October 20, 2014
Members of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office has been traversing Monmouth County for the past two years sounding the alarm to communities of the heroin addiction which is befalling many young people. Last year, their presentations were mainly geared to parental awareness including two well-attended forums at Red Bank Regional (RBR) and Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School. In October, they returned to RBR, this time to have this very difficult conversation with students.
The detectives shared the startling statistics: 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older have reported to used heroin at least once in their lives. Of that number one in four will become addicted; shockingly only 20% of those who become addicted ever recover enough to assume productive lives. This problem has become rampant in the suburbs of New Jersey, with an increase heroin-related death rate of 45% in the past two years, and 24% in the last year alone. One power-point slide showed the unnatural causes of death for 2013 in the county: homicides 4; highway fatalities 29; drug overdoses 37 (of which 31 were due to heroin.)
“Is it here in Little Silver?” One student asked, to which Detective Barry DuBrosky responded, “The answer is yes.”
“No one is immune to the addiction of heroin,” Lieutenant Wesley Mayo told the students. He added, “Heroin will alter your mind, ruin your body and eventually take your life.”
The presenters explained that heroin addiction begins with the abuse of prescription medication-predominately Oxycontin , which can be difficult and expensive to obtain. But the plentiful, very pure (thus, more addictive) and inexpensive street drug –heroin-- quickly becomes the drug addict’s quarry. New Jersey has the unfortunate distinction of having the purest and most deadly heroin in the world.
Lieutenant Jason Clark stated “Over 10,000 bags of heroin are sold to Monmouth County kids a week.”
One power-point slide showing the pictorial progression of the disease in the ravaged faces of young addicts, appearing decades older than their chronological age, drew a collective and astonished “Whoa” from the student audience.
The students also learned of the availability of a life-saving drug called Narcan, which all Monmouth County police now have been the trained to administer and have permission to carry. The detectives also informed the students of a recent state law, known as the “Good Samaritan”, law giving immunity of prosecution to anyone who calls 911 reporting an overdose. That call, because of the implementation of Narcan has already saved dozens of lives.
Lieutenant Mayo told the students, “No one is immune to heroin addiction. It doesn’t care if you are the star football player, the smartest person, or the richest. Heroin addiction is strong. It will grab you and you can’t come back.”
That is what happened to Justin Boxman, a gregarious, popular Monmouth County high school student who won the Vince Lombardi trophy in his senior year and started college with the hopes of playing football. He died in 2010, two years following his high school graduation, a victim, another statistic of heroin addiction.
“But he wasn’t a statistic to me,” his mother Abby Boxman told the students, adding, “He is my son and I will never see him again because he made bad choices.”
Mrs. Boxman presented the students with the other faces of heroin—the ruined and broken-hearted families left in heroin’s destructive wake. She now runs support groups for parents who have lost children to addiction and speaks at assemblies pleading with young people not to try the deadly drug.
She explained that some people are just predisposed to addiction and no one knows if they are so inclined comparing experimenting with heroin like playing Russian roulette.
Then a tall, young lady, a Monmouth University Graduate student, took the microphone and told her roller coaster tale of drug addiction. An honors student and multi-sport athlete, Bethany had some problems that she sought to alleviate with gateway drugs of alcohol, marijuana and pills in middle school. She graduated to cocaine and recalls the nadir of her existence when she was incoherently sprawled on a gas station bathroom floor snorting coke lines.
“And my friends and I thought that was funny,” she sarcastically related to the audience.
She told them, “I thought a drug addict was a 40-yar old homeless guy living under a bridge in the Bronx, but I am not that, I am a white, catholic suburban kid who had a nice childhood.”
In essence, she was her audience and spoke to them in their vernacular, relating to their thought processes and experiences.
She explained to the students, “I am not that different from the people in here. I didn’t think this would ever happen to me.”
She revealed three unsuccessful suicide attempts and the burial of seven friends before the age of 24.
Adding, “I can’t tell you the pain of burying a young person. Heroin kills people because it is heroin. You don’t have to be an addict to die from it.”
Bethany informed them that she had desperately tried to stop using many times, but the addiction called her back. It wasn’t until her mother intervened and sent her to a strict and long-term rehab center, did she finally get control of her life. She is now ecstatic to report she has been sober for over one year now and really enjoys a sober life.
RBR Student Assistance Counselor Lori Todd who arranged the assembly for her students comments, “It is very important to lay out the facts and statistics of addiction, but it is very powerful to bring in mothers like Abby and young people like Bethany who tell their stories and relate to the kids.”
RBR senior Destiny Cooper of Little Silver agreed stating, “It was really informative and real –not just facts on a power point –her (Bethany’s) personality really came through.
Renae Ames of Belmar has had personal experience with friends affected by drug-related tragedy commented, “It was interesting to see that recovery is possible and that it doesn’t always end in fatality.”