Heroin forum sheds light on serious drug problem in region

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I read something recently that did not sit well with me, and it got me thinking. “According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the following are the reasons that adolescents engage in substance abuse: insufficient parental supervision and monitoring; lack of communication and interaction between parents and kids; poorly defined and poorly communicated rules and expectations against drug use; inconsistent and excessively severe discipline; family conflict; favorable parental attitudes toward adolescent alcohol and drug use; and parental alcoholism or drug use.”

While this is a list that was compiled based off of research through the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, I have encountered true personal, heart-wrenching stories that say otherwise.

In my own mind, this excerpt makes me wonder: If this is the case, if these truly are the reasons for students engaging in substance abuse, then what is the purpose of Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County? Why not simply have parenting or guidance classes that teach parents how to keep their children away from drugs?

As the coordinator, I believe that the community leaders that are part of Champions and that helped start the program, can vouch by saying there is an abundance of prevention plans for the students of Carroll County and educational events throughout the year that aid in prevention and keeping our students and families away from substance abuse. 

Recently I attended a community forum/town hall meeting in Pendleton County regarding the issue of heroin, and guest speaker Charlotte Wethington was the first panel of experts to speak. The heroin forum included a long line of respected, educated individuals from counselors, law enforcement officers, prevention specialists and more. Right off the bat, Wethington speaks and tugs at your heart strings. She spoke about her son who had fallen victim to heroin addiction in 2002. She told her story in about 10 short minutes with as much detail as she could. She told the audience how her son died at the young age of 23 after overdosing on heroin three times, before they – as loving, nurturing parents who had a strong relationship with their son – had to make the horrifying decision to take Casey off of life support.

Wethington went on to tell the audience how she and her husband had a strong bond with their son. She was a well-educated mother with a master’s degree, a great career and a loving family. But even with all of this, her son had a secret addiction to heroin.

“He knew the dangers of drugs, we were very open with him about that,” Wethington said. She also told the audience how she was the “snoopy” mother and always questioned her son about events in his life. Once she found out about his addiction, people told her to wait until he hit “rock bottom” to intervene or that he had to want help in order for his life to get back on track. Now, Wethington says she wishes she had not listened to the advice of those doctors and counselors that told her these myths because, by then, it was too late.

Since Casey’s death, Charlotte began advocating for Casey’s law, an option for families to get court-ordered treatment for those with the disease of addiction. When asked why Casey’s law is so important, Wethington said, “It gives the family the ability to advocate for their loved one when they may not be in the condition to advocate for themselves.”

Like any other disease, Wethington says the sooner it’s recognized, the longer it’s treated, the better the chances for recovery. She didn’t speak about the lack of parental supervision or monitoring that her son Casey encountered because that was not the case – she spoke about the disease of addiction and how it turned their entire family’s life upside down.

Wethington is now the recovery advocate at Transitions Inc., a Northern Kentucky Agency that provides life-saving treatment to those with substance use disorders for over 40 years.     

There are many different reasons for substance abuse and among the hundreds of lists out there, whether it’s from respected entities, your personal opinion or The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, one thing we can all agree on is the fact that substance abuse and addiction are both devastating issues that we deal with every day, especially in Carroll County. So, as a community, let’s work together to ensure that our youth and families don’t take that road. We don’t want to be in a position to have to speak about our children one day, like Charlotte Wethington did and still does today – based on the destructive decision her son made to abuse heroin. We can stop this epidemic; we can all be Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County and make strides to diminish substance abuse. Whether it’s being an advocate for Casey’s Law like Charlotte, becoming a member of Champions to ensure prevention and education or simply being more involved as a parent or leader, one by one we can make a difference.


Hayley Franklin is coordinator of Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County.