drugs to undercover agent
By AMANDA VOSS - Daily News
August 19, 2014
On Monday, four
days before Kyle Ryan’s 20th birthday, he was sentenced to three
years in prison in Washington County Circuit Court for selling
of West Bend was charged with three counts of manufacturing or
delivering heroin less than 3 grams, three counts of maintaining a
drug trafficking place and possession of drug paraphernalia. During
a plea hearing in June, he pleaded guilty to one count of
manufacture or deliver heroin less than 3 grams. The remaining
counts were dismissed, but read into the record during sentencing.
He appeared in custody before Circuit Judge James Pouros with
attorney Jeffrey Jaeger. Ryan said he was guilty, ashamed and
embarrassed before he was sentenced.
“I never thought at 19 or any age I would be involved with heroin,”
He said he’s trying to become a productive member of society and
this experience has been life-changing.
“Heroin leads to jail or a casket,” Ryan said.
Assistant District Attorney Mandy Schepper recommended Ryan serve
three to four years in prison and five years of extended supervision
while Jaeger recommended Ryan serve probation. If Ryan’s probation
is revoked, he recommended prison time.
Schepper said Ryan sold heroin to an undercover agent April 30, May
7 and May 9.
Schepper said several items of drug paraphernalia, including a
marijuana pipe, several tin foil squares, a digital scale, razor
blades and a plastic straw with white residue on it, were found in
the home he shares with his grandparents.
“There are three paths heroin users take,” Schepper said, adding a
heroin user dies, becomes a thief or becomes a drug dealer —
perpetuating the community’s heroin problem.
“We need to figure out what to do with Mr. Ryan,” Jaeger said. “I
don’t believe this case rises to the level of immediate confinement
He said Ryan started using oxycodone that was prescribed to him when
he had his wisdom teeth pulled, then he started using heroin.
“Mr. Ryan followed path three as Ms. Schepper indicated. They were
small deliveries,” Jaeger said.
Jaeger said Ryan told the presentence investigation writer going to
jail saved his life and he will get treatment.
“This is a sad situation all around,” Pouros said. “The community is
affected. The defendant was dealing drugs. He was potentially
dealing death. Small deliveries kill. People taking small amounts
3 men revived from heroin overdoses in 2 days
Crews administer Narcan; officer taken to hospital after stuck with
By LINDA MCALPINE - Daily News
August 5, 2014
responded to at least three heroin overdoses in two
days in Washington County and three lives were saved
because of Narcan.
Overdoses occurred in a gas station bathroom, a
Walmart parking lot, and another while the man was
Germantown Fire Chief Gary Weiss told the Germantown
Village Board on Monday night that his department
trained the officers of the Germantown Police
Department how to administer Narcan three weeks ago
and, on Saturday, that training saved a life.
Narcan is a drug that can reverse an overdose.
Officers responded to the Speedway Gas Station on
Riversbend Lane shortly after 5:30 p.m. Saturday
after a man locked himself in the bathroom. After
gaining entry into the bathroom, it was evident the
man was suffering from a heroin overdose. An officer
gave the man Narcan, according to a Germantown
Police Department news release.
Weiss, who had been on the scene, said the man
regained consciousness and was transported to a
local hospital. Weiss said Saturday’s incident was
the first time a Germantown Police officer
administered Narcan while on duty.
Another Germantown officer involved in the incident
was stuck by a used hypodermic needle the man had.
The officer was admitted to the hospital.
The news release notes it is a common occurrence for
police officers and emergency medical personnel to
encounter needles and other sharp objects at
incidents involving controlled substances. The
officer’s gloves failed to protect his hands when he
The Washington County Sheriff’s Department dealt
with a heroin overdose Friday night, according to a
At about 7:30 p.m. Friday, a 36-year-old Richfield
man drove into a ditch on Highway 167 near the
Richfield Truck Stop. The deputy who arrived
discovered the man unconscious and noticed fresh
injection marks on his arm and a heroin kit in the
stopped breathing so the deputy pulled him from
the vehicle and started CPR. When Richfield
Rescue arrived, Narcan was administered, which
revived the man. He was taken to the hospital,
where he was medically cleared but he was
arrested for fourth-offense OWI and possession
of drug paraphernalia and booked into the
Washington County Jail.
West Bend Police arrested a
27-year-old Milwaukee man Friday night after he
allegedly overdosed on heroin in the West Bend
Walmart parking lot.
According to a news release,
the man was found unresponsive by his car in the
parking lot about 10 p.m.
A citizen flagged down a
police officer who was in the area and the
officer administered Narcan.
The man regained
consciousness and was taken to the hospital.
he was medically cleared, the man was jailed for
possession of a controlled substance, possession
of drug paraphernalia and bail jumping.
home helps get addicts back on their feet
By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff
August 1, 2014
Kevin Schaefer, John E. Arneson
and Patrick Reilly discuss SALS Sober House
during a Thursday interview.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
WAUKESHA — We see the headlines every day: “Man charged with
heroin possession,” “Addiction on the rise.” John E. Arneson
and the rest of the staff at Sober Alternative Living
Services are attempting to change the end of the story.
“I opened this place with rose-colored glasses,” said
Arneson, who has been the SALS executive director since
2004, when a friend opened his eyes to the lack of
transitional housing for recovering addicts in Waukesha. At
first Arneson opened his arms and wallet to any addict who
wanted to stay at one of his two properties, but after
almost going broke, he realized he needed more structure.
about isolation but recovery is about being open and
“We’ll take anyone
who’s ready, willing and able to work on their sobriety — no
one’s forced to be here — but they have to be clean, and
they have to want to be here. It can’t be just mom and dad
wanting them here,” Arneson said. Residents can come and go
as they please, but they must submit to drug and alcohol
testing and absolutely must remain clean and sober, he said.
Fast forward to 2014, when SALS has grown to four men’s
homes — two in Waukesha and another pair in Milwaukee. A
women’s home is planned for Milwaukee in the near future.
Kevin Schaefer wears a “One Day
At a Time” bracelet.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
Arneson and his
staff have helped more than 1,000 men get back on their
feet through giving them a place to stay for anywhere
from a few months to a few years, helping them find
employment and prevent relapses. That’s where
professional recovery coaches like Kevin Schaefer come
“It’s just like a coach on the sidelines of a basketball
court. The team needs a plan of attack,” Schaefer said.
“Addiction is about isolation but recovery is about
being open and honest.”
That’s what Justin, who asked that his last name not be
used, has learned in his time at SALS. Justin used
opiates for four years until his parents found drug
paraphernalia in his room and suggested a rehabilitation
facility in Oshkosh. After treatment. he did well for a
while, but then his cravings started increasing. He
struggled finding employment. He felt defeated.
“Treatment is only as good as the 30 days it is,”
Schaefer said. “The real world is tough.”
Justin sought out SALS after hearing about it through
the rehabilitation facility in Oshkosh.
“It’s better than living with my friends because there
are others here with that same mindset of trying to
remain sober,” said Justin, who recently got a job after
his coach, Schaefer, physically took him to job
interviews and encouraged him through any rejections.
Sober coach Kevin Schaefer and
SALS Executive Director John E. Arneson at one of
SALS Sober House locations.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
Placement Director Patrick Reilly said in the old
days, all SALS residents were alcoholics, but
nowadays anyone younger than 30 that comes through
the door is addicted to opiates.
“Heroin is easier to get than
beer,” he said. “Here, we provide a safe
environment, and it’s these guys that make it worth
Schaefer said the hard work,
tears, late-night phone calls and stress are all
worthwhile when he sees a resident overcome his
demons. And that’s the story people need to hear.
“Everyone’s talking about the
epidemic, but the one thing we’re not talking about
is hope,” Schaefer said. “There is hope.”
For more information, or to
candidates put spotlight on heroin crisis leading up to August
Masterson - Freeman Staff
July 25, 2014
— With just over three weeks remaining until the Republican
primary to determine who will become the new Waukesha County
sheriff, the two candidates are both focusing on the heroin
crisis facing the area. Sheriff’s Department Inspector Eric
Severson and former Town of Lisbon Police Chief Tom Alioto
both want to cut the number of addicts and overdoses in the
county. Both men will outline their platforms at today’s
“One-on-One with Your Public Official” program, held from
7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at the Waukesha County Business
Alliance, 2717 N. Grandview Blvd., Suite 300.
“It is a serious epidemic and I want to deal with that in
Waukesha County,” Alioto said. “I want to make that a focus
of this election, a focus of what would be my
administration. I want to focus every resource that we
possibly have towards taking a dent out of this heroin
said that if elected, he would work toward partnering with
medical professionals, including emergency room doctors and
EMS workers, and training all Sheriff’s Department deputies
in deploying Narcan to help counteract overdoses.
Severson said he would address his plan of attack during
today’s forum. But according to his website, he plans on
continuing participation with the Drug Enforcement
Administration, HIDTA/US Marshals Fugitive and HIDTA heroin
task forces. He also points to his 12 1/2 years of drug
enforcement leadership, which he says he will use to “build
stronger partnerships with other agencies and you, the
stakeholders of Waukesha County.”
Recently, Alioto has released ads attacking the current
manner of business in the Sheriff’s Department. He says that
if he’s elected, officers who break the law will not be let
off the hook by resigning, but will face prosecution if the
crimes warrant it.
Alioto has specifically mentioned Sarah Massa, a former
lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Department who resigned
earlier this year after she was accused of stealing
Severson said that while he is aware of the ads, he has not
heard them himself and chose not to comment because of that.
“I am consciously tuning them out,” he said. “I don’t listen
to the radio at work — I am working. I don’t pay attention
Alioto had previously been arrested and ticketed for
shoplifting from a Waukesha Farm and Fleet in 1988.
‘It is more powerful than the fear of death’
Schimel says heroin addiction in county, state continues to grow
Masterson - Freeman Staff
July 23, 2014
WAUKESHA — While Narcan use has helped to save the lives of
heroin overdose victims across Waukesha County, District
Attorney Brad Schimel said the battle against the powerful
opiate is still being lost.
In a presentation to the County Board at its meeting Tuesday
night, Schimel and Rebecca Luczaj, the coordinator for the
Criminal Justice Collaborating Council, offered a host of
statistics showing how despite strong efforts, heroin and opiate
addiction is still spreading on a county, state and national
“In the state of Wisconsin and across America, and in Waukesha
County too, the No. 1 cause of accidental death is no longer
traffic crashes,” Schimel said. “It is no longer anything to do
with alcohol, it is now an opiate overdose. That is the new
cause of accidental death and it has been for several years.”
|“We are not
winning. We are moving forward, but we are driving a
Model A and the problem just flew by us in a Ferrari.”
Schimel said that in 2011, deaths from overdoses overtook those
from traffic accidents in the state. He added that the average
age of someone who begins intravenous drug use is now equal to a
high school senior.
“This addiction is different than anything we have ever dealt
with before because it is more powerful than the fear of death,”
Narcan, an opioid antagonist which counteracts the effects of a
heroin overdose, has reportedly saved thousands of lives in
Wisconsin and its use is growing. In 2008, there were 173
reported deployments of Narcan in Wisconsin. By 2012 there were
787 deployments reported by users themselves and another 3,700
from emergency medical services.
However, according to Schimel, the addictions are still not
“The big problem is, at the same time we have seen those Narcan
saves increase, we have also seen the deaths continue to rise,”
he said. “We are not winning. We are moving forward, but we are driving a
Model A and the problem just flew by us in a Ferrari.”
One of the programs offered by the CJCC
is a Drug Treatment Court, which follows a “deferred
prosecution model,” according to Luczaj. Under this,
offenders who plead guilty are allowed into the 12 month
rehab ilitation program, which requires frequent, random
drug and alcohol testing, substance abuse treatment, regular
status hearings before the drug court judge and more.
Schimel said the average person coming into the program has
already been revived by Narcan seven times.
According to Luczaj, since the program’s
creation in 2012, there have been 111 applications to the
program, of which 92 have been accepted, and so far, there
have been 12 successful graduations.
“Drug Treatment Court is a lot more like
parenting at times than it is like criminal justice,”
Schimel said. “The standard criminal justice methods weren’t
working and this has given us some success and we are
turning these folks to becoming productive members of the
Drug dealers avoiding Ozaukee County
enforcement still pursuing those who get drugs to residents
Achterberg - News Graphic Staff
July 8, 2014
PORT WASHINGTON — Call it a
Drug dealers apparently have gotten the word to stay out of Ozaukee
County. They apparently have realized drug laws are enforced
aggressively – and judges don’t treat their cases lightly.
Prosecutors have responded by finding different charges to file.
In one recent arrest – and the district attorney said last week
similar cases are being investigated – a Milwaukee man was charged
with two felony heroin-dealing charges, even though the drug deals
allegedly occurred in Milwaukee County.
Antonio C. Green Sr., 33, was charged in late June with three counts
of conspiracy to commit manufacture/delivery of heroin. The
complaint was immediately sealed so the case wouldn’t turn up on an
online court database. Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland issued an arrest
warrant. Green, arrested July 1 in Milwaukee, made an initial court
appearance Wednesday. He is being held in the Ozaukee County jail on
a $25,000 cash bond.
Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said law enforcement and
prosecutors are responding to drug dealers with a new approach.
“We needed to develop a strategy to deal with the fact that drug
dealers were not consummating their drug deals in Ozaukee County
because they recognized there was a significant law enforcement
presence,” Gerol said, adding that law enforcement has been starting
to see dealers switch the meeting location to the other side of the
The crimes addressed in the
criminal complaint allegedly occurred in a parking lot of a store in
the 5600 block of North Bayshore Drive in Glendale on June 17, June
18 and June 19. An undercover sheriff’s deputy, who was in Ozaukee
County, arranged by text to meet Green for the first time to buy a
gram of heroin for $160, the criminal complaint said.
The text also said that they could meet at that
location but it had to be quick because “I gotta meet my man back in
Grafton on his break for his share,” the deputy texted, according to
The two met. Green got into the passenger seat
of the deputy’s car and turned over 1.1 grams of heroin for $160 in
pre-recorded buy money, the complaint said.
A second drug deal – also for a gram for $160 –
allegedly occurred in the same parking lot the next day. Again, the
deputy was in Ozaukee County when the transaction was arranged. The
deputy also texted he “had to make it back to Grafton in time,” the
The third deal – this time, three grams for $500
– allegedly occurred on June 19. In a text setting up that deal, the
deputy mentioned wanting to pick up some more “to bring back to
Grafton,” the complaint said.
“As a continuing effort to fight the heroin
epidemic, the Ozaukee County Drug Task Force remains committed to
bringing to justice any drug dealer that targets the citizens of
Ozaukee County,” said Lt. Rod Galbraith, the sheriff’s department’s
lead detective and supervisor of the drug task force, in a news
release announcing Green’s arrest.
The district attorney said his office can assert
jurisdiction if they can show that the drugs are intended for resale
or distribution in Ozaukee County.
“The idea is to create fear in drug dealers over
selling in Ozaukee County and profile their purchasers and hopefully
deter them from selling to people from Ozaukee County,” Gerol said.
Each of the three charges carries a maximum
penalty of 12 1/2 years in prison and a $25,000 fine, court records
Gary Achterberg can be reached at
‘This is the
work of the devil’
First responders, deputy DA share realities of heroin problem
Michalets - Special to The Freeman
June 26, 2014
DELAFIELD –To illustrate how
problematic the heroin addiction problem is in Waukesha County,
Delafield Police Officer Dan Bloedow on Thursday described two
brothers who bought heroin and shot up together in their home,
resulting in one brother dying from an overdose while his mother and
brother monitored him after he was found unconscious in the
“But the monitoring was actually watching him die,” he said.
The heroin addiction awareness meeting was organized by Alderman
Jeff Krickhahn and held in Delafield City Hall on Thursday.
Krickhahn became emotional while he spoke of how a friend’s son died
from a heroin overdose.
Krickhahn said heroin has increasingly become the party drug of
choice for today’s youth because of the euphoric high it can provide
and its availability. The presenters at Thursday’s meeting also
shared how heroin addiction often begins after someone starts
abusing opiate drugs like oxycodone. Those people may move on to
heroin because they can no longer get the prescription drugs.
Bloedow said he has only responded to the single fatal heroin
overdose, but he worries about the future.
“We are very fortunate that we haven’t had another, but I fear that
another one is not far off,” he said.
Officer Landon Nyren, a member of the Major Investigations Unit with
Bloedow, said officers have seen every type of person imaginable
abusing heroin or other opiates. Another prescription drug that
Nyren has seen abused is Fentanyl, which comes in both preparations
to be taken orally and patches.
One fatality Nyren investigated came after a man complained to his
Fentanyl supplier that the patch wasn’t working well, so the
supplier told him to “suck on it.”
The man’s friends later found him dead with the patch still in his
“Not only does your friend die of an overdose, you find them,” he
Nyren said the majority of property crimes in the area are prompted
by heroin or other opiate addictions.
According to data Bloedow read, in 2013 there were 227 heroin deaths
in Wisconsin and between 2008 and 2013 there was a 201 percent
increase in fatal heroin overdoses.
Problem is complex
The problem is not one that police arrests can solve, nor can
prosecution fix, said Waukesha County Deputy District Attorney Susan
“This is the work of the devil,” she said. “There is no answer.”
Opper has been assigned only to prosecuting narcotic cases in
Waukesha County, something that wasn’t needed a few years ago, but
now narcotic-related homicides exceed traffic deaths in the county.
She said heroin addicts eventually need a fix each day just so they
don’t get sick. It’s a constant struggle to figure out how to pay
for the drugs, where to get them and what mode of transportation can
be taken to get them.
“I would not wish this on my worst enemy even for a day,” Opper said
of a heroin addict’s lifestyle.
The issue is complex, she said, explaining that even if a judge
orders treatment, a person can refuse to cooperate. Friends can also
be enablers. The addiction can even begin at a young age, Opper
said, because high school athletes may be prescribed a strong pain
pill for an injury and when they are no longer able to get the
prescription, they might turn to heroin.
“They think they are invincible,” she said.
The police officers, Opper and members of Lake Country Fire & Rescue
also shared their frustration with the supplies provided for free
through a needle exchange program, including burners, tourniquets,
alcohol wipes and a drug called Narcan that counteracts a heroin
overdose. Opper said she has heard of friends who have called each
other to locate Narcan instead of calling 9-1-1.
Awareness is important, Nyren said, suggesting that when a doctor
prescribes a strong pain pill, the patient could ask if something
like aspirin might work as well.
Opper said awareness must also be increased in the medical community
and work is being done locally with the Medical College of
Lake Country Fire & Rescue Chief Jack Edwards suggested having an
exit plan prepared for young people when they are exposed to heroin.
“Everyone thinks it’s the big city problem, but it’s not,” he said,
adding almost all of the LCFR paramedics have heroin overdose
For more info
■ For more information about heroin, go to
www.doj.state.wi.us or call 608-266-1221. Other resources
include 1-800-662-HELP (4357),
www.theflyeffect.com. A pamphlet will also be available at the
Delafield Public Library, 500 Genesee St.
press’ against heroin
Counselors: Community must fight addiction on many fronts
Perttunen - Enterprise Staff
OCONOMOWOC — Staff at area
schools will note that the names being associated with fatal drug
overdoses are all too familiar. Sometimes, said counselor Scott
Bakkum of Oconomowoc High School, it is a name that was announced
over the loudspeakers at graduation only a year or so ago.
June 26, 2014
Social worker Deborah Fowler said she can’t link all of those
fatalities to heroin, but she has seen more fatal overdoses of
former students hit the news pages in the last five years than in
all of her previous 10 years combined.
The sobering topic of student heroin use — and other student
addictions — marks the penultimate installment in the Enterprise’s
five-part series that examines the roles and responsibilities of
today’s school counselor.
A month ago, the series began by exploring the increasing mental
health needs of students. Two weeks ago, a system of more intense
career guidance and planning was examined. In the week that
followed, the Enterprise delved into counselors’ impact on
curriculum. The series will conclude next week with a snapshot on
how counselors rely upon measurable data to gauge the impact of
‘The stakes are so much higher’
In partnership with Rosecrance, a group
with substance abuse rehab facilities and which has an office in
Pewaukee, OHS runs Substance Abuse Services that meet once a week
for an eight-week period. These are for those who are recovering
from marijuana, other drugs and alcohol — or those who are concerned
about friends and family.
Though heroin use among students is a relatively new trend, which
Bakkum said really started to become evident three years ago, the
recovery group this year was primarily composed of those who are
recovering from heroin use.
Self-reporting hasn’t occurred as much as it may for other
substances, which Bakkum speculated may be due to the stigma of
heroin use. With students coming back from treatment and
participating in the school’s recovery groups, however, a dialogue
“Students who are going through this are realizing that there are
more kids like them than they know,” Bakkum said.
What staff members have been able to learn from the students
themselves, Rosecrance and from law enforcement is that heroin is
cheap, easy to get and more potent than it’s ever been. It could
affect any student, regardless of academic standing or
“I don’t think kids realize the potency,” Bakkum said. “They are
teenagers and adolescents; a lot of it is their (curiosity.) Some of
them have been on drugs and are no longer getting the high they
want, so they want to try something different.” Though the
progression isn’t the same for every student who tries and becomes
addicted to heroin, there are those who make the leap up from
“Their belief is that, well, if it’s a prescription pill ... that a
doctor prescribed it, it must be safe,” Bakkum said. “But, they’re
not using it how it was prescribed.”
Pills are expensive, Fowler said, and economics are sometimes the
driving force for the deadly switch to heroin.
In addition to the potency, Bakkum said there are those who believe
that the spread of Narcan may manufacture a false sense of security,
with students believing that they might be brought back from an
overdose simply by having Narcan administered.
“It’s sort of one of those things where I think kids are pushing the
boundaries much more so, and they don’t realize the stakes are so
much higher with some of the drugs, heroin in particular,” he said.
“It’s one time and the student could die. That’s a very different
risk than the drugs in the past.”
One of the things that needs to happen is a more aggressive effort
on the part of the entire community, Bakkum said, which includes law
enforcement, schools, peers, the business community and parents.
A more active parenting style could make a big impact, Bakkum said.
Gone are the days where the landline is in the living room and
conversations about risky behaviors may be overheard and thwarted by
Students now hatch plans to engage in risky behaviors on the devices
they carry in their pockets. Parents need to remember that the
students have no expectation of privacy and that they can expect to
see what is being said via text.
“Parents should know that it doesn’t start with heroin,” said Lisa
Dawes, the director of student services and special education. “It
starts with something else.
“When you talk about that full-court press, where all people have to
be driving as hard in order to make change, that change has to start
with things that people find a little more tolerant, but not
necessarily legal, like alcohol. To be thinking about that ... I
don’t think anybody sees their child moving on from having drinks at
a family party or graduation party to moving onto a heavy-duty drug
like heroin, but I think that’s what’s taken everybody by surprise —
where it starts and where it ends up.”
Parents need to monitor that activity and texting, Fowler echoed,
even with students placing tremendous pressure on them not to do so.
“Parents should respond to the changes that they notice,” she said.
“That could be changes to friendship groups, eating and sleeping
habits, changes in academic performance at school, truancy, or
changes to hygiene.”
Community seems receptive
The community is showing some responsiveness in its ability to face
these tough truths, Bakkum said. A “Stairway to Heroin” event at the
Oconomowoc Arts Center in April was the most attended assembly in
recent memory, with 575 parents and students in attendance.
Ninety-one percent of those in attendance reported that they found
the information useful and an unprecedented 100 percent reported
that they felt more knowledgeable about the risks and behaviors.
A second event is planned for next fall, with possible firsthand
input from a student who is recovering, Bakkum said.
Milwaukee County organizations, agencies bring awareness to heroin
FIDLIN - Special to The Post
June 20, 2014
The statistics do not lie.
With heroin use and the number fatal
overdoses rising dramatically the past five years, few people would
argue sweeping efforts need to be made to curb the epidemic.
While attention has turned toward elected officials and law
enforcement to enact and uphold laws that address the issue, local
leaders have asserted no one profession or organization can be
handed the task of putting an end to heroin use in the Milwaukee
Efforts to stem the tide should not be done in a vacuum,
advocates trumpeted at the regional symposium, "Heroin: Not on Our
Protecting Our Communities," that was held June 4 at Marquette
The daylong event, which included representatives from Milwaukee
and four neighboring counties, included speakers from a number of
nonprofit organizations and public agencies that shared a similar
Throughout Milwaukee County, members of disparate groups have
agreed to band together and fight the heroin epidemic that is
sweeping the entire Milwaukee metropolitan area
– including some
of the most affluent communities.
The Milwaukee-based AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin has nine
branches throughout the state. As its name implies, the organization
focuses primarily on creating awareness around HIV and AIDS.
More recently, however, the ARCW has rallied around other causes,
including the rise in heroin use by youths.
"No one group is the solution to this," said Dennis Radloff, drug
prevention specialist with the ARCW’s Milwaukee branch. "It takes
all of us together."
As is the case with most organizations, Radloff readily admits
funding is one of the largest obstacles as the ARCW aims to carry
out its mission. Challenges aside, he said the organization is
committed to offering a range of treatment and prevention services.
One way the ARCW has been involved with the heroin crisis has
been the distribution of so-called heroin antidote kits that contain
Narcan, a drug that is intended to reverse the effects of heroin.
Since word has spread about the rise of heroin use, a variety of
coalitions has sprouted up throughout the region to advocate toward
greater collaboration within and across county lines.
In Milwaukee County, an organization known as the Substance Abuse
Prevention Coalition has been working in tandem with the Community
Advocates Public Policy Institute to bring awareness to the issue.
"The law enforcement are important. Organizations working toward
treatments and cures are good. Community organizations are good,"
said Kari Lerch, a prevention services manager with the coalition.
"But none of these groups can do this alone. Our community
coalitions are a great way to bring everyone together."
While grass-roots efforts and nonprofit organizations have been
viewed as an important mechanism toward bringing awareness to the
epidemic, state-run agencies hold equal weight.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services Bureau of Prevention,
Treatment and Recovery has an office in Milwaukee. The agency has
been designated as the state’s official opioid treatment authority.
Tanya Hiser, a specialist with the agency, said a variety of
medication-assisted treatments is available to heroin addicts. The
bureau works as a liaison to help bring the treatments to people who
As advocates scramble to get the word out about heroin’s rise, a
variety of efforts is being taken to gain awareness. One such method
has been a multimedia campaign known as the Fly Effect.
Playing off the lyrics in the age-old nursery rhyme, "I Know An
Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," the campaign basically states one hit
of heroin is one hit too many.
Like the nursery rhyme, which portrayed the old woman and her
ongoing efforts to build on her previous experiences, heroin use can
start small and quickly grow out of control.
"Even the biggest spirals have the smallest start," said
Christina McNichol, an agent with the Wisconsin Department of
Justice. "In the case of heroin, what are users going to do to get
their next hit?"
Southeastern Wisconsin has been especially hit hard with a more
than double amount of heroin overdoses having been recorded from
2009 to 2013. In 2009, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and
Waukesha counties notched 45 overdoses. In 2013, the five-county
region encountered 98 overdoses.
of heroin again a topic of discussion
MCALPINE - Daily News
June 19, 2014
Pat Franklin of the town of Jackson, who lost two
sons to drug overdoses, wipes a tear after watching a
testimonial video Wednesday at Badger Middle School in West
John Ehlke/Daily News
WEST BEND -
Steve Melstrand started
his road to heroin addiction at 13 by smoking marijuana.
Melstrand, 25, of West Bend, who has been in recovery from
his heroin addiction for the past four years, told the story
of the hell he and his family went through during a program
for the parents of fourth-through ninth-graders hosted by
the West Bend School District at Badger Middle School titled
“Learn the Risks.”
“By the time I was in high school, I started experimenting
with other drugs. They were easy to get. I tried cocaine,
ecstasy, acid and mushrooms,” he said. “It wasn’t long
before I tried pills like oxycodone and Percocet.”
The next step in his journey was to try heroin.
“I started using heroin in my junior year in high school.
One of my biggest regrets is that I let it take over and I
gave up the things I had a passion for, like wrestling,”
He was so hooked on heroin that even the overdose death of a
close friend didn’t cause Melstrand to try to stop his
“It was surreal. It hit me hard but I felt I was
invincible,” Melstrand said of his friend’s death by heroin.
It took a near-death experience of his own at the hands of
heroin to make Melstrand seek help.
“My parents got me to talking to a psychiatrist and that got
me to reevaluate and change the priorities in my life,”
Melstrand said, adding that his newfound Christian faith has
helped him turn his life around. He is now married with a
young son and is a partner in his father’s small business.
Melstrand’s stepmother, Emily Melstrand, said as a parent,
she felt she was naive about drug use, especially heroin. “I
guess I just didn’t want to believe it,” she said, noting
that the family had been active together.
West Bend Police Capt. Tim Dehring said even though heroin
and prescription drug abuse are problems in the community,
he said he has a strong belief they can be beaten.
“We need to defeat denial. These problems are here,” he
said. “We also need to defeat the stigma, so that those who
have these problems can talk about them and get the help
West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Neitzke gave
the audience some solid advice to take home.
“Have a code,” he said. “Develop a code or phase that your
child can use when calling you if they find themselves in a
situation where there is pressure to make a bad choice.”
Neitzke encouraged parents to be parents, to be engaged with
their middle schoolers.
“We as parents are involved with our children when they are
in elementary school, but then we tend to step back when
they turn,” he said. “That’s when we need to be more
involved. Know who your children’s friends are. Get to know
their parents. Have your house be the one that the kids want
to come to. Be that safe place for them.”
Neitzke said the School District, along with the West Bend
Police Department and Elevate, a community resource center
in Jackson, plans to host other community conversations
about issues facing Washington County.
disturbing new face of heroin addiction
Fidlin - News Graphic Correspondent
MILWAUKEE — The numbers vary
slightly, but every statistic tells a similar story: Heroin use is
on the rise – regionally and nationally.
June 10, 2014
Southeastern Wisconsin has been especially hit hard with a more than
double amount of heroin overdoses from 2009 to 2013. In 2009,
Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties notched
45 overdoses. In 2013, the five-county region encountered 98
With an unfortunate common bond, civic leaders and organizers
gathered Wednesday at Marquette University for a symposium, “Heroin:
Not On Our Watch – Protecting our Communities.”
Ozaukee County Public Health Department
The rise of heroin use
among youth has become a well-publicized epidemic this year.
Wednesday’s daylong event was designed to put the spotlight
on possible solutions.
While a number of possible remedies were discussed –
including stiffer laws and changing regulations on
prescription medications – time and again, speakers sounded
a desire to collaborate with one another, across county
Paul Decker, Waukesha County Board chairman, did not mince
words as he discussed the epidemic throughout Waukesha and
its surrounding communities. Decker said Waukesha County’s
burgeoning population is, in part, made of people who have
wanted to distance themselves from urban challenges.
“Denial is one of our biggest challenges,” Decker said. “But
education is the key thing. We’ve got to collaborate. We’ve
got to work together.”
Other counties abutting Milwaukee County – including Ozaukee
and Washington counties – are also facing the issue head-on.
Like Waukesha County, organizers in the other two counties
have held meetings that have drawn larger-than-expected
Kirsten Johnson, director of the Ozaukee County Health
Department, said a locally-oriented heroin summit was
expected to draw no more than 200 people when it was held in
January. More than 600 people showed up.
In the immediate aftermath of the summit, Johnson said the
health department is meeting regularly with other groups,
including the sheriff’s office and the county’s two
primarily health care providers, Aurora and Columbia St.
“We have partners from every walk of life in our community,”
Johnson said. “You name it, and everyone’s at the table.
We’re really talking to one another.”
Local leaders also touted preventative measures. Ronna
Corliss, a drug prevention coordinator with Washington
County, said there has been a growing interest toward
enhancing parent-student dialogue about the epidemic.
Corliss pointed to a recent series of meetings in West Bend
that were well attended.
“We have to talk about how we can work beyond the borders of
our counties,” Washington County Manager Joshua Schoemann
Early in the symposium, the hundreds of attendees heard from
drug experts from outside southeastern Wisconsin, including
state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, who gained national
attention when he pursued legislation to curb the rise in
For Nygren, the fight against heroin was personal. His
daughter, Cassie, has been struggling with addiction to the
drug. Nygren touched on his daughter’s radical
transformation – from being a high-achieving student to one
who was frequently truant.
“We never had the opportunity to see her graduate because
the straight-A student dropped out,” Nygren said. “You think
of heroin as something that is happening in dark alleys, but
my beautiful baby girl was using it.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Common Council
President Michael Murphy are among the local leaders who
helped bring the symposium to fruition with philanthropic
support by the Zilber Family Foundation.
As the seven-hour symposium wrapped, Murphy recounted some
of the startling statistics aired throughout the day. But he
expressed optimism as well.
“I believe, going forward, the information we gathered will
serve as a foundation to making a difference,” Murphy said.
“There is a sense of urgency. We’re all reaching out to the
Federal views diverge on proper use of
June 10, 2014
How do you have a conversation about prescription drugs that
provide critical pain relief to millions of Americans yet also
cause more fatal overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined?
The answer is: It
of the federal government describe the problem — and potential
solutions — of abuse with Vicodin, OxyContin and other opioid
drugs in different terms.
The White House
has called opioid abuse an "epidemic" and a
"growing national crisis" that causes more than 16,500
deaths per year. Meanwhile, the head of the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention and a top-ranking Drug Enforcement
Administration official have called on doctors to dramatically
scale back their use of prescription opioids.
this May 30, 2014 file photo, Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg answers questions
during an interview at The Associated Press in Washington.
While Hamburg acknowledged that opioids are overprescribed,
she again emphasized the importance of keeping the drugs
accessible to Americans with chronic pain _ a group
estimated at about 100 million, or about 40 percent of all
But while Food
and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg acknowledged
that opioids are overprescribed in an interview with The
Associated Press, she again emphasized the importance of keeping
the drugs accessible to Americans with chronic pain — a group
she cites as roughly 100 million, or about 40 percent of U.S.
"I think we
have an important balancing act of trying to assure that safe and
effective drugs are available for patients who have real pain and
need medical care," Hamburg said.
approach has won kudos from physicians who use opioids to treat
pain, including the American Pain Society, a group that receives
funding from the largest pain drugmakers, including Pfizer Inc.
and Teva Pharmaceuticals.
But it also
exposes a rift in the government's messaging about the appropriate
role of opioids, which are among the most frequently prescribed
drugs in the U.S. CDC officials have called for more limited
prescribing, citing figures that show a four-fold increase in
opioid sales between 1999 and 2010, during which opioid overdose
deaths more than tripled.
dangerous medications and they should be reserved for situations
like severe cancer pain where they can provide extremely important
and essential palliation," CDC Director Tom Frieden said.
"In many other situations, the risks far outweigh the
It's a view
shared by anti-addiction advocates like Physicians for Responsible
Opioid Prescribing, a group that wants the FDA to severely
restrict pharmaceutical marketing of opioids.
past decade, there have been more than 125,000 painkiller overdose
deaths because drug companies were permitted to falsely advertise
these drugs as safe and effective for long-term use," said
the group's president, Andrew Kolodny.
that most overdoses occur in people abusing opioids at unsafe
doses, often by grinding up tablets for snorting or injecting. But
groups like PROP say that addiction often begins when doctors
prescribe the drugs for common aches and pains. Opioids include
both legal and illegal narcotics, such as heroin, morphine,
codeine, methadone and oxycodone among others.
medical role for opioids has been the subject of vigorous debate
for over 20 years.
For most of the
last century, doctors reserved opioids for acute pain following
surgery or injury, or for severe, long-term pain due to deadly
diseases like cancer. Using the drugs for more common ailments was
considered too risky because they are highly addictive.
But in the 1990s,
a new generation of specialists argued that opioids, when used
carefully, could safely treat common forms of chronic pain,
including back pain and arthritis. That message was amplified by
pharmaceutical marketing for new, long-acting drugs like OxyContin,
which the FDA approved in 1995.
the maker of OxyContin, would later plead guilty and pay $634.5
million in fines for misleading doctors about the risks of
addiction and abuse with OxyContin. But opioid prescriptions
continued to rise unabated.
It's a trend
closely monitored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, where
officials say an oversupply of painkillers is fueling the black
market for both prescription opioids and heroin.
Assistant Administrator Joe Rannazzisi says it is
"outrageous" that the U.S. consumes 99 percent of the
world's hydrocodone — the most prescribed medicine in the
controlled substance shouldn't be the most widely prescribed
medication in the United States," he said in an interview.
"If we believe we're the only country that knows how to treat
pain that's a pretty arrogant attitude."
To be sure, any
successful effort to curb drug abuse must involve a wide range of
players, including state lawmakers, medical boards, pharmacy
chains and medical educators.
In her interview
with the AP, Dr. Hamburg emphasized this multifaceted approach
while highlighting two recent steps by the FDA to reduce harm from
In September, the
FDA narrowed the prescribing label on long-acting opioids like
OxyContin to specify that they should only be used for "pain
severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock" therapy
that cannot be managed with other approaches. Previously, the
label simply stated the drugs were for "moderate to severe
In October, the
FDA recommended reclassifying hydrocodone-containing combination
pills like Vicodin to limit how doctors can prescribe them.
But both of those
actions came after outside pressure. The labeling change was in
response to a petition from the physician group PROP, which sought
much stricter labeling than what the FDA ultimately put in place.
The change in classification for hydrocodone pills came after
nearly a decade of prodding by the DEA, which argued that the
drugs had been misclassified in the first place.
says the difference in tone between various agencies reflects
their unique missions. As he sees it, the FDA's primarily role is
to review drugs and make sure they are marketed appropriately. But
the DEA's mission to investigate drug diversion brings his staff
much closer to the ongoing epidemic of abuse and addiction.
sometimes people need to get out from behind their desks and
actually go and look at what's going on," Rannazzisi said.
"Because in the end this is a national tragedy that's not
|Some say addiction drug
WASHINGTON — The government's top drug abuse experts
are struggling to find ways to expand use of a medicine that
is considered the best therapy for treating heroin and
Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan on Wednesday pressed officials
from the White House, the National Institute of Drug Abuse
and other agencies to increase access to buprenorphine, a
medication which helps control drug cravings and withdrawal
symptoms. It remains underused.
First approved in 2002 — under a law crafted by Levin, a
Democrat, and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch —
buprenorphine was hailed as a major advance over methadone,
the decades-old standard for addiction treatment. Among
other advantages, buprenorphine has a lower risk of overdose
and milder side effects. It can be prescribed as a take-home
medication in the privacy of a doctor's office, helping
patients avoid the stigma of going to a methadone clinic.
But even amid a national epidemic of drug abuse and
addiction, access to buprenorphine remains limited by
federal restrictions, inconsistent insurance coverage and a
lack of acceptance by physicians.
“As long as we have too few doctors certified to prescribe
bupe, we will be missing a major weapon in the fight against
the ravages of addiction,” Levin told the forum, which also
included patients and non-government medical experts.
Only 4 percent of the 625,000 U.S doctors who are eligible
to prescribe buprenorphine have received certification to
use the drug, which comes as a pill or a film that dissolves
under the tongue. Certification requires an eight hour
training course in addiction medicine.
An estimated 2.5 million Americans are addicted to
prescription painkillers or heroin, known collectively as
opioids. Less than half are receiving medical treatment.
“It's somewhat paradoxical that physicians will use opioids
to create a problem, but there seems to be reluctance to
help address the problem,” said Dr. Westley Clark of the
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Clark and other
experts noted that there is still a stigma attached to
treating opioid addiction and many physicians are
uninterested in learning how to use drugs like buprenorphine.
Communities rally to battle heroin outbreak amongst teens and young
his first stint with the Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Task Force in the
1990s, Lt. Rod Galbraith of the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department
remembers only one resident who used heroin. "We didn’t see it
as a problem," he says. "We were more worried about crack
cocaine migrating north."
By the time
Galbraith returned to the task force in 2009, though, heroin use had
exploded in Ozaukee County.
Since 2009, nine
people in Ozaukee County have died from heroin overdoses. The number
is much higher in the more heavily populated Waukesha County, where 21
people overdosed in 2012.
devastating," says Galbraith.
use in metropolitan Milwaukee suburbs reflects a disturbing trend
statewide. In 2012, heroin-related deaths doubled in Wisconsin to
nearly 200. By comparison, the state averaged 29 such deaths each year
from 2000 to 2007.
student Luke Pulsifer died of a heroin overdose last June, Brookfield
East High School teacher Chris Guthrie wasn’t aware heroin was a
problem in the community. "I was shocked," he says. Today,
Guthrie is actively involved with the Elmbrook Heroin Drug Awareness
Task Force, an effort spearheaded by Elmbrook School District
officials and Pulsifer’s parents, to raise awareness and provide
resources to combat the growing heroin problem.
On Jan. 22, the
task force held a summit on the local heroin problem, drawing more
than 600 people. A similar forum held in Cedarburg on Jan. 29 by the
Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Task Force also attracted a
standing-room-only crowd. "I’ve never seen the community this
engaged," says Galbraith. "It’s very telling."
Miller, medical director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers
Memorial Hospital-Oconomowoc, says prescription drugs like Oxycontin
and Vicodin are the gateway to heroin. "Because they’re
prescribed by a doctor, kids think they can’t be harmful," he
Once hooked on
prescription opiates, addicts often switch to heroin, which delivers
the same high at a cheaper cost. But the potency of heroin can vary
widely, making it all too easy to overdose. "It’s like playing
Russian roulette each time you use," says Guthrie.
suburban heroin epidemic requires a change in culture, says Galbraith.
With heroin hitting those in their 20s the hardest, Galbraith says it’s
important to talk to kids early on, before they’re exposed to it.
"We need to educate parents of young children now," he says.
year, the Wisconsin Legislature unanimously adopted the Heroin and
Opiate Prevention and Education legislative package, also called HOPE.
Comprised of four bills, the HOPE package helps reduce the diversion
of opiate-based prescription medications, removes barriers that make
people witnessing an overdose reluctant to call emergency medical
services, and ensures naloxone (a drug used to counter the effects of
an opioid overdose) is widely available.
"My hope is
that we can prevent at least one family from suffering through the
effects of heroin and prescription addiction," says Rep. John
Nygren (R-Marinette), whose daughter struggles with heroin addiction.
Though heroin is
considered highly addictive, Miller says rehabilitation is possible.
"Unlike other drug addictions, there are medicines available to
assist with treatment," he says.
If loved ones
show signs of addiction like sudden personality changes, secrecy,
dishonesty or increased sleepiness, Miller advocates taking action
better to speak up and encourage people to get help than leave it
alone and hope for the best," he says.
Miller says, opiate addiction has become a true epidemic. "People
can’t take comfort that it’s not in their community. It’s
By age 25,
Tyler Herzog had been in and out of rehab and jail for years.
The Menomonee Falls native started abusing prescription pills
when he was a teen. Once an honor roll student at Menomonee
Falls High School, Herzog had graduated to heroin by his senior
can only take once to get hooked, and once that happens it’s a
tough cycle to break," says Herzog’s mom, Julie Berg.
2011, Berg says her son seemed to be overcoming his eight-year
addiction. He had been clean for nine months, had a job and had
just moved into an apartment.
a fight with his girlfriend, Herzog turned to heroin one last
time. He fatally overdosed in February 2012.
she did everything she could to help her son. He entered 12
different rehab programs throughout his battle with addiction.
was in a lot of different treatments," she says. "I
never stopped looking for something that could work."
recovery at a halfway house in Waukesha, Tyler was asked to
write a letter as part of his treatment.
the letter, he said that he hoped if he would die that his death
would give some of the lost hope to change," Berg says.
letter has given Berg the strength to share her experience as a
mother searching for answers to the downward spiral of her son’s
addiction. She now participates in The Fly Effect campaign, a
heroin awareness campaign launched by the state’s Department
is beyond what any of us could ever imagine," she says.
average age of first use among recent initiates is 22 years old.
number of heroin-related deaths in Wisconsin jumped by nearly 50
percent in 2012 to 199, according to a survey of county
coroners. From 2000 to 2007, Wisconsin averaged 29 such deaths
1995, the number of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who have
tried heroin has increased by more than 300 percent, according
to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.
twice as many drug deaths occurred in Waukesha County in 2012 as
number of countywide heroin deaths more than tripled from six in
2011 to 21 in 2012 year, according to the Waukesha County
Medical Examiner’s Office.
to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, more
than 75 percent of people who try heroin once will use the drug
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