July’s Charity Pick is Amber’s H.O.P.E.:
A local (Kirkland) charity focusing on spreading awareness on the alarming increase of opiate (notably herion) use and addiction by young people. With awareness and education Michael Roberts hopes to remove the stigma around hard drugs by educating families and youth on the risk(s), the prevention(s), and the treatment.
Fact is that while you’re a teen (and even into your early 20’s!), you’re still growing and developing, and drug abuse during these years in particular can have a lasting impact. Another fact to consider: the brain is much more vulnerable to addiction during these years. 90% of Americans with a substance abuse problem started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before age 18.
Here is a RECENT article posted in the Kirkland Reporter on June 23, 2016 that describes Michael’s story (Amber’s H.O.P.E. Founder). I can’t say it any better.
by JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD, Kirkland Reporter Staff writer
Jun 23, 2016 at 6:32AM
If there's anything Kirkland residents Michael Roberts and Raelene Bushbeck have in common, other than the untimely deaths of their daughters, it's the desire for an end to a fearsome epidemic.
A Juanita High School student remains in critical condition following an overdose on heroin several months ago, according to the Kirkland Police Department.
It marks the second high school student to overdose in 2016, including the death of a Lake Washington High School student, and the fourth such case involving heroin and a current or former Kirkland-area high school student in the last year.
Amber Roberts died of a heroin overdose on June 28, 2015. Georgia Styant-Browne, Bushbeck's daughter, died on April 26, 2016. Both were former students at Lake Washington High School.
Amber's father, Michael Roberts, has since devoted his time to awareness with the nonprofit Amber's Heroin and Opiate Prevention and Education — H.O.P.E.
"Three weeks before she passed, when I saw her, I knew something was different," Michael Roberts said.
Amber Roberts had been using heroin since February. A friend told Amber's mother, who then contacted Michael Roberts for help.
Amber Roberts, then 19, went on a trip to Las Vegas chasing a popular form of dance music and when she returned, her father planned to pick her up and take her to detox. A few days after her return, Amber asked to be picked up early from a music festival in eastern Washington.
Upon arrival in Kirkland, Amber then drove to Snohomish County to buy heroin, Michael Roberts said, and returned to her mother's house in Snoqualmie Highlands.
"I talked to her by midnight," Michael Roberts said. "By the next morning, by mid-afternoon, [her mother and stepfather] went up to check and she was dead."
Browne's story might bear even more weight. She turned 21 shortly before her death, and had already been using heroin for two years.
"Georgia was that kind of kid who had to try things to see what they were like instead of being told," Bushbeck said.
"I know that one of her friends was using, and convinced her to try it. That was the one thing she said she would never do."
Unlike Roberts, Browne finished her high school education at Lake Washington High School. Shortly thereafter, she opened up about her heroin use out of fear and went to detox, followed by several weeks of treatment in Yakima.
It wasn't long before Browne, who Bushbeck said was terrified that she couldn't stop using, relapsed. She then went and spent a year in California at a treatment center, and emerged sober for 13 months in October, 2015.
She was clean. She was scared after hearing of Roberts' death, and had begun using her Facebook page to spread awareness and teach her peers about what heroin was really like.
Relapse. Detox and treatment until January. Wisdom teeth removed in March, and a relapse following a Percocet prescription. Browne used heroin on April 20, according to a Kirkland police report, and was dead six days later.
Browne's death came a month before she was to speak to hundreds of community members alongside Michael Roberts on a panel of recovering addicts on May 31 at Kirkland Performance Center.
"Georgia was going to be part of it," Michael Roberts said. "We talked two weeks before she passed about a peer [of Amber's] being part of the panel. She wanted to do that."
Two of Browne's siblings, a 13-year-old brother and 16-year-old sister, spoke in her place.
"Both of them did it because Georgia was very committed to spreading the word," Bushbeck said. "That's the real problem, it costs the kids. … She learned too late that she was trapped in it herself. She wanted to help everybody she could to stop from using."
This comes as reported use of drugs and alcohol in the Lake Washington School District has continued to decline during the last six years, according to the Healthy Youth Survey conducted every two years.
Results show reported use of cigarettes in stark decline, with a slight decline of alcohol and marijuana use since 2010.
Reported use of heroin has dropped from 3.7 percent in 2012 to 2.6 percent in 2014, with the next survey coming up in the fall. Cocaine is the only drug to have risen, jumping by .6 percent from 2012 to 2014.
Surveys have garnered responses from just over half of the students during the past six years.
Those numbers don't necessarily reflect trends across the northwest where heroin has historically been a "pretty well-used drug," Kirkland Police Department Public Information Officer Rob Saloum said.
"A couple years ago there was a lot of enforcement to shut down over-the-counter drugs like opiates, but a lot of those people who were using OTC drugs moved on to heroin because it's cheap and available," Saloum said. "This is a national issue and trend."
Saloum said the use of heroin isn't linked to a specific area or age group, but "the usage has definitely come down, with younger people using the drug more than they did a couple years ago."
For Bushbeck, there's no need to humanize the statistics. Heroin users aren't "druggies" to her, they were sick and addicted — something both she and Browne understood.
"[Browne] was very open and honest about it," Bushbeck said. "She wanted to take the stigma away and wanted [young people] to understand. She was scheduling to speak at Lake Washington High School. One of the health teachers was going to have her come and talk. She didn't get to do that, either."
Roberts hopes his nonprofit will have the opportunity to reach kids and families within the district. He's already asked Lake Washington High School principal Christina Thomas for chance to speak, and has another engagement on June 25, almost exactly a year after his daughter's death, at UW Bothell.
"My main goal is to bring awareness to communities, starting on the Eastside," Roberts said. "[I want to] start an open dialog where we're not afraid to talk about drug addiction."
Why You Need to Be Concerned About Heroin
While alcohol and marijuana are by far the most popular substances used by youth who choose to “get high,” there is concern about increases in the number of young people turning to heroin.
In the most recent Healthy Youth Survey completed in King County (given every two years in schools), just under four percent of 10th and 12th grade students reported using heroin. Youth Eastside Services, one of the largest adolescent drug and alcohol treatment programs in the area, had no clients reporting heroin use in 2010—in 2012, 6% of said they used heroin.
The King County Helpline had nearly 1,200 calls about heroin in 2012, the #1 call regarding drugs. Prescription pain killers were #2, with over 800 calls. Treatment for heroin addiction also rose substantially in King County between 2010 and 2012.
While these numbers may seem small, they are particularly concerning because heroin addiction is one of the most difficult to treat due to the painful withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings. It usually requires medically assisted detox, and even with that, treatment has a high failure rate. There is also potential for contamination of the drug that can cause life-threatening reactions.
Most young heroin users start with abuse of prescription painkillers. In recent years, the efforts to educate medical providers and parents about the risks of these drugs has led to a decrease in their availability and an increase in the street price—upwards of $80 per pill in some cases.
Heroin, by comparison, is relatively cheap—$10 for a hit that will give a person a high for two to four hours, or $20 for a small bag. Typically, young people begin by smoking heroin, which takes nothing more than a lighter and piece of tin foil. Signs of this kind of use include black smudges on hands, clothes, walls or carpet, and wads of tin foil in the trash.
Unfortunately, the addictive nature of heroin tends to result in increased use. The phenomenon known as “chasing the dragon” leaves a user trying to obtain the high they had the first time they tried heroin, which may escalate to “shooting up.”
It’s hard for any parent to visualize the same child who wailed over every vaccination willingly inserting a needle into his or her own vein, but I assure you it is happening with teens in our area. Using a needle to inject drugs also comes with increased risks for diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, from sharing needles. It is also easier to overdose.
As parents, we need to be talking with our kids about all drugs—alcohol, marijuana, prescription medications and heroin. Talk about the risks, the damage to the growing brain and chances for addiction. Studies show that when parents express a strong disapproval for something, kids are less likely to participate in it. .
Preventing Teen Drug Use--Knowledge is Power
When it comes to teens and substance abuse, the best prevention is being involved with your kid and educated about what’s out there.
Eastside teen drug trends
• Cocaine is making a big comeback and now viewed by teens as less dangerous and addictive.
• Psilocybin or psychedelic mushrooms are considered by teens to be “natural” and therefore “safe” though they can be toxic to the liver.
• Ecstasy/MDMA is becoming more popular to use when just “hanging out.”
• Heroin is being reported in greater use among local teens and is often being smoked.