Today, opioid addiction is a growing epidemic that is taking the lives of many people. In order to educate the community on this drug, a panel of experts gathered on March 15th in Lansing.
Among these panelists was a father, Mike Hirst, who lost his son from a heroin overdose in 2010.
Mike Hirst made it his mission to educate others on opiate abuse and offer his support.
“After I saw the pain and the anguish he went through, and many of his friends went through; I had a moral responsibility,” said Hirst.
Mike said his sons addiction was the last thing on his radar. Andy was a nice kid from Jackson with lots of friends who had everything going for him.
Andy started using oxycontin prescription drugs for two years and soon escalated into a full blown heroin addict after getting bored of prescription drugs.
“Vicodin, narcos, percocet, oxycontin, heroin; there all from the same source,” said Hirst.
All of these are from a family of drugs called opiates.
“You can’t take a day off from opioid addiction,” Hirst said.
Mike said for most addicts every day involves getting the drug and finding the money to get to their dealer.
“Because without it the dopamine levels drop, said Hirst. “They feel like you feel and I feel when we first wake up in the morning.”
Michigan State Police Lieutenant Lisa Gee Cram heads a drug enforcement team in Jackson County.
“It’s a very profitable business,” said Cram. “They don’t care that they’re killing people and it doesn’t matter.”
She said a gram of heroin is running for about 150 dollars on the streets.
Many people have the perception that a heroin addict is going to look different than everyone else.
“They look just like me and you,” Hirst said.
Mike said that people are often afraid to speak out when they know someone is using.
“He’s only going to be mad at you until he realizes that you just saved his life.” Hirst said.
The crowd was very emotional after hearing Mike’s story and realizing how common this addiction is.
“….(crying) Sorry, I have kids and were just starting this conversation.”
Mike encouraged the public to get engaged and continue to talk about this addiction for as long as this epidemic continues.