Forum Warns Of Heroin Overdoses Among Teens, Young Adults - New York News

Forum Warns Of Heroin Overdoses Among Teens, Young Adults

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UPPER DARBY, Pa. -

"Happy Father's Day is what the card says and he drew the wrong road. Then he wrote that I always taught him the right road to go down."

Gregg Wolfe, like most parents, always thought he would look back on precious moments like this with a smile. But instead he's fighting back tears.

"Unfortunately because of the drugs that are on the street today and the people that they associate with it doesn't take much to get on the wrong path," he said. Gregg's son Justin overdosed Dec. 19, 2012. He was only 21 years old.

"It's been extremely devastating," said Gregg who struggles with the fact that he had no idea his son who grew up in South Jersey and was studying business at Temple University when he died, was addicted to heroin.

"Heroin has always been known to be a monkey one's back. This was definitely a monkey on his back that he just couldn't get off."

Justin's secret addiction goes back about 8 months before his death. In the spring of 2012, Gregg says Justin told his mother he was addicted to the prescription painkiller Percocet which he had been buying on the street and needed help. He asked to be taken to a clinic to get Suboxone.

"It's a strip you put under the tongue and it's supposed to quell the need for an opiate," explained Gregg. When he learned of his son's habit he thought it was just pill popping. Never did he think heroin. By summer he began taking Justin to therapy and outpatient rehab because he noticed he was getting worse.

"He was starting to fall asleep and he said that he was taking Zanax for his anxiety. I asked him did he ever use heroin and he said dad I would never touch heroin."

That Fall, Justin seemed to be back to the gregarious kid his family once knew. He had even joined a fraternity on campus. But when he came home one night for winter break, "He was very up. He was up, up, up, " said Gregg. Justin denied he was using again. He even passed a drug test Gregg gave him because he'd used fake urine. Gregg kissed his son goodnight and planned to force him into a stay-in rehab in the morning. But by morning, the day of both his divorced parents birthday, it was too late.

"When the paramedics got here I was on the floor devastated and crying. They said that they found four packets, empty packets of heroin in his pocket. I knew that he wasn't using any needles. I didn't know how he could be taking heroin and when I asked the paramedics they said you can snort the heroin," said a devastated Gregg.

"The darkest hour is knowing that I'll never see my son again. I've lost him for ever." Gregg's worst nightmare is also a reality to another man, Andy Rumford.

"They took her out in a body bag. She was gone," said the teary eyed father. Andy recalls the day he found his 23-year old daughter Kacie dead in her room in his Chester County home. It was March 12th of this year.

"When I noticed she was on her knees and on the bed with her arms stretched out I grabbed her and pulled her head back. She was totally dead weight. I knew we had lost her. She had lost the battle," said Andy still in shock and disbelief.

His daughter Kacie was a pretty girl. Andy says she was also a daddy's girl. She was college educated and wanted to be a writer he said. "She was a voracious reader. Boy, she probably  read more books by the time she was 10 years old then daddy has already at 55," laughed Andy but with tears in his eyes.

But a year before her death Kacie's parents noticed abscesses on her arm and rushed her to the hospital where she had emergency surgery.

"They took one chunk out of her forearm and one chunk out of her biceps then stitched it together with a three inch scar," Andy recalls. He says he and his wife knew at that moment it was the result of a bad needle and Kacie had been shooting up heroin.

"She told us don't worry it was just a friend who was practicing to be a nurse. Obviously we didn't believe this. But we figured ok you've got the wake up call kind of now."

They got her into inpatient therapy immediately. But after two days Kacie checked out, saying she could detox with help, at home.

"You start to buy the lies and you start to accept them," admits Andy.

Kacie was home more, so Andy wanted to believe things were better despite the sniffling, not eating, mood swings,  being on a high then sleeping and things missing around the house.

"If we'd heeded those warning signs maybe she'd be with us today," he said.

The day Kacie overdosed she'd come home 6 in the morning.

"I was right in her face. Not where were you. We know you that you are a heroin addict again. You need help," said Andy. He went off to work and returned to find what he always feared.

"It felt like like flesh just being ripped from you. We knew she was gone," he said of finding his daughter dead.

What Andy found weeks later in a pink pouch in Kacie's room illustrates the depth of her addiction.

"These are little blue bags. They are heroin bags and some are stamped. This one says fire on it. The need for her for heroin was as great as yours or mine are a need for food."

Andy learned the hard way, the truth about this insidious drug.

"Heroin is no longer this inner city drug. It's made it's way out to the suburbs and it's been here for a long time. It's the normal kid walking into Walmart or Wawa," he said.

Morrie Olson who specializes in addiction treatment and pharmacology knows that to be true.

"We have a picture in our mind of the addict that's in the doorway, hunched over with the needle doing terrible things," said Olson. He's counseled and treated just the opposite: families with addicted teens and young adults.

"Some of the best prevention is knowing your child. Yes it can be hidden for a while but what happens in the course of addiction in my experience is that people become more and more self focused. Addiction takes us out of our worldly endeavors," explained Olson.

After his daughters death Andy Rumford put a sign outside his home stating heroin is killing children. He hopes others will be helped by his tragedy.

"This isn't a dream and while everybody watching this will get up tomorrow and they'll live their life again, we'll live ours and it'll forever be a nightmare," he sobbed.

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