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