Monthly Archives: October 2014

Michigan Puts on First Heroin Summit

The state of Michigan hosted their first Heroin Summit yesterday in East Lansing at the Kellogg Center.  The event was hosted by the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Community Health and was put on to brainstorm ideas on how to fight the heroin and opiate epidemic that is killing people at the highest rate our state has ever seen.

I am very honored and proud to say that I was one of the speakers at this event.  My recovery coach, Phil Pavona, was invited to speak as he is the Executive Director of Families Against Narcotics in Ingham County.  Phil had me come with him and share my story and I was actually the only person that spoke who has actually used heroin.  I feel so blessed to be able to use my story to try to help others, and this was a huge platform to do that in.

I have to be honest, I was as nervous as I have ever been and I almost felt out of place, being with Michigan government officials and commanders of law enforcement posts from all over the state.  There was about 450 to 500 people in attendance and it went great.  Once I got up there to speak, my nerves calmed down a lot.  I think I did a decent job of getting my message out there and sharing the perspective of somebody who has actually been addicted to the drug they were talking about.

Christopher Behnan of the Lansing State Journal wrote an article on the summit and contacted me to give my input.  I wanted to share with all of you the article that he wrote, because I think it is not only important to get the message and statistics of addiction, but to actually know that Michigan is taking positive steps to try to fight addiction.  I will post the article below and am actually quoted in it.  Please let me know what you think!

Heroin summit focuses on ways to battle addiction, use

Christopher Behnan,

EAST LANSING – A nearly threefold increase in heroin overdose deaths in Michigan in less than 20 years and an influx of addicts filling clinic beds drew hundreds of health and law enforcement officials into one room Monday.

Hosted by the Michigan State Police and Michigan Department of Community Health, the daylong brainstorming event was largely closed to the media. The goal of the summit, officials said, was to discuss ways to cut off access to the drug they say plagues urban and rural areas alike statewide.

“We are seeing that the numbers are higher than they’ve ever been before. Heroin has been around since the 1800s but today the user is distinctly different than the users of decades before,” Michigan State Police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue said in her opening remarks.

“The outdated image of a lazy heroin addict laying around in a dirty back alley is just not correct today,” Etue added.

According to state figures, there were 271 heroin overdose deaths in Michigan between 1999 and 2002. There were 728 heroin overdose deaths in Michigan between 2010 and 2012. The number of people treated for heroin addition in publicly funded clinics in Michigan increased from about 6,500 in 2002 to about 13,000 last year, according to state figures.

Heroin addiction, officials said, often starts with prescription drug abuse. People often get hooked on opiods, the addictive component in heroin, through prescription pain killers with opiods. Once hooked on those prescription drugs, addicts often turn to heroin, which is often cheaper than prescription medications, officials said.

Mason High School graduate Aaron Emerson’s heroin addiction is the face of that trend.

Now 17 months sober, Emerson addressed officials at the Heroin Summit.

Emerson bought OxyContin from high school classmates who in many cases stole them from family members.

He once paid about $40 for 80 milligrams of OxyContin. He paid half that amount for an equal amount of heroin.

“I found a cheaper version that was even more potent and that was heroin,” said Emerson, now 23 and a Lansing Community College journalism student.

He said access to pain killers that led to his heroin use could have been avoided by family members securing their medications and properly disposing of their unused scripts.

In an effort to keep prescription pain killers out of the wrong hands, DCH officials are encouraging physicians to only prescribe them when absolutely necessary, DCH Director Nick Lyon said.

About 40 percent of addicts first abuse prescription drugs, officials said.

“We encourage our health care providers to only prescribe pain killers as necessary and to as few patients with potential substance abuse problems” as possible, Lyon said.

Etue said heroin use starts as young as age 14 and that most people start using the drug between ages 18 and 22. She said women are increasingly using the drug because they believe it will cause them to lose weight.

The drug typically comes to mid-Michigan from Detroit via Mexico, South America or Afghanistan. Etue said a significant amount of the drug arrives in Michigan by way of Chicago.

Heroin use and overdose deaths have been prevalent in parts of Livingston County, including in the Pinckney area.

Greater Lansing hasn’t been immune to the trend.

In 2012 in Ingham County, one of every three drug-related deaths was due to heroin overdose, officials said at the time. There were five fatal heroin overdoses in the county in 2010 and 16 fatal heroin overdoses in 2012.

The number of people seeking treatment for heroin addiction also has increased steadily in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties in recent years, officials said.

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Narcan Bills Will Save Lives, Give Parents Safety Net

Several months ago, I was invited by my recovery coach to speak in front of the Michigan State House of Representatives about a bill that they were considering.  Rep. Anthony Forlini (R) introduced the bill to the state house that would require emergency first responders to carry Naloxone, which sometimes goes by its trade name of Narcan, and enables family members and loved ones of opiate/heroin addicts to be able to obtain it with a prescription.

I went and shared my story with the House committee that was taking up the bills and explained how I have overdosed three times and that Narcan was administered to me at the hospital, potentially saving my life.  Well, those bills have finally made it through both chambers of the Michigan Legislature and were signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last week, putting them into state law.

This is tremendous news for Michiganders.  Not only will this be an effective way to save the lives of many, as heroin and opiate overdoses have more than doubled in the state in the last decade, but it gives parents and family members of addicts a safety net.  I can’t tell you how many times during my active addiction that my parents came into my bedroom to check on me, afraid and nervous because they knew I had been using.  If they had Narcan then, I am positive they would have slept better.

I am so glad that these bills were passed!  Below this blog I have posted an article from the Macomb Daily, a newspaper in suburban Detroit.  It’s a news story on Gov. Snyder signing the bills.  I really encourage you all to read it to get insight on Narcan and read the statistics!

  Snyder signs heroin-antidote bill package in Macomb County

By Jameson Cook, The Macomb Daily

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills this morning in Clinton Township that will allow friends and family of drug addicts to administer an antidote that can save the addict’s life.

Snyder gave final approval of the bills initiated by state Rep. Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township, following the Women Strengthening Michigan forum at the Hall Road offices of Omega Talent.

The new laws will allow a state resident to obtain a prescription for naloxone, also known by its brand name, Narcan, to immediately reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, whether due to heroin or a prescription drug such as Vicodin or OxyContin. It also requires emergency medical technicians to carry it on the ambulance, something that is already common practice throughout southeast Michigan.

The event was attended by Judge Linda Davis of 41B District Court in Clinton Township and members of Families Against Narcotics, a group Davis leads and helped create, based in Fraser. Also attending were members of Bryan’s HOPE (Heroin & Opiate Prevention & Education).

“We had parents here and families here that had lost family members to heroin that might otherwise be alive if we had done it,” Snyder said afterward. “I’m glad we’re getting caught up, we’re being effective, we’re going forward.”

Davis said she hopes the new laws generate momentum for state officials to take more steps to stem the tide of increasing heroin addiction and the prescription drug abuse from which it typically arises.

“It’s a great day,” Davis said. “It breaks my heart for all the people that lost kids, that if this had been available to our parents years ago, we may still have those kids here with us. But at least it’s a step in the right direction for the future. I think we have the governor and Legislature’s attention that this is a huge problem. I think this is one of many things we can accomplish in the future on this issue.”

She said she and other officials are working on a proposed “Good Samaritan” law that would allow a heroin addict to call for help for a fellow addict who is overdosing without suffering any potential criminal consequences for his or her own addiction.

Snyder said the law package is a “positive step,” but more needs to be done.

“Let’s keep working these issues,” he said.

Heroin and opioid prescription drug addiction has been called an epidemic in Macomb County and a growing problem throughout the state. FAN was created 2008 in response.

Macomb County led the state in heroin deaths in 2010-12, with 202. Statewide, fatal heroin overdoses more than doubled in a decade, from 271 from 1999-2002 to 728 in 2010-2012, according to the state Department of Community Health. Admissions for heroin treatment programs in Michigan has nearly doubled, from 6,500 in 2000 to 12,753 in 2012.

Nationally, fatal heroin overdoses increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2010, when 3,038 people died, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

More than 20 other states have enacted similar laws.

Forlini said he has worked on the bills with Davis and FAN for more than a year.

“Drugs have taken hold of kids in high schools,” Forlini said. “This is nothing they planned. This is something that happened. Their heads aren’t the same when they’re on drugs, doing things they didn’t grow up doing.

“This affects all of us. All this bill does is give these kids a second chance.

Forlini said young people aren’t the only ones who should have Narcan on hand. Children and caregivers of senior citizens who take opiate prescription drugs should have them, too.

Davis said FAN plans to conduct training sessions on injecting Narcan for addicts’ family members and friends who obtain a prescription to possess the antidote.

Forlini sponsored House Bill 5407, and co-sponsored the remainder of the bills with state Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi, and state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton.

The laws are Public Act 311, 312, 313 and 314 of 2014.

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Staging A Successful Addiction Intervention

Guest Blog by Jon Huynh


Addiction interventions are delicate situations. Every party involved has something on the line. For friends and family members staging an intervention, the well being of a loved one hangs in the balance. For individuals suffering from addiction, the prospect of having their life displayed openly in front of their closest peers and relatives may seem devastatingly shameful or embarrassing. Since so much is at stake for everyone involved: emotions can run high. However, it is critical to keep in mind that interventions are about making a step towards change and that a successful intervention is more important than the circumstances which have brought it together.

To facilitate constructive conversation and help keep emotions in check, it is ideal to have a trusted professional in the room. The importance of this is twofold: the experience of a trained professional allows for efficient mediation and because they are seeing all parties for the first time, they are able to act as an objective third party. Planning ahead and minimizing the amount of people involved with the direct intervention are also crucial measures.

The correct setting can also play a critical role in the intervention. The location needs to be conducive to conversation and comfortable for everyone involved. This could be a home or private meeting place. The imperative factor being that the location doesn’t distract from the immediate purpose of the intervention.

At all times remember that the focus of the intervention needs to remain on the individual with the addiction problem and getting them assistance. Sometimes, because of the difficult subject matter involved with these situations, this focus can shift to other people in the group. This creates a risk of having the discussion break down without reaching some sort of resolution.  According to this article on successful interventions, “An addiction intervention is a ‘less is more’ situation.”

In this respect, preparing a concise agenda and having limited guests can drastically reduce some of the complications which naturally arise in these situations.

A Delicate Moment

It is important to keep the ultimate goal of intervention in mind at all times: getting loved ones the help they need to overcome addiction. While this may seem like a short and easy statement, the reality is that interventions deal with very difficult subjects. It is easy for the open atmosphere of an intervention to give way to strong emotions. However, if the intervention becomes too focused on a particular instance other than the task at hand, the intervention can lose its effectiveness.

Making sure that friends and family are prepared; the meeting has a clear agenda; and there is a clear path towards resolution, are all ways to avoid potential pitfalls. It is also important to keep in mind that the conversation is group oriented. Being open and honest doesn’t require that everyone place the most intimate details of their relationship on the line. Some issues may be too personal for a group setting and are better addressed in a private setting. Perhaps this might be after an individual has accepted treatment, or with a professional counselor.

Creating a Constructive and Open Environment

All parties must feel that they are allowed to express their feelings and emotions honestly. This sentiment is often easier for those that were allowed to prepare for the intervention. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the individual who needs help isn’t made aware of what’s happening until it happens. While sometimes necessary, this imbalance can create an air of apprehension where an individual may feel as though they are being attacked by a group, regardless of everyone’s good intentions.

Having a specialist present that has had experience with addiction treatment can help alleviate some of the tension created by the imbalance of power inherent in the situation. Such a specialist can make sure that the conversation remains effective. They can also serve as a buffer for both sides and an objective listener who is the final arbiter on distinguishing constructive truth from harmful rhetoric.

The third party arbiter should also help to quell the formation of a mob which can potentially develop in these settings. Always keep in mind that under normal circumstances, it is difficult enough for any one person to feel that they must answer to many different people. In an intervention, where the subject matter is often very serious, the pressure can quickly escalate to overwhelming. An effective arbiter should be able to sense and successfully navigate the conversation through these rough areas.

Be Prepared

As an organizer, it is important to be prepared with a clear plan and make sure that all of the guests who need to be there are on board with the same plan. Being unprepared, having too many guests, and/or having too many unprepared guests can render disastrous outcomes. Again, the ultimate goal of an intervention is to make sure that an individual gets all the help that they need. If a discussion is held, but there aren’t any offers or plans for how to achieve this goal, then it is unlikely a resolution will ever be reached. Similarly, if a discussion is held and it becomes too tangential, distracting from the ultimate goal, then it is unlikely that a resolution will ever be reached.

To avoid these problems, it is essential to have an organizer that keeps family, friends, and the third party arbiter up to date with a clear plan. It is also important that the only members asked to attend are those who are absolutely essential to the ultimate goal.  While many others may genuinely care about or have been significantly affected by the circumstances, an intervention isn’t the only time when these feelings may be addressed.

Picking A Comfortable Setting

The ideal location needs to be open enough to promote conversation, but private enough to make everyone comfortable. Additional considerations should be made for the potentially embarrassing nature of the discussion and the individual who might be overwhelmed by the group. A familiar residence or private meeting place are often used for these purposes.

Don’t Hesitate

If someone close to you needs help, do not hesitate to start planning for an effective intervention. The negative consequences of drug use and addiction tend to compound creating worse circumstances over time. There are many resources and organizations designed to help out with these difficult meetings. The Freedom Center, mentioned earlier, is an example of an organization that specializes in intervention assistance and long term addiction treatment. Whether you’re looking for intervention assistance or additional information about addiction, they will be able to point you in the direction of accurate information, or connect you with a specialist.

Addiction is difficult for everyone who is exposed to it whether an individual is addicted or has been affected by an addict in their life. However, there are many individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping others affected by this terrible affliction. Get help and get it as soon as possible. Remember, you are not alone.

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He Changed My Life; He Can Change Yours!

Wow, I have had a very, very hectic and busy month.  It seems like I never have more than an hour of free time with all of my homework and articles I have to write for Mason Today, the community newspaper I work for.  Add in the responsibilities of taking care of my three year old daughter Melody, let me just say that things have been wild.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, though.  I love staying busy today.  I have started to really loathe downtime; and maybe that could be considered a character defect.  I have been wondering lately if staying busy is one way I have learned to cope with living sober.  Keeping up with work and school is definitely not a bad thing, but too much of it can be.  Is there such a thing as too much work?  Too much school?  I don’t know, but I am staying sober and my recovery has been pretty good, so I am not exactly looking to change that.

I guess what I am trying to get at is, recovery has brought me many blessings.  I have a job that I love doing and that’s terrific for where I am at in my life.  I am going to college and currently have a 4.0.  I am getting my daughter three days a week now.  I have an amazing, beautiful girlfriend that I love to spend time with.  I enjoy catching up with my loving, caring family and watching a football game with my brothers and father.  Two years ago, I could have never dreamed I would be doing even ONE of those!

God has given me the amazing gift of recovery and it has completely changed my life!  I did the impossible.  It seems like just three years ago I was using $50-100 worth of heroin every single day, stealing people’s stuff, boosting from stores, and checking in-and-out of numerous rehabs.  I used to dream of recovery, but it was so far out there.  I used to wonder how many more months or weeks I had to live.  I remember shooting dope and just crying on the inside that I messed up such a life that could have been great.  I could not stop using dope and I had absolutely no hope that I could even stop using for a week.

How did I go from that totally hopeless state to where I am today?  I don’t know that answer.  I know what I did.  I know that I went to rehab down in Jackson, got a recovery coach, started going to 12-Step meetings, started outpatient therapy, and took my sobriety and recovery 24 hours at a time.  The part that boggles my mind, however, is how I got the motivation and confidence to even try all of that.

That is where God comes into play.  It is a miracle to me that I did all of that.  It is a miracle to me that I finally found the desire to give recovery a try.  I did not want to give up dope.  As much as I wished I could be normal and as much as I hated my life, heroin was the only thing I had.  I did not know how to give that up.  I knew that there were rehabs and 12-Step groups out there, but I didn’t think I could give up the dope.  I tried so many rehabs and they just simply did not work for me.  I would try it out, be serious about staying off dope while I was in treatment, but as soon as I got out the door I went right back to that life.

God had a plan for my life.  He literally put motivation into my heart.  Motivation to finally give recovery a try was the main thing I was missing, but it was the one thing that I had zero hope of attaining.  You don’t have to believe in God or even believe me, but that was a miracle, and I know that God blessed me.  As hopeless as I was, God somehow took me and gave me a shove onto a new road called “change” that I had never driven down.  Once I was a mile down that road, I found joy.  I finally put together a couple weeks of sobriety and for the first time since I was a kid, I was proud of myself.

The rest is history.  I have now been in recovery for almost 17 months and am accomplishing things for the first time ever.  I still have some bad days, but for the most part, I am living a dream.  To God, however, this was all just a part of the plan.  I firmly believe he is going to use my past for good, and that is my whole objective in New Life Recovery Outreach.

If you are struggling today or you are using drugs and can’t stop, just please know that it will pass if you want it.  God can dig you out of that hole you are in.  How do I know?  Well, I can truly say that he did it for me.  Please, if you need some help, contact me.  Email me at  If you need to talk, let me know.  If you need some help, I can get you hooked up.  Just do NOT hold it in.  I promise you can change your life!

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