December 19, 2012 - Brandon Twp.— Rotting teeth. Needles shot into destroyed veins. Burned spoons. Grieving parents holding photos of their deceased children. Gravestones.
These were the images that flashed upon two large screens in the darkened Brandon High School gymnasium Dec. 10 as several hundred students watched. Music from loud speakers filled the gym, including Eric Clapton's song, "Cocaine," and Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane."
The music suddenly cut off and the image of a beautiful blonde girl took over the screens as a 9-1-1 call could be heard. The woman on the phone is screaming, sobbing and incomprehensible at times as she describes to the operator how the 17-year-old girl is blue and lying on the floor. The operator asks if there is a pulse and then attempts to talk the woman through CPR. Through her hysteria, the woman can be heard saying the girl is cold. "Please, no," she cries. "Please Lord, no."
The 9-1-1 call and preceding images were the beginning of the "Chasing the Dragon" anti-drug presentation held at the high school. "Chasing the Dragon" is the term used for the high that heroin addicts are continually seeking after using the drug the first time. They never again will achieve that first-time high, and, as the presenters noted, their continued pursuit of it will be what ultimately kills them.
Sam Jawhari knows this tragic outcome first-hand. It was his daughter, Brionna, for whom the 9-1-1 call was made at the beginning of the presentation.
"When someone dies they take a piece of you with them," he told the students as he shared the story of his daughter's descent into heroin use that began with prescription drugs and marijuana and ended with her death on Feb. 14, 2011. "I lost the battle. I can't bring her back, but hopefully I can save one of you."
Two days after Brionna's death and the night before her funeral, her best friend Erika Schlosser died, also from a heroin overdose. Her father, Ron, of Fenton, spoke next at the presentation.
"If you think heroin users come from bad families and backgrounds, people who don't care, you're dead wrong," he said. "All I'm asking is you think very strongly about what you are going to do. These are kids just like you. Normal kids who made a bad decision. You're the future, don't screw it up."
Other presenters included a Genesee County Sheriff's deputy who shared how her sister was murdered by a drug dealer. The last presenter asked everyone in the gym to hold their breath. Seconds ticked by. At least half a minute passed before he told them to take in air again and explained that the drive the audience felt to breathe is the same drive to get their drugs that heroin addicts wake up to every day.
"When you chase the dragon, he wins," he said. "Crush the dragon. Make the decision today."
Talon Rudel, a BHS senior, said after the program that he has a cousin who is a heroin addict currently in rehabilitation.
"I think this presentation was very informative," he said. "Hopefully it makes an impact. The things I have seen and know firsthand from my cousin… I know it's not a road I want to go down."
Katelyn Jordan, a BHS sophomore, said she felt a lot of students who should have seen the presentation didn't, because they went home early.
"It was eye-opening," she said. "The parents got to me… They had to see their kids die and they shouldn't have to."
For more information on Chasing the Dragon, visit www.communityparent.org. Those seeking assistance to treat substance abuse can contact Brighton Center for Recovery at www.brightonhospital.org or call 1-877-9-SOBER-1.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville