Mark Rudolph's son Ryan started with prescription drugs.
That evolved into heroin use, leading to a phone call received by Ryan's mother.
“This is not a joke. We're sorry. There was nothing we could do. Your boy is dead and you can find his body between St. Jean and Conner, East Warren and Mack,” the voice said. The Rudolphs received that phone call Oct. 20, 2007.
Ryan had been released from jail a day early due to overcrowding and was scheduled to attend a court-ordered rehabilitation for 14 months, but wanted to do heroin one more time, Mark Rudolph said of his son.
“We don't know what was going on in his mind,” Rudolph said.
Rudolph discussed his son's death with parents and attendees at “What You Don't Know Can Hurt You: An Update on Synthetic Drugs” Monday night at North Farmington High School. This free parent and student forum was co-hosted by North Farmington High School PTSA, Dunckel Middle School PTSA, Farmington High School PTSA and Harrison High School PTSA.
Rudolph said many kids start using prescription drugs stolen from a relative, like Ryan did, then progress into the harder drugs, like heroin. Rudolph has created an organization and is executive director of Families Against Narcotics and established a website at promise2ryan.com, dedicated to the memory of his son and aimed at families to educate them about drug use in children.
Law enforcement officials said that K2 and Spice synthetic drug use has calmed down since legislation was approved earlier this year. Robert Schulz, director of public safety for Farmington, said prescription drugs are the “biggest issue” in terms of drug use among young people. Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck Nebus cited the horrific impacts of synthetic drugs in the murder of Robert Cipriano. An attorney for Tucker Cipriano, accused of killing his father, said Tucker was under the influence of synthetic drugs.
Nebus said that incidents involving synthetic drugs, which were up in May or June, “fell off” for police when the synthetic drugs were banned and removed from store shelves. But manufacturers still can spray a different chemical on the synthetic drugs and market it.
Nebus believes that Internet information often gives the impression that marijuana use is harmless.
“If you are a parent and you are Googling ‘marijuana,' you will find out a lot of information that says marijuana is OK,” he said. Many groups are pushing for the legalization of marijuana. “They all want you to sign up for information and to send them money.” Nebus said the 63 percent of Michigan voters who approved medical marijuana use two years ago found that “it didn't turn out like they thought it would.”
Prescription drug use
Nebus said more people die from prescription drugs than from heroin and cocaine in the United States. “Prescription drug fatalities doubled between 2000 and 2008,” he said.
But Nebus also sees some good things in the war on drugs. High school students are half as likely to use marijuana as they did in 1978 and overall drug use is down 24 percent in the last decade. “Ninety-one percent of society doesn't use drugs,” he said.
Dr. Sanford Vieder, chairman and medical director of the Emergency Trauma Center at Botsford Hospital, said prescription drug use occurs at “bowl parties” where kids take a prescription drug from their home, bring it and place it in bowl with other pills brought by other kids. Combine heart pressure pills, cardio or painkillers with alcohol, and the dangers increase, Vieder said. And doctors are left in a quandary on how to treat patients in an emergency room when they don't know what they've ingested, he said.
“You rarely ever know what has been taken,” Vieder said. “Often it's guesswork on what has been taken.”
What is called synthetic marijuana is not marijuana at all, Vieder said. “This stuff makes people psychotic; it makes them crazy,” he said.
Vieder also told parents to stay connected through verbal and face-to-face conversations. “We do so much in our lives that we think we are connected,” he said, citing iPhones and text messages as a means of communication between parents and children. “Talk to them, talk to them, talk to them and don't stop talking to them. It can't be by text messages and email.”
John Cotter, a psychologist, said parents can learn the signs of drug use. They should look for declining grades, secrecy of possessions, shutting down accessibility and whispers in conversations with friends. “There is nobody who knows your kids like you do,” he said. “You have to trust your judgment and pay attention.
When things don't seem right, “trust your judgment and investigate,” Cotter said.
Rudolph also brought a 23-year-old woman identified as “Sara.” She spoke to the audience of a best friend who died of a drug overdose. She spoke of her younger sister, who was asked by the older brother of a friend when she was only 12 years old if she wanted to shoot up. Seeing people die of drug overdoses made her change her thought processes.
She encouraged a close friend to go to rehab. “She slowly cut off all the contact we had, but I wanted to help her, open my arms and give her unconditional love,” Sara said. “I was there for her. I was very fortunate because I believe I helped her. I learned not to judge anyone and it helped me make better decisions.”
Narcotics Anonymous can help addicts, she said.
Students told to ‘tell someone'
Panelists spent several minutes answering questions from the audience. Rudolph responded to a student's question about how to help a drug user. “If you know someone you trust, tell someone,” Rudolph said. “Tell someone you trust and try to hand it off.”
Schulz said their are excellent social workers at the high schools.
Karen Bonnano, a volunteer with Livonia Save Our Youth, suggested that parents host safe activities at home for their children and friends. On Friday nights after basketball games, the Bonnanos hosted their son's basketball team, parents and their children's friends for a spaghetti dinner at their home, which evolved into what was eventually tagged the “Spaghet-together.”
Afterward, parents and students appreciated the messages brought that evening. “It was a good program, but there were not enough attendees,” said Tracey Allen of Farmington Hills. She brought her son, Brad Schwartz, an 11th-grader at North Farmington. Brad said the program was interesting, but what struck him was the story related by Rudolph and the phone message that his son was dead.
“It's crazy to even hear that, to think that that would happen, that he was found dead in Detroit,” Brad said.
James and Tiffany Weekley of Farmington Hills also attended. “I loved hearing the perspective of parents who are involved with their children and the questions of who, what and where,” James Weekley said. One panelist suggested parents ask who their children are with, what are they doing and where are they.
Weekley said their children are active in sports. “We're firm believers that idle minds create the wrong kids of opportunities,” he said. “We try to keep them busy with their activities.”
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