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The Influence in Dane County WI.
The stories are a snapshot of the devastating opioid epidemic sweeping across the United States. Publicly acknowledging that a family member suffered from an addiction to drugs, or died of an overdose, has long been a taboo subject — one best kept secret among family and a few knowing friends. That is changing. As the death toll from the opioid crisis mounts, families are increasingly weaving desperate warnings into the obituaries of loved ones about the horror that can result when people abuse painkillers, heroin, and synthetic drugs such as fentanyl.
Many words of remembrance have been transformed into pleas for help — directed at lawmakers, families suffering similar experiences, and the general public. Families are using these public notices to push for better and more treatment options while spreading the message that addiction is a disease and not something to be endured in shameful silence.
In every case, the families of these mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and even grandmothers decided to make their loved one’s struggle with opioids public in the death notice. Each person represents the estimated 636 Americans who die on average each week from an opioid-related overdose (based on 2015 data).
Some of the writings are brutally honest. The victims were in and out of jail, often for stealing to support their habit. They could be destructive forces, tearing apart families. There were false hopes produced by periods of sobriety following treatment, only to be followed by relapse.
The victims were found in the woods, in a low-budget hotel, a dorm room, and at home. On the same day in June, two brothers fatally overdosed. In November, a mother lost a third son to an opioid overdose. Those who succumbed to opioids were also full of hope and promise. They served their country in the armed forces. They were college students, aspiring musicians, athletes, chefs, a race car driver, a high school student, an auto mechanic, a bank employee, and the son of a former US congressman.
Julian: 1996 – 2016 (affectionately known to many as simply "Z").
He was a traveler, an explorer, and an avid tennis player who loved to skateboard, hike, kayak, and follow his favorite sports teams. He loved water sports of every description, from water skiing to raft building to surfing—and everything water based in between. Z was a dedicated skier, who loved back-country runs. When not shredding powder, he studied business at a university. He loved fashion, and fine things, and worked a wide number of jobs, from archaeological surveying to carpentry to sustain his high-flying lifestyle. He was active in business, selling his own brand of hemp t-shirts, and firewood, and investing in the stock market. He was a high school graduate, and while in high school he wrestled, ran cross-country, and led the tennis team. He died in his home from heroin, four months before his twentieth birthday. The family is devastated by his sudden and unexpected death.
Leah died in August 2014 of a heroin overdose when she was 17. She started smoking pot when she was just 13 before moving on to heroin, said her mother. Looking back, her mother has regrets. Many of her friends were shocked when Leah died because her mother never really talked about Leah’s addiction to heroin. “I was embarrassed. I wish it wasn’t such a horrible stigma attached to it. “I think it would make it easier to come out and ask for help if people know how much of a problem it is for all kinds of people,” her mother said.
An Ohio teenager overdosed and died on the floor of a hotel room after doing heroin with his own mother, police say. The body of Andrew, 16, who had a history with drugs, was discovered surrounded illegal drugs and paraphernalia in a Super 8 motel room on Wednesday. His mother, Heather and grandmother Brenda, have both been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Heather told police that she, and her son had planned to go to a hotel to use their swimming pool but when they arrived they decided to do heroin. At 6am on Wednesday, Andrew and his mother took heroin together at the hotel. Heather told her son to shoot up in the bathroom because she didn't like to watch him take drugs. Police say that Heather never had custody of her son but just wanted to be 'the fun weekend mom' At shortly before 7pm that evening, 911 was called after noticing Andrew was unresponsive. When officers arrived they found the 16-year-old had been dead for some time. Andrew was a student. He was described as an 'extremely generous' person on his memorial page. 'He was a gentle person with a heart of gold,' it read. 'He will be missed tremendously by all his family and friends.'
Every year, 5,000 people younger than 21 die because of alcohol-related accidents, including alcohol poisoning. And the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that 90 percent of the alcohol teens drink is consumed during dangerous binge drinking—four or more drinks in one sitting if you’re a girl, five or more if you’re a guy. Chugging large quantities of anything, from beer to vodka, increases the risk of alcohol poisoning. Your body is taking in toxins faster than it can filter them out.
Alcohol is a depressant drug, so it shuts down important functions in your brain, including your body’s ability to sneeze, gag, and breathe. In extreme cases, alcohol poisoning can even stop your heart. Because everybody reacts differently to alcohol—some can’t process it well; others might be taking medications that turn a beer into a toxic brew—you’re taking a big risk anytime you drink, even if it’s just a little.
Teens can also drink more than adults without losing their balance or falling asleep, which are the body’s warning signs to stop. Teens haven’t finished growing, so it’s even easier to get poisoned. You can go from a buzz to dead very quickly.
Kids—and a lot of adults—believe that “sleeping it off” is the best cure for extreme drunkenness. That myth costs lives. Furthermore, a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. What that means is that even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestines continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.
One crucial factor that makes alcohol poisoning particularly dangerous among teenagers: Since drinking is illegal for those under age 21, teens are reluctant to call for help. They’re afraid of getting in serious trouble with their parents—and the law.
It was the first day of summer 2009, when 16-year-old Scott and his buddies decided to mark the end of 10th grade by heading to a friend’s home. The friend’s parents were out of town—and that was part of the plan. As the day darkened to night, they started playing drinking games, including one where each person drew a slash on his forearm every time he threw back a shot of liquor. Scott had never been drunk before, so it probably didn’t surprise his friends that he was the first to pass out. The friends scribbled lewd messages about Scott’s older sister across his body and kept playing. By the time the night was over, at least one guy had 24 slashes on his arm. When one of them woke up at 4:30 a.m. and saw that Scott had thrown up and urinated on himself, he moved Scott off the carpet to let him sleep it off on a tile floor.
Later that day, Scott’s dad, Steve, was taking a shower when he heard pounding on his front door. He went to a window and saw the police. Although Scott was a stereotypical good kid—a quiet, sweet-natured homebody who loved to skateboard, and played football and wrestled —Steve worried that the boys had been caught doing something stupid, like egging cars. Four years later, the pounding on the door and the sight of the police still plays over and over in Steve head. Scott, it turned out, wasn’t in trouble. He was dead from acute alcohol poisoning. The coroner’s report would later show that his blood alcohol level was at .32, more than four times the legal limit. By the time his friends realized that something was seriously wrong, it was too late to save him.
.A slumber party turned tragic when the parents of 14-year-old Takeimi found their daughter dead after drinking soda mixed with vodka with three friends on Saturday night. Officials said that Takeimi's mother, Aleae, took the girls out for burgers for dinner on Saturday. At 2 a.m., Pennette woke up to find three of the girls throwing up, but she helped clean them up and put them back to bed. Takeimi had not thrown up, cops said. But in the morning, Takeimi of Santa Rosa, Calif. was found passed out on her bedroom floor. Paramedics came to the house and pronounced Takeimi dead at the scene. A cause of death has not been confirmed, but police believe she likely died from alcohol poisoning.
It was the first night of Christmas vacation 2008 — one of the biggest teen party nights of the year. Seventeen-year-old Shelby, an athlete, honors student, and avid shopper, begged for her older sister Tera's permission to borrow her VW Beetle for the occasion. (Shelby had been busted underage drinking before; her mom caught her on her way to a beer-pong party.) Shelby disappeared from the social scene for about a month after that: Debbie grounded her younger daughter and afterward kept a watchful eye on her, always checking where she was going and whom she'd be with.
On that December night, after stopping for tacos, Shelby got a call on her cell from another pal who invited Shelby over to her house. By the time Shelby arrived, after midnight, all of her friend’s family were drinking together. Shelby chronicled the night on her cell phone: "Just family. It's nice though. Nothing like a family party."
According to statements to the police, her friend’s parents and her older sisters headed upstairs to bed around 1:00 a.m. Before retiring, the father admonished the guests not to drink. He then left them seated around the open bar.
That was when the drinking really got under way. Shelby's drink of choice was vodka, and her goal that night was to down 15 shots of it. Shelby was an athlete [she played volleyball and was on the cross-country track team]; she had a competitive spirit. She was told it was a bad idea, but she was determined to make that her goal. She started downing the shots at 1:08 a.m. When the first bottle of vodka ran dry, the girls found more. When Shelby began to feel sick, her friend led her to the nearest bathroom to vomit. When Shelby seemed to pass out, she was propped against the toilet for the night. Her young pal then left her alone but periodically checked on Shelby.
Around 8:00 a.m., the father of the house, a prominent area veterinarian, was preparing to open the medical office on his property to treat the day's first clients. Intercepted by his daughter, who had been up most of this time, he asked about the previous night. "Shelby's not feeling well," she reported, but she apparently sounded no alarm.
It wasn't until another friend of theirs awoke around one hour later that anyone took notice of Shelby's condition. She went to check on her and was horrified by what she found: Shelby was still slumped in the downstairs bathroom, completely motionless. Her head hung over the edge of the toilet bowl, her lip split from having slammed against the porcelain in a bout of violent heaving. Pulling Shelby up, she saw her friend's face streaked in blood. She tried to rouse her, but Shelby remained unresponsive. An older sister was summoned and phoned her father. He quickly returned to the house and dialed 911 to have an ambulance sent to his home right away because he'd found "a child that's here, and I don't think she's breathing." When asked if he was sure she wasn't breathing, he responded, "I can't ... I'm not sure she's alive right now."
Dispatchers instructed him on how to perform CPR, urging him to continue until medical help arrived. The EMTs who arrived on the scene found a weak pulse, but were unable to revive the girl. Shelby Allen was pronounced dead at 9:40 on the morning of December 20. Her blood-alcohol content was 0.33, four times the legal driving limit for adults in every state.