Pubdate: Fri, 05 Apr 2002
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2002, New Haven Register
Author: Peggy Schenk
Bookmark: (Drug Education)


OLD SAYBROOK -- Students at Old Saybrook High School sat in grim silence 
for nearly two hours on Wednesday as they heard the heartbreaking story of 
a mother who lost her son to an overdose of heroin.

While Ginger Katz of Norwalk, founder of the Courage to Speak Foundation 
Inc., related the tragic story, family photos of her son, Ian, a young man 
very much like those who attend Old Saybrook High School, were passed 
around through the assembly.

Later in the evening, Katz delivered her message to parents and others in 
the community during a program jointly sponsored by Youth and Family 
Services and other community organizations. Since her son's death, Katz has 
been taking her message of warning against drug use to students and parents 
throughout Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere.

"Ian died in his sleep of a heroin overdose" on Sept. 10, 1996, Katz said. 
"He was bright, handsome, athletic and popular. If this could happen to 
him, it could happen to anyone. He had an addiction to a disease, and while 
he was alive, he was in denial.

"There are 15,000 deaths a year because of substance-abuse overdoses. It's 
a major thing in our society today," she said. "Young people don't think 
there's a danger involved, but there is."

Katz said her son's addiction began as early as middle school, when at 13 
he started to "smoke a little weed and drink a little beer," things she 
learned from Ian's friends after his death.

Throughout high school, Katz suspected her son was using drugs and sought 
help for him through doctors and counseling. It was while he was at the 
University of Hartford that a dealer gave him heroin and he quickly became 

Katz warned that dealers try to get kids hooked on drugs to feed their 

"Dealers make it easy, and sometime kids get addicted," she said.

"I never felt so powerless," she said of her attempts to help Ian recover 
from his addiction.

"Kids, some of you will not do drugs, some of you will. Some will get 
addicted. If you get addicted, your parents can't help you," she said. 
"These are choices you have to make. You don't know if you are going to be 
addicted." "How do we escape?" asked one student during a 
question-and-answer session. "It's all around us.

What do you do if you have friends who use and you want to stay clean?"

"Run with people who don't use," Katz answered.

She advised students to find three to five adults they feel they can talk 
to. Adults "have life experiences.

When you have a problem or when you see a friend in trouble have the 
courage to speak," she said.

"There are kids who have everything and still use drugs," another student 
said. "A lot of people do it who don't have problems."

Katz agreed, saying that Ian had a good life, but "drugs are in the 
culture. You are going to be exposed to this."

She told students to "find something that you love to do. Develop a passion 
in your life and avoid unfortunate decisions. I understand the struggles 
you have. I never thought this would happen to our family."

Principal Scott Schoonmaker told students to reflect on what they had heard 
"by yourself. If you felt a pit in your stomach today, have a long talk 
with yourself, then have the courage to talk to someone about it," he said.
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