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Heroin use up in suburban Detroit high schools

Heroin use up in schools

by Donna Gundle-Krieg February 8, 2009

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Heroin is one of the deadliest drugs. Unfortunately, it is making a comeback in the metro Detroit area schools,
especially in suburbs where you might least expect it.

If you think it can’t happen to you or your kids, think again. Farmington High, Royal Oak and Rochester Adams
have all recently had students with serious addiction problems. It has even reached as far out as my home town
of Milford.

Many kids with addictions seem to have parents who have done everything right. For example, one 15 year old
boy almost died of an overdose during lunch hour at school. His mother was PTO president for many years and
very involved with her family. Another 15 year old honor student fell asleep in a classroom after stealing a
laptop from her teacher.

A family friend buried their son this summer. His father had always been his baseball coach and very involved
with his sons.

In Royal Oak, they built a downtown that is a great place to visit. However, the proximity of this downtown to
the big city via Woodward makes Royal Oak teenagers particularly vulnerable.

“Noah’s Story” was a sad story published in the Oakland Press. It was about an 18 year old boy from Rochester
who used heroin for the first time, overdosed and died.

By all accounts Noah was a great kid, and everyone who knew him was shocked. The family of this boy is very
admirable as they are using the tragedy to try to help others avoid it. Peter Johnston, the father of this boy, is
working with Judge Julie Nicholson of the 52-3 District Court Rochester Hills to share Noah’s story, hoping that
it will impact other young people.

They show a video in the schools, including footage of Noah’s funeral, to get their basic message across. “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.

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Heroin use up in suburban Detroit high schools

Hopefully this brave family’s story will impact others. When I was a teen, I remember the impact of reading “Go
Ask Alice.” This was the actual diary of an anonymous teenage girl who died of a drug overdose in the late
1960s. I saw the movie and still hear the lyrics of the song by Jefferson Airplane.

For information on heroin addiction and treatment, see www.heroin-

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Tri-county cops try to fight heroin trend

More young adults turning to drug, overdosing, officials say

"This is not a joke," the voice said. "We're sorry; there was nothing we could do. Your boy is dead, and you can
find his body at ... "

The voice mail message was left on Rudolph's mother's cell phone Oct. 20, 2007.

The 18-year-old had just been released from 68 days in the Macomb County Jail after an arrest for heroin

Rudolph's family had planned to pick him up that day from jail, and from there they were taking him to rehab.

But he had been released a day early because of overcrowding, and apparently some of his party buddies
reached him first.

"I look back and ask myself if I did the right things, if we were too hard on him or not hard enough, but I'll never
know," said Mark Rudolph, 54, of Fraser.

It's a question that more and more parents are asking as heroin overdoses are on the rise.

Narcotics officers in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties all say that in the past year, they have encountered
more heroin use on the streets than in years past, especially among people in their teens and 20s.

The trend has a body count: In 2008, 55 people died of heroin-related drug overdoses in Macomb County alone
-- the most in a five-year period.

Of those, 12 -- or about 22% -- were between the ages of 18 and 25. In 2004, just 15 people died heroin-related
deaths, only one of whom was in that age bracket.

Users get younger

The Free Press analyzed five years of data -- 2004 through 2008 -- from Wayne and Macomb counties. Oakland
County officials said they don't keep record of the predominant drug present in drug-related deaths.

The numbers show that 57% of the young adults killed in Macomb County by heroin use were using heroin
alone, meaning they didn't mix it with other drugs or alcohol.

In Wayne County, 157 people died in heroin-related deaths last year.

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That's just slightly higher than 2007, but lower overall than the previous three years.

Still, 10.2% of those killed last year were 25 and younger, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner's

While Oakland County couldn't specify its heroin-related deaths, law enforcement officials said they, too, have
seen more heroin use in young adults than in recent years.

Lt. Joe Quisenberry of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office said in the past year, he has investigated four
overdoses involving young adults. The year before, there were none.

"Heroin was always the dirtier drug in the past," said Macomb County Sheriff's Lt. Joe Guzdziol, who works with
the office's drug unit. "It's something you'd hear about old guys doing in the '60s and '70s, and now the kids are
gravitating to it more."

Purer, cheaper drug

Law enforcement officials say they're trying to fight back, but it's becoming increasingly difficult as heroin
becomes more available -- and in purer form -- than in decades past.

Last winter, in an effort to gauge the severity of the heroin problem, Wayne and Macomb counties launched
Operation Smack Down, a three-day enforcement effort that largely targeted Macomb buyers hitting known
Detroit drug houses.

Twenty-one search warrants were executed, resulting in 73 felony arrests, 43 misdemeanor arrests, 63 seized
vehicles and 47.7 grams of confiscated heroin.

Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said he was floored.

"You didn't hear about this before," he said. "Crack was the big deal, then all of a sudden this became

Strangely, the use among young adults seems to stem from an increase in the rise of prescription drug abuse,
Guzdziol said.

Users start abusing drugs such as Tylenol 3 and OxyContin, but while the latter costs $80 a pill, one dose of
heroin -- called a bindle -- goes for just $10.

It's a cheaper and more potent high, he said.

Web site tells story

Few area advocates for families hit with drug problems have been as outspoken as Mark Rudolph, who tells his
son's story on a Web site he launched,, which serves as both a cautionary tale and

Ryan Rudolph began with marijuana, then moved on to prescription drugs. Next came cocaine and then heroin.

Mark Rudolph only learned of the progression when Ryan Rudolph described it to a judge in August 2007, after
his arrest.

Since his son's death, Mark Rudolph has taken on a personal cause to educate parents about the signs of heroin

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"As long as we don't ignore the problem and we talk about it, and parents and friends know what to look for," he
said, "there is hope."

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