Monday, April 4, 2016

The ANDY Project

For those familiar with my war against Heroin and other potentially fatal drugs left in the hands of the addict, the experimental user, the peer pressured teen, or simply, the uninformed,  I have decided to refocus my efforts.  Why?  This post will highlight those very reasons.

The ANDY Project stands for Avoiding Narcotic Deaths in our Youth and it is in its preliminary stages.  First of all, I will attempt to list as many influencing factors as I can that helped spark this new approach.  Secondly, I will describe how I intend to launch this project to our youth, parents, and educators.

My son died of what the coroner chose to phrase as an accidental drug overdose on January 16, 2004.  The accidental term is gut-wrenching to me.  It can bring so many things to mind.  "Andy didn't intend to die".  "He didn't know how much his poor body could withstand."  "He had no tolerance to the drug."  I could go on and on but even after all of these years, putting myself in that very moment is still driving a knife through my heart.

I bring up the year of his death for several reasons.

1) Eleven years ago, heroin was not a drug discussed in the suburbs.  "My child?  Heavens no!" Having watched Downton Abbey certainly highlighted the arrogance that existed between the inhabitants living below and above.  And as it existed then, I find that it exists to a greater extent now. The dismissal of parents to the likelihood that  their  child, living in either a middle class or upper class environment, would even touch "the stuff"  (i.e., pain killers, opiates, heroin) is part of the primary problem.

We knew the name of the drug dealer.  We knew that he sold to students in 9 suburban high schools and the 4 private schools in Shaker Heights and Hunting Valley.   I sent letters to all of the principals in an attempt to talk to the students, the teachers the parents.   After all,  my husband and I are Psychiatrists and we  talked openly to Andy and our other children about alcohol and marijuana.  We, too, were oblivious to the reality that Heroin was alive and well and killing our beautiful children here in the "safety" of the suburbs.  I wanted to bring the reality of Andy's death to the forefront.  I wanted to give warning that Heroin hides in the shadows of every community.  I wanted to discuss "red flags"

My own son's alma mater would not grant an assembly.  My gratitude to Universtiy School and Orange High School for acknowledging the Heroin epidemic.  Otherwise, Cuyahoga County was not receptive to the Andy Foundation or bother to extend an invite to any of my requests.  Even the county prosecutor would not take our case to court as he thought he might lose. (We were attempting to hold the drug dealer accountable for Andy's death).

It was the brave efforts and brilliant writing of Joanna Connors that brought our story to life.  Her 7 part series, Andy's Last Secret", appeared in the Plain Dealer on Mother's Day, 2005.  It can still be accessed on the website,

2)  The statistics of Heroin deaths have escalated since Andy's death despite efforts from local celebrities and community awareness programs.  As of 2007, Heroin deaths  outnumbered motor vehicle accidents in Cuyahoga County.  And in the state of Ohio, and estimated 4 people will die of a drug overdose today.  Why?

People are still in denial.  Drugs are also more accessible and lethal.  The drug cartel is now offering a heroin product mixed with Fentanyl.  The potency it far greater and their hopes in getting users hooked quickly is actually resulting in more fatalities.

3) On January 25, 2016,  I became trained in over-dose risk, prevention, and nasal Narcan administration by the Cuyahoga County Project Dawn.

First of all, Dawn was a young woman who lost her life to a heroin overdose.  Her story is narrated by her mother in the beginning of a powerful video that describes Project Dawn - Deaths Avoided With Naloxone.  In the video, the viewer is introduced to Naloxone (also known as Narcan), signs of an Opioid Overdose, how to respond to a suspected overdose, and the administration of intranasal naloxone.  It is an invaluable educational tool.

As a result of the above influencing factors, I am developing The Andy Project.  It is in the early stages, but I plan on further developing a video that includes my previous efforts combined with these newer approaches.  The video and access to nasal naloxone should be in the hands of every teen, parent, educator, and addict.

I am well aware of the criticism that may arise from this new approach to the Heroin Epidemic.  Initially I reacted negatively to the clean needle exchange that was offered to IV drug users to reduce the risk of HIV and AIDS.  Was it successful?  Yes.

I cannot fight the drug cartel.  I cannot prosecute drug dealers because as quickly as one is removed another is taking his or her place.  Actually, anyone who is brave or stupid enough to attempt this is just drawing a target on their back as well as jeopardizing the lives of loved ones.

I equate it to this.  Heroin is the water behind a great dam.  The rising water and the growing strength in its current is the drug cartel The dam, or the efforts to decrease it's flow or death from heroin, is as strong as its reinforcement.  The holes that develop in the dam are the drug dealers.  We put our finger in one hole to prevent the increasing jeopardy to the dam and another hole arises.  To date, efforts to bring this epidemic to the public's knowledge have done little or nothing to decrease the rising waters and the numerous holes in the dam.

Acknowledge that heroin is in your backyard.   That there may be a flood in your very home.  Why not have the ability to prevent that water from  rising or those holes from causing the drowning of a loved one.   Nasal Naloxone could be that life jacket, that life saver.

I am hoping to reach all of my friends in Ohio and elsewhere.  And I hope that you will share this blog.

I will keep everyone updated on the release of the video.  Thank you all for your support.

Andy's Mom, Elaine