Pubdate: Fri, 27 Nov 2009
Source: Detroit News (MI)
Copyright: 2009 The Detroit News
Author: Valerie Olander, The Detroit News
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Hamburg Township --Ryann Anderson's young life as a drug addict ended
not on a squalid urban street, but in a rented house in a rural
Livingston County hamlet better known for quiet lakes than quick highs.

It wasn't an isolated tragedy.

Just three months after the 25-year-old former cheerleader was found
dead last November in the run-down house on Sheldon Road, police were
called to the same address under similar circumstances. Paul Anthony
Chester, 55, died the same way: alone, in his room, of a heroin overdose.

The two fatalities -- as well as an increase in heroin possession and
other drug-related crimes -- caught officials' attention.

Hamburg Township Police Chief Steve Luciano, concerned about the spike
in drug activity in the small community, sought help from the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration and the Livingston and Washtenaw
Narcotics Enforcement Team. A seven-month undercover investigation
netted 43 arrests -- 16 of them in the Livingston County area,
authorities announced last month.

Residents of the rural community 50 miles west of Detroit said they
were shocked by the arrests.

"It's happening all over America," Luciano said. "When you think of
heroin, your first thought used to be that it's an inner-city
prostitution type drug, but that's the thinking of 30 years ago."

Authorities believe the increase in rural heroin use is being fed in
part by an ample supply of prescription opiates, such as those in
common painkillers like OxyContin. Those drugs serve as a gateway to
heroin, a more powerful opiate, experts say.

Patty Higgins, a social worker at nearby Pinckney Community High
School, said heroin users are now just as likely to be rural teenagers
in varsity jackets snorting the drug off CDs or DVDs for an instant

"These are kids coming from good families and broken families, kids in
sports," she said. "It's the very last person you would expect. It's
hitting a totally different population. It's not the street person in
the dark alley."

County leaders are trying to raise awareness of the

The Livingston Community Prevention Project, a collaboration of six
local substance abuse service organizations, kicked off a campaign
about a month ago to warn the public about the dangers of drugs by
buying billboard space on U.S. 23 and I-96.

Hamburg Township, with about 20,000 people, was particularly hard-hit.
Police responded to six heroin overdose deaths in 2007, nearly half of
the 14 overdose deaths reported in the entire county by the Drug Abuse
Warning Network, a national public health monitoring agency.

The trend continued in 2008 with two deaths and this year another two
overdose deaths associated with heroin use, Hamburg Police reported.

Wayne County had the most drug-related deaths in 2007 with 418;
Oakland County reported 150 and Macomb had 130, according to the drug

Higgins linked heroin's popularity to its glorification by pop stars
and rappers. It's trendy, accessible and cheap, she said.

"Parents are shocked when they find out their child has been using.
The first question they ask is, 'Where did they get the money?' "
Higgins said.

"I ask them, 'Have you ever given them $5 or $10 thinking they're
going to McDonald's?' " she said.

Suburban teens are more likely to snort or smoke the drug than inject
heroin, officials say. Higgins warns parents to be on the lookout for
burned spoons, tinfoil and CDs and DVDs with a white or brownish residue.

Mary Anderson of Brighton Township described her daughter, Ryann, a
former Brighton High School cheerleader, as a good student who earned
an associate degree at Washtenaw Technical Middle College. She went on
to Eastern Michigan University to study English, but didn't finish.

Ryann started using Vicodin she bought on the street from people she
knew, Mary said. The habit morphed into heroin use.

Ryann spent two months in substance-abuse treatment facilities,
including nearby Brighton Hospital, but was unable to kick the
addiction. On Nov. 13, 2008, Ryann went out on her own for the first
time since seeking treatment. She was looking for a job. She never
came home.

Ryann was found dead in the bed of a parolee she had visited by the
79-year-old man who owned the home on Sheldon Road, according to
police reports. The homeowner told police he didn't know who she was.

Police reports state the parolee, 56, told officers he had left at 5
a.m. that day to go to work and that Ryann was alive and sleeping. He
was not charged in her death.

Police found a shoebox in the closet of the room where Ryann died
containing a mirror with white powder residue and razor blades.
Similar residue was found on a spoon next to Paul Chester when police
were called to the same home Feb. 20, officials said.

Chester's relatives could not be reached for comment. The police
report stated his sister said he had been struggling with a heroin
addiction since he was 18. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D