IN Shaler Summer 2017 - Page 37

The process of making heroin can cause as many as 40 different impu- rities including the following opiates: codeine, morphine, papaverine, nos- capine and thebaine. First-time users do not understand the consequences. Someone may just want to try it. A “friend” may say, “Give it a try; I’m still here.” Let this be crystal clear—it changes brain chemistry. Those changes can lead to instant addiction. Many people who try her- oin for the first time are victims of an overdose. Since there is no way to tell the purity and concentration of heroin, once is all it can take. If you notice any of the following signs, someone you love may be ad- dicted to heroin. This is by no means a complete list but here are some telltale clues: • A persistent and hacking cough • Sudden weight loss • A loss of appetite or no interest in eating • Dry mouth • Extremely small pupils • Poor school or work performance • Slow or uncoordinated movement • Sleeping a lot • Apathy • Having hostility toward other people • Lying • Missing prescription pills (especially of an opiate variety) • Missing money or valuable possessions • Asking to borrow money often • Rolled up dollar bills (for snorting) • Razor blades, IDs and credit cards which have powder resi- due on them (signs of snorting) • Finding small paper bags that look like candy or gum wrap- pers • Use of slang terms or code language Recently while doing some outside work at the funeral home, I heard a commotion in the driveway of the Shaler Plaza. There was a young man passed out in his car in the middle of the inter- section. The car was running and in gear. His head was back with his mouth open, eyes rolled back and unconscious. The car was locked. A passer-by broke a window and unlocked the doors. The car was put into park and shut off. The police came and adminis- tered Narcan and he was taken to the hospital. He was not from Allegheny County. He would be charged with DUI. The sad part was seeing an empty child car seat in the back. Small thanks for that. There have been too many stories in the news about people overdosing while children are in the car. THE EPIDEMIC IS HERE The Pittsburgh Post Gazette recently reported that more peo- ple charged with DUI are under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol. Many have both. Police and state attorneys general are trying to figure out how to effectively handle this situation. The police, elected officials and local communities are having this conversation by holding town hall meetings. People realize that denying the problem will not make it go away. Sitting in an arrangement confer- ence with a family who is dealing with an overdose death is heartbreaking. Additionally, even as fresh in their mind as the death is, in many cases they have already guessed when things started. I have heard statements like, “I should have known when…” or “I never thought it was this bad,” or “I thought it was just a phase.” I am heartened by families who have stated in the obituary that the person who died was the victim of an over- dose, in hopes of preventing another family from having to go through the same personal horror. Their strength to get the story out about the dangers of heroin is important. Talking about heroin addiction is hard to do. Please educate yourself about the signs of addiction. Family members have found small pieces of paper in a loved one’s pocket and think that it is a candy or gum wrapper. Those pieces of paper can be empty heroin bags. HOW TO HELP First of a ll, time is of the utmost importance. Since heroin ad- diction is so dangerous, do not wait to discuss the issue with the user. Early intervention may change the course. Be compassion- ate but steadfast that the situation and his/her behavior need to change immediately. Find a rehab facility and get the person there at that moment if you can. There are many sources of help for opioid addiction, such as: •, which offers basic facts, where to get naloxone and links to 72 treatment centers in Allegheny County on the Pennsyl- vania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs site ( • • There are many more sources. The toll of drugs is anguish, recrimination and the emptiness of so many unanswered ques- tions as told by shocked and confused parents, a young widow with babies and a heart ripped out from grief, and siblings won- dering if there was anything they could have done. If you are addicted, please get help. If someone you love is addicted, talk with that person and try to get him/her into rehab. A life saved is worth the effort. This Industry Insight was written by Frank Perman, FD, Supervisor, CFSP, CPC, CCO, CFC. He is the owner of Perman Funeral Home and Cremation Services Inc., 923 Saxonburg Boulevard at Rt. 8 in Shaler Township. Mr. Perman believes an educated consumer makes the most personal, affordable and memorable decisions. Inquiries may be made to him at 412.486.3600 or emailed to Shaler | Summer 2017 | 35