Warnings went out about the deadliness of the heroin/fentanyl combo with the hopes users would stop or watch what they shot into their veins. But, Pettigrew said, in the drug world that information could have had a dangerous effect.
“When there are clusters of overdoses like that, it can actually draw heroin users to the areas involved,” Pettigrew said. “The users are looking for that drug because they think the overdoses and deaths came from user error. They think the people died because they didn’t know how to use the heroin properly. But they think they can.”
Pettigrew said the fight to keep heroin out of local communities starts at home and in schools.
He credited Newburyport police Marshal Tom Howard and Newburyport Youth Services officials for bringing in former basketball star Chris Herren to speak with students and parents at Newburyport High School recently. An outstanding basketball guard from his high school days in Fall River, Herren eventually played for the Celtics, but lost everything to the addiction he chronicles in his book, “Basketball Junkie.”
Beginning by using prescription drugs like Oxycontin, vicodin and percocet, by 2004 he was arrested for possession of heroin in a Rhode Island Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. Herren ended up overdosing on heroin and crashing his car in Fall River, where, according to emergency responders, he’d been dead for 30 seconds.
Pettigrew said Herren’s message was well received by students and parents.
“I was thrilled so many people came to the evening session,” Pettigrew said. “The auditorium at the school was filled to capacity.”
But keeping drug abuse at bay doesn’t happen from a single event, he said. Parents must begin a dialogue against substance abuse with their children in ways they can understand as soon as kids are able to understand, he said.