Heroin Use and Suicide in Douglas County

Residents of Douglas County in Highlands Ranch, Colorado are struggling with an increase in suicides and deaths among teens and young adults. Authorities and parents to wonder if drugs - particularly, heroin - are to blame for the tragic losses.
Nina Fenton
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Some parents in Douglas County are looking for answers as they are left grief stricken by the suicides of their children in what many are calling a crisis brought on by drugs. The county in Highlands Ranch, Colorado has already had three teenager and young adult suicides this month, each of which are suspected to be drug related.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens and young adults in the state, with Colorado currently ranking as the seventh highest in the nation. There are many reasons those struggling with mental health feel suicide is the answer, but the many social stigmas attached to these issues makes it difficult for some to open up about their struggles and receive the help they need. As a result, many turn to dangerous street drugs, like heroin, as a way to soothe the mental anguish.

Drugs Increase Suicide Risk

“The drug abuse can cause depression. And I think these kids are getting into a cycle and they don’t know how to get out,” said a grieving Chris Lazarus who tragically lost his own son to a Speed Ball, a dangerous combination of cocaine and heroin, overdose in 2012.

Those at risk in Douglas County are falling victim to the appeal some substances offer as they struggle with the the pressures of school, home life, from peers and high incidents of bullying both online and in school. Those reasons alone are enough to grapple with, but the propensity of drugs being “glamorized” on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are suspected to play a role in the increased rate of drug use.

Former DEA forensics chemist, Lynn Riemer, spoke of the drug issue in Douglas County at a recent meeting, saying “Heroin is huge down here. And I think a lot of it has to do with affluence. Where you see more money, you see more drugs.”

If Riemer is correct about the heroin issue in the county, studies show that it can absolutely have an impact on the mental health of its users with a reported 48% having some history or depression. This powerful opiate is known for the hold it takes on its users as it manages to change the actual chemistry of the brain as it binds itself to opiate loving receptor cells.

Once this happens, those with depression quickly descend into a well of negativity, shame, guilt and sadness that can at times feel impossible to escape from. Significant changes in mood, suicidal tendencies and psychological dependence and addiction are soon to follow, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists study published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. These effects are a far cry from the high that is often experienced in non-depressive users, who usually feel mellow and euphoric.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide can be prevented, though. However, it does require education and involvement from parents, teachers, friends, law enforcement and health officials. Douglas County officials are working hard towards reducing the teen and young adult suicide rates by making resources readily available for those battling drug addiction and depression as well as those in a position to help them.

Lazarus says, “There’s no shame. And if we don’t stand up and talk about it and we don’t educate ourselves and don’t educate our kids it’s just going to continue to snowball. There’s no reason that we should be losing our children at a rate like this to drugs. It is a total battle. And we have some kind of appearance of being perfect – and we’re not. And our children aren’t.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and addiction, you’re not alone. There is help available, so please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-844-493-TALK (8255) and find out your drug testing options at our Drug and DNA Testing – Highlands Ranch, CO location.

WRITTEN BY

Nina works hard to be a voice to the voiceless whose stories about drug testing, DNA testing and paternity deserve to be told. It is her goal to always come from a place free of judgment and full of compassion.

WRITTEN BY

Nina works hard to be a voice to the voiceless whose stories about drug testing, DNA testing and paternity deserve to be told. It is her goal to always come from a place free of judgment and full of compassion.

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