Heroin’s grasp extends to school-aged kids
Click here to read more stories of the Gazette's series on heroin and its impact on Rock County.
JANESVILLE Lisa remembers the moment she discovered her 16-year-old son was injecting heroin.
He was pushing aside the kitchen blinds. His shirt slid down his arm, revealing the needle marks.
Four years and untold heartache later, Lisa can’t bring herself to believe he might have overcome his addiction, even though he seems to be doing OK.
Lisa said she’s learned a lot about heroin in four years. And she fears it might be becoming more popular.
The case of Lisa’s son and that of another Janesville mother, Sharon, show that heroin has been making the rounds among local minors for at least four years.
The women talked on condition their full names not be used.
Students interviewed said they know of heroin users among their peers.
“Not just stoners,” said one 17-year-old girl. “It’s people you would never have thought would be doing it. They’re doing it.”
“It’s kids you don’t expect,” Sharon agreed.
“It’s cops’ kids and doctors’ kids” and kids on the football team, Lisa said.
Lisa and Sharon’s sons both attended Craig High School. But students who go to Parker High School on the other side of town also are using, interviews indicate.
Lisa said another son has told her he knows of a 14-year-old girl who is doing heroin. He won’t tell her who it is.
“The thing that scares me is, it’s a game of Russian roulette,” Lisa said. “When (her son) overdosed, he felt invincible.”
Addicts lie to conceal their habits and steal from family members to pay for their habits, the mothers said.
Sharon said having diabetes in the family made it easy for her son to get needles.
“Kids are getting all they need from their parents’ medicine cabinets,” Sharon said.
That includes OxyContin or other drugs that appear to lead them to heroin.
Sharon’s and Lisa’s sons have spent time in the Rock County Jail. Both have told them that it’s hard to go cold turkey in jail because heroin is available inside.
In retrospect, Lisa says, she should have been more alarmed at her son’s mood swings, his irritability, his staying up all night and sleeping all day, his refusal to do homework.
She asked, but he said he never would do drugs, she said.
Even after she saw the tracks on his arms, he told her he had only done it a few times. She accepted that and thought to herself that he was only going through a stage.
Then he lost weight.
His eyes became sunken.
She found counseling for him, but it didn’t work. Local options and her resources were limited.
Lisa’s son was on the treatment drug Suboxone for a time, but that didn’t work, either.
Sharon went through similar struggles. She found her son was snorting his Suboxone and buying other people’s Suboxone.
Lisa said her son’s friends would come to her house, asking to buy his Suboxone to help them get through their withdrawal symptoms.
After months of struggle, Lisa found a way to get her son into an inpatient facility in Illinois. He seems to be doing OK, but she won’t let her guard down.
As the mother of an addict, she said, she has to be aware that he could start using again at any time.
Lisa said her son had always been a leader, had lots of friends and played high school sports. She said she was in denial about how bad it was.
Now, she believes, Janesville is in denial about its problem.
Wisconsin lacks drug monitoring program
One tool that could help keep kids from abusing prescription drugs that lead to heroin abuse is a prescription drug monitoring program.
Such a program requires physicians and pharmacists to record prescriptions in an electronic database. The database is used to identify illegal activity such as prescription forgery, indiscriminate prescribing and “doctor shopping,” which is the practice of visiting several physicians or pharmacies to obtain controlled substances.
Nearly all states have a prescription drug monitoring program or are in the process of enabling one. Wisconsin and the District of Columbia are the only ones that have done nothing to get a program going, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control.
However, Reps. Gary Sherman, D-Port Wing, and John Townsend, R-Fond du Lac, are working on legislation to create a state program. Among 10 co-sponsors are Sen. Judy Robson, Rep. Chuck Benedict, both D-Beloit.
“States with (drug monitoring programs) have reduced their rates of illegal use of prescription drugs. Unfortunately, when one state enacts a PDMP, bordering states that do not have a PDMP often report an increase in illicit use of prescription drugs, according to a 2002 Government Accountability Office report.