Did you know heroin usage in the state of Wisconsin has risen in nearly every county over the last three years? The Wisconsin Department of Justice reported that in 2012 alone, there were 199 reported heroin-related deaths compared to just 29 deaths reported from 2000-2007. Heroin is not just an issue among adults — it is affecting U.S. teenagers. Specifically, the number of Wisconsin teens ages 12-17 who have tried heroin is up 300 percent since 1995, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
With statistics on the rise, the Wisconsin Department of Justice launched a campaign in the fall of 2013, titled The Fly Effect, to help raise awareness of the effects of heroin throughout the state. Globe University-Appleton medical assistant student Melanie Rueth recently helped bring awareness to our campus.
Melanie and Academic Coordinator Brianna Williamson presented a heroin prevention presentation (provided by The Fly Effect) to a group of 50 students and faculty. The presentation included information about what heroin is, what it looks like, and misconceptions that exist around its use. For example, it’s a common misconception that heroin-related deaths occur after long periods of use, but in reality, a person can die after their first ingestion of heroin.
Melanie shared her own story about the unfortunate loss of her 17-year-old daughter, Alexis, to a heroin overdose in 2012. Melanie described Alexis as a first-time heroin user who ingested a lethal dose of heroin by snorting the drug. Realizing the negative impact heroin is having on our society, Melanie found it important to educate others by sharing her experience. Her story created a flood of emotions from many of the students and staff that attended the presentation, and she was applauded for her strength and willingness to share her story. Melanie’s daughter, Mackenzie, also attended the event and supported her mom in spreading awareness about the loss of her sister.
The Fly Effect campaign is taking a variety of approaches to raise awareness across the state, including posters that are available for print. One of their posters includes a disturbing statistic stating, “One on Monday. Two by Wednesday. Three by Friday. Four on Sunday. Somebody dies of a heroin overdose every 44 hours in Wisconsin.”
Although there are reported statistics, the Wisconsin Heroin Assessment explained that there is no statewide standard for tracking heroin deaths and therefore only death certificates specifically listing heroin abuse as the cause of death can be counted. Although the numbers reported may not include all heroin-related deaths, the Wisconsin Heroin Assessment reported that heroin-related deaths have nearly tripled from 2008 to 2012. The increased use and fatalities calls for an increased awareness in our communities. It is important that both adults and youth understand that using heroin just once can lead to death.
Written by Brianna Williamson, academic coordinator