Noah

http://www.blitzkriegpublishing.com/Teenage%20Heroin%20Story%20...

Noah’s Story

Monday, November 10, 2008 11:42 AM EST By JACQUELYN GUTC Of The Oakland Press As Oakland sees rise in heroin use, father hopes son’s tragic death has an impact on local youths Peter Johnston went downstairs to the family room to tell his son, Noah that the TV was blaring and had woken him up. The scene Peter walked into when he got down the stairs made him forget if the TV was really on at all. What he found was Noah unconscious and his friend beating on his chest. “I had no doubt he was dead when we got down there,” Peter, 52, said. He said Noah’s friend called 911 and possibly other friends before he came downstairs. Noah, an 18-year-old recent Rochester Adams High School alumnus died about 1:30 a.m. July 29 of a heroin overdose. It was the first time he used the drug. “Time is stopped for us,” Peter said. “We just keep waiting for him to come home. It seems so weird. He just graduated. He’s 18. He’s ready to fly, he’s going go to (Oakland Community College) and he didn’t make it out of the nest.” A warning to teens As Oakland County sees a rising threat in heroin, Peter is working with Judge Julie Nicholson of the 52-3 District Court Rochester Hills to share Noah’s story, hoping it will impact other young people and make them think about the consequences of their actions. Video footage shot at Noah’s funeral was used for a seven minute video narrated by Peter, which has been integrated into a 45-minute program Nicholson does at area high schools, called “Have to Choose.” “It’s basically about (Noah) and how his life ended so abruptly,” Nicholson said of the video.

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Noah

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Since 2005, Nicholson has spoken to students in Rochester, Lake Orion, Oxford and portions of Avondale school districts about how the choices they make will affect their lives. So far, she’s done the program with Noah’s video at Lake Orion High School and Rochester High School and will present it at Stoney Creek, Adams and Oxford high schools early in 2009. After the Lake Orion viewing, Nicholson said, “You could hear a pin drop. I think they heard the message. What they do with it is up to them.” The video has images of Noah growing up, with Peter narrating as Noah and ends with his casket. “As hard as that is to look at, I wanted everyone to know you aren’t supposed to see your 18-year-old in a casket. All I can do is preach to the kids that parents should not bury their kids,” Peter said. At the funeral, Peter had a message for Noah’s friends. “I told every kid, ‘Only you know where to cross the line. Don’t cross the line.’ Every individual has a line to cross and they need to determine where that is,” he said. Upswing in Oakland County As far as drugs go, that line seems to be moving in recent years. Nicholson has been a judge for 12 years and said she’s seen more cases involving heroin use than ever before in the past two years. Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive drug that can be snorted, smoked or injected intravenously. It’s processed from morphine, a central nervous system depressant, which is extracted from poppy plants. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, people who use it have an initial feeling of euphoria followed by dry mouth and heavy extremities. “I don’t know if it’s the access, or if the dealers are targeting suburban kids because they know they have the means to purchase it,” Nicholson said of the rise in users. She said she’s been seeing more 17- or 18-year-old people in her court with heroin involvement than before, too. “It’s something that’s occurring so we have to let (teenagers) know it’s out there and what the consequences are,” she said. In Oakland County, drug investigations involving heroin have risen every year since 2005. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the number of heroin investigations in the county have increased from 29 in 2005 to 33 in 2006, 42 in 2007 and is approaching 40 so far in 2008. “We’re seeing a lot of that activity in segments you wouldn’t expect,” he said. Dr. Agnes Wrobel, addiction psychiatrist at Henry Ford Behavioral Health-Maplegrove Center in West Bloomfield Township, said she’s seeing an increase in people ages 16 to 25 seeking treatment for heroin use. “I think there is some trend that people are starting to use earlier,” she said.

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Noah

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“It tends to be more available for whatever reasons and for whatever reason, too. It doesn’t have the stigma it used to have. Kids are experimenting with it and it’s stunning,” Bouchard said. “They feel like they are OK,” Wrobel said. “(They think), ‘It’s not so bad because I’m not using needles.’ The problem is, even if it’s used in a powder, it’s going to cause same consequences.” She said young people often have easy access to prescription drugs containing opiates such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine. Eventually, many get addicted and turn to heroin, which costs less money. Lt. Joseph Quisenberry of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Narcotic Enforcement Team (NET), said that in Southeast Michigan the drug threat of heroin is third behind cocaine and marijuana. Most heroin makes its way to the suburbs through Detroit or Chicago, originally coming from Southwest Asia or Mexico. Bouchard said about 900 grams of heroin have been seized so far in 2008. And drug investigations have been conducted throughout Oakland County. “There is no virgin territory,” Quisenberry said. “Anywhere where there’s a will to purchase, there’s a seller willing to meet you.” Knowing what to look for Noah’s mother, Paula, said she was asked if she noticed a difference in Noah in the time leading up to his death. She said nothing had changed. He’d always been sweet, quiet, athletic and worked two jobs. Being an only child until he was about 15, he was close to his parents. The day before he died, Noah baby-sat his brother, then 2 years old. The night he died, he’d met curfew and brought his friend home with him. Paula said, just like every night, Noah told her goodnight, gave her a kiss and said he’d see her in the morning. “I honestly could not ask for a better child,” she said. “How many boys kiss their mom at night?” Paula said officials determined that Noah died instantly when his lungs collapsed after he snorted the heroin. She said they were able to determine that he’d never used heroin before. “This has rocked everybody right to their core, because nobody ever expected it,” she said of his death. Wrobel said people who are most at risk for overdosing are young people who are inexperienced with drugs or people who have an addiction but stop using heroin for a few weeks, then relapse, not realizing their tolerance is lower then. “What we need to stress is, even one-time use or couple-time use can result in death,” she said. “This is something that is not safe. It might be the first and the last time that you use.” She said there are several things to look for when heroin or opiate use is suspected. She said users often avoid conversation, are isolated from others, seem sedated, nod off, sleep during the day and have pinpoint pupils. Wrobel said eventually, the way people function in society and work decline, and when they are deeply into addiction they start having financial problems as they pay for the habit.

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Noah

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Stopping the cycle “When people are using heroin or opiates in general and they try to stop, they have pretty intense results,” Wrobel said. Withdrawals, which include muscle aches, an upset stomach and running nose, get so intense that most people who try to quit the drug go back to it after about 20 days, she said. Wrobel said the first thing to focus on in treatment is the detox phase, which can be helped with medication. In her own experience, she said 60 to 70 percent of former opiate addicts will do well with medical treatment combined with psychosocial therapy such as Narcotics Anonymous. She said it’s important that people know, “treatment is available and there is hope.” An important tool in fighting substance abuse is education, whether it be about the treatment, or prevention. Part of the prevention is done through programs such as “Have to Choose” and the video about Noah. “That age group, they have a tendency to think nothing could ever happen to them,” Nicholson said. “For some reason when they see a situation that happened to somebody that they know, they have a tend to listen a little bit.” Looking for answers Noah’s parents also want people to look out for their friends. An investigation into Noah’s death is pending. Under Michigan law, the supplier of a narcotic that causes death can be charged with causing the death. Partly because of the investigation, the Johnstons haven’t talked to some of Noah’s friends, including the one at their house when he died. “They have a code of silence. I don’t think the immediate friends that were around him there that night will tell the truth,” Peter said. He and Paula will never know exactly what happened the night Noah died, or what was going through his mind when he chose to use heroin. “I thought I knew a lot. I thought I was a fairly openminded, educated person,” Peter said. “I know kids will do what they are going to do. I’m not blind to that part of it. Where most kids would have started out when I was younger with beer, now it’s pot.” Questioning the use of illegal substances and abuse of the legal ones, he said, “What pains them so much to go that far?” The Johnstons question what Noah’s friends were thinking, too. “I still think his friends failed him,” Peter said. “Friends need to watch out for friends.” “Friends tell people, ‘Don’t do stupid things,’” Paula said.

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Noah

http://www.blitzkriegpublishing.com/Teenage%20Heroin%20Story%20...

“I’m always going to wonder what would he have amounted to. We expected great things from him,” Peter said. “I came down to what was a nightmare, but that nightmare just doesn’t go away. You can steam clean the carpets all you want, but it doesn’t go away.” =========================================

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