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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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Lindsay and her brothers Noah (center) and Jesse.
Lindsay and her brothers Noah (center) and Jesse.

Heroin is hell

I really hate heroin. I do. There is no other way to say it. And the vendetta is personal.

The irony has not lost me that two weeks after I posted a story of triumph over addiction, I have been faced with two drug deaths in the news; one, a Milwaukee man who was childhood friends with my family and the other, who has of course made international headlines, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Tragically, these stories pepper print, radio, online and television reports far too often. According to a 2013 Journal Sentinel article, heroin deaths in Milwaukee surpassed those attributed to cocaine. 

I can barely stand to hear, type, view or utter the word heroin. My life forever changed the day my brother’s ended from an overdose of it on Sept. 20, 2010. 

It’s no longer a dirty secret that opiates have invaded the suburbs of every little hometown, USA and tethered their powerful grip on our children, brothers, sisters, parents and friends. You most likely know someone, whether you realize it or not, that is or was struggling with addiction.

Heroin sinks its talons in so immediately, so deeply and it never lets go. There is no real or permanent escape from its grasp. It seems as though the very few that do prevail over it’s horrific seduction still live with daily reminders of their addiction, often having to medicate to keep the demon at bay.

My brother’s death changed me. Most notably with the rage that consumed me and drove me to pursue the lowlife(s) who provided the drugs to my brother the night he died.

These recent deaths have resurfaced a lot of those feelings. Especially when I heard an NBC report that Hoffman withdrew about $1200 at an ATM the night he died. It doesn’t take a detective to deduce where that money went.

All I could think about when I heard that was that there was an accessory to this death. There was someone else involved – the provider of the drugs.

I’m not trying to pass the buck or take the blame off of the user. My brother, Hoffman and others who dance the extremely precarious dance with heroin are responsible for their own actions. They knowingly and subconsciously play a game of Russian roulette every time they insert that needle.

It’s a very deliberate choice to spend that kind of money, go through the process of cooking up the drugs, tying off the arm and then shooting the venom into the veins with a syringe. There is no glamor in that process. Heroin is a commonly known deadly weapon. 

Criminal responsibility should be put on the dealer responsible for selling the drugs to someone who overdoses, not just when they get caught dealing, processing, possessing or trafficking the drug.

The Milwaukee police department made slight efforts to appease my appetite for justice when my brother died. I know they did their best and that the department is overrun with issues stemming from drug activity in Milwaukee. But, when you are fighting for something personal, you want action. You want answers. You want the bad guy caught and dealt with.

They humored me with a meeting and then dangled that the dealer responsible would be dealt with in a bigger federal case. I never got closure on that issue.  I never got what I felt would be justice.

I understand the trail of accountability can be nearly impossible to trace. I mean, who do you arrest and put on trial? Where do you stop extending responsibility? The dealer? The messenger? The manufacturers? The other people who have been using with the deceased? I say, all of them should be held liable when connected to an overdose death. There has to be a clear consequence for involvement with this drug.

I am only comforted by the fact that in the years following Jesse’s death, there have been several dealers charged with reckless homicide in Milwaukee alone. Some states use "third degree murder" as the charge. Again, in a twist of cruel irony that I was actually not aware of until now, the childhood friend who just passed away was convicted of that exact crime a year before my brother passed away. 

Warning: this not going to sound nice and it is a statement saturated with the flames of anger, sadness and grief that never go away when you lose a loved one to something so senseless. I want drug dealers (and their cohorts) whose product is connected to overdose deaths to be hunted down.

In my world of justice, at the minimum anyone deemed involved in the trafficking of heroin connected to an overdose should have his or her day in court. At best, they should be convicted and solitarily locked up (as a symbolic gesture of the way most addicts end up – alone) on a very special death row where they are injected with their product so that they can be found alone with a syringe in their arm. 

Since "eye for an eye" is only a fantasy birthed from fury, an important thing to do is TALK about heroin and the threat it presents to those we love around us. The word itself harbors so much shame, I still find myself reluctant to connect my brother’s name to it. I fear my family will be angry with me for reminding them and telling the world. But, it’s a fact that this drug is killing someone’s loved ones everyday.

My brilliant, charming, successful and exhaustively educated brother fell victim to its throes (even though he "knew" better.) Heroin took his beautiful life away the moment he first invited it into his body. The same goes for the exhaustive list of celebrities gone too soon at the hands of heroin. What we have to do is prevent that first time.

And if it goes there, we cannot be afraid to get involved and intervene. We must get past the embarrassment and dishonor association with heroin in order to defeat it.  

For it is far more shameful to continue losing beautiful, beloved human beings to this incomparably dangerous menace.


DanY | Feb. 7, 2014 at 9:49 a.m. (report)

What if a Doctor prescribed Oxicodon to a patient who became dependent, and later switched to heroin? Should the Doctor be charged with murder?

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TosaJim | Feb. 7, 2014 at 8:27 a.m. (report)

Sorry for your loss....

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