2017-12-14 / Views

Heroin arrives, thrives in Leelanau

“Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man.”

Now imagine being able to inject such a euphoria deep in your soul. A life without edges.

“Don’t worry. Be happy.”

With posthumous apologies to John Lennon and Bob Marley, their lyrics capture the essence of life on heroin, at least at the earliest stages in the life of an addict. Leelanau County is quickly coming to understand how dangerous such a life can be.

Heroin is now readily available in Leelanau County, which really isn’t the problem.

Heroin can’t travel by itself into the veins and minds of people. People have to give life to heroin, which reciprocates by taking their’s.

The problem is that heroin has become an attractive alternative to the struggles of life, from the young to the old. From the downtrodden to the seemingly well-off.

From the first to the last steps of the socio-economic ladder.

And it’s cheap.

We just finished a two-part series on heroin that, frankly, scared the hell out of us.

Maybe it’s the stigma that follows heroin combined with the knowledge that the drug has gained a strong foothold in the county.

Or maybe it’s the thought that people would risk their lives to shoot up a drug that they know will destroy them at best — or possibly kill them.

How powerful is heroin? A former addict we interviewed would like to change the law to make it possible to arrest people who report overdoses. He or she — we’ve kept the person’s identity a secret — wants the sellers of heroin taken off the streets.

This from a person who was brought back to life by a dose of Naloxone after just such a call.

“I think (the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office) should crack down in the community, just to scare the community, to get the community back in shape,” he said.

We had cooperation from the county Sheriff’s Office, but chose to use new law enforcement voices in our coverage. County deputies are at the front lines of drug law enforcement, and do a good job of balancing the legal and health aspects of addiction.

The stories we heard about drugs in our schools and other institutions from a former addict were frightening. Hearing them from someone who had been there — as opposed to the normal carriers of the “don’t do drugs” message, from parents to cops to teachers — was enough to put a damper on the Christmas season.

We’ve entered a new season in drug use.

“These are significantly challenging times in law enforcement,” said Lt. Kip Belcher, who leads three multi-jurisdictional drug task force teams working in northern Michigan. “We thought we had challenging things on our plate with crack cocaine. Hindsight is 20-20. We can see now how diminutive that subject is compared to heroin mixed with fentanyl and carfentanil.”

But Christmas remains the season of hope. By closely watching for the warning signs of heroin addiction, by working with health professionals and law enforcement, by recognizing that heroin can enter any social circle, we can turn the tide.

Kitchen table discussions are essential, especially with young people. People of all ages need to be scared by the reality of heroin addiction.

“It seems like there is more information out there,” said captain Jim Bussell with the City of Traverse City Police Department. “It seems kids nowadays have more information younger. I would like to think use of hard narcotics is declining, but I don’t know that for a fact. I think the next 10 years will be telling.”

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