Heroin on Main Street, U.S.A.
The headlines are shocking: “10 Hours, 15 Overdoses”; “Heroin Use in U.S. Reaches Epidemic Levels”; “18 Year-Old Dies from Overdose”; “Heroin Capital of the United States.”
Every day, the stories come out about the devastating consequences of heroin addiction affecting all segments of our society. From opiates like the street drug, heroin, to prescription medicines such as oxycodone, morphine and fentanyl, this has become a national problem. Unfortunately, many funeral directors have seen the tragic consequences firsthand, providing services for those who succumbed to the ravages of drugs. What they and everyone else are realizing is, heroin and other opiates are affecting the young people of this country regardless of race, social standing, location or educational level … no one is immune.
These deaths have prompted a grassroots movement to create more public awareness on two fronts—from those families who share their heartbreaking story in their loved one’s obituaries and local funeral homes who are pro-actively getting involved in combating this problem.
Obituary a Moving, Raw Account of Heroin Addiction
In our hometown of Spokane, Washington, it took two years before the parents of a 24 year-old could write his obituary, which was heavy with raw emotions: “Seth died alone and in a musty windowless basement bedroom from a heroin overdose … He is survived by his shattered and demolished parents.”
An Ohio couple chose to share their story when they lost their 18 year-old daughter to a heroin overdose.
These are just of few of the dozens of heart wrenching obituaries families around the country are beginning to share. By offering a transparency of their personal hell, they hope their story can prevent another family from experiencing the same devastation.
Heroin use is four times higher than 20 years ago. Addiction to prescription drugs has contributed to heroin use where the street drug is five times cheaper. Today’s heroin is more potent than ever. More people are dying than ever before. And there doesn’t appear to be a clear solution.
Funeral Directors Feeling the Pain of Opioid Crisis
All too often, it is the funeral homes who see the end results of heroin addiction. Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home in Hamburg, New York experienced firsthand the opioid crisis as told in this Buffalo News article:
“The young man walked into the funeral home to say goodbye to his friend who had fatally overdosed on heroin, but he appeared spaced out. ‘He’s high,’ the mother of the dead man said to herself as the mourner approached in the receiving line … ”
Now, local funeral homes are reaching out in search of ways to support their respective communities. Walker Funeral Homes in Toledo, Ohio, and Zacherl Funeral Home in Fond Du lac, Wisconsin have partnered with local businesses to create public awareness and solutions through outdoor billboards in their respective cities with the intent to get the conversation started about how to address this problem.
In the state of Massachusetts, nearly 1,400 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015. In the first quarter of 2016, there has been an estimated 400 opioid-related deaths which averages out to over 1,600 for the year. An hour south of Boston, in the coastal town of Marshfield, Mark MacDonald of MacDonald Funeral Home has seen enough. Last year, he gained local notoriety for his personal mission to save lives through formal training and equipping of his staff with the drug Narcan. Narcan blocks or reverses the effects of opioid medication and is used to treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation which ultimately can save a life. MacDonald Funeral Home is one of the first private businesses to go through this program. Read his story.
Deaths among young people are at an all-time high due to heroin and related drug overdoses. Public outcry and community awareness is coming while funding is being sought to support education and programs in fighting this social problem. But as demonstrated by the families who have suffered and these local funeral homes, the fight isn’t at the state or national capitals—it’s in our communities, schools and homes—it’s on Main Street, U.S.A.