Newsahwk:  The Dallas Morning News
Contact: The new heroin 
Overdoses mean tragedy for families 

Milan Malina, 20, overdosed on heroin surrounded by friends who watched 
him die. He languished for hours, semiconscious, vomiting, feverish, 
lungs filling with fluid. His companions finally took him to a Plano 
hospital after he stopped breathing.

Doctors could do nothing.

Milan had been motionless so long, lying on one side, that his blood had 
pooled on that side of his body, said his father, George Malina.

"When we got there, he was blue on one side and blue in the face," Mr. 
Malina said.

The Malina's grief for their son washes over them in waves. His friends' 
lack of action disturbs them almost as much as his death.

"It scares us," Mr. Malina said. "The shock was that your friends could 
be around you and let you die  and not get you any help."

As they cope with their sorrow, the Malinas want to warn other families 
about heroin: it can strike anywhere. Even the security gates around 
their Bent Tree condominium couldn't keep them safe. Parents, schools, 
police, churches and other community institutions in wealthy areas often 
don't know or deny widespread drug use among their children. They can no 
longer afford to think of heroin as a vice of the inner cities, of 
minorities, of the poor.

It isn't.

"Part of the problem is this total denial with families," said Linda 
Sharp, whose 17yearold daughter fatally overdosed on heroin in March. 
"It was given to my daughter. It's cheap, it's readily available, and 
it's deadly. Everybody knows about it except the parents."

Milan Malina died June 8, becoming the fourth fatal heroin overdose in 
Plano since New Year's Eve. He was the youngest of three sons, with a 
stocky build and dark brown eyes. His father, a business consultant, 
frequently traveled internationally. Mr. and Mrs. Malina have been 
married almost 30 years.

Milan was a sweet boy who mediated quarrels among friends. "Milan loved 
Luciano Pavarotti," said his mother, Joann Malina. She wears her son's 
photograph in a heavy silver locket around her neck. "I used to play 
that in his crib to lull him to sleep."

He apparently began using drugs in his midteens. He withdrew from his 
family, dropped out of school, lost all ambition. Not every drug user 
shows such obvious symptoms, his mother noted. Many of his drugusing 
friends stayed in school and made good grades.

"They could function," Mrs. Malina said. "Milan couldn't."

He finally went straight a couple months ago, after being arrested in 
California. He quit drugs, lived with his brother, attended Alcoholics 
Anonymous meetings, began seeing a counselor. His family said he hugged 
them when he came into the house. He worked out with his mother, went to 
Mass and vowed to make A's when he reenrolled in college.

"God had blessed us, in retrospect, with two months of absolute 
pleasure," Mr. Malina said. "He was clean and happy."

But at the same time, Mr. Malina said, Milan fretted to a friend in 
California that his buddies in Texas didn't like him now that he was 
sober. He apparently couldn't resist the pull.

Driven by their losses, both the Malinas and Ms. Sharp have begun 
exploring the young, affluent subculture in which their children lived.

They've jettisoned the stereotype of heroin addicts as emaciated, 
shuffling junkies in the inner cities. Drug dealers now find an almost 
perfect market in uppermiddle class neighborhoods. The young people 
have money to buy drugs; they have cars; they're sophisticated and 
blase; and the social pressure to use drugs is enormous. They aren't 
arrested because they don't buy or do drugs out on the street, where 
police could easily spot them. A call to a beeper brings a delivery.

Mr. Malina and Ms. Sharp said they're shocked at the drug use among 
their children's friends, many of whom attended a Christian academy, 
where teenagers are supposed to be insulated from such things. And 
they're horrified by the young people's unwillingness to call for help 
when someone overdoses.

Ms. Sharp's daughter, Cathy, didn't overdose alone. Cathy had just 
finished drug treatment in Austin when she went with two friends to buy 
heroin. Cathy was reluctant to use a needle, so one of her companions 
offered to inject it in her, said Williamson County Prosecutor John 
Bradley. She reacted badly, stopped breathing, and her companions 
revived her. She begged them not to take her to a hospital because her 
parents would be angry. Her friends took her to her father's house in 
Austin. Her father found her dead on her bed the next morning, Mr. 
Bradley said.

"This code of silence the kids have  you don't narc on friends, you 
don't rat on friends," Ms. Sharp said. "So great, you let your friends 
die? They're afraid of ruining friendships."

In an unusual move, the prosecutor was able to charge one of her 
companions with criminally negligent homicide for helping her inject 
drugs. The young man pleaded guilty to the charge and awaits sentencing.

Collin County Medical Examiner William Rohr said the heroin deaths have 
established a troubling pattern.

"We didn't have our first death in Plano until New Year's Eve 1996," Dr. 
Rohr said. "Then all of the sudden, in five and a half months, there are 

The dead were 19, 20, 21 and 36. In three of four cases, the victims' 
lungs showed signs of bronchopneumonia, which develops after some sort 
of insult to the lungs  such as aspirating vomit. The condition usually 
takes at least four hours to develop, Dr. Rohr said.

"They lingered for a while," he said.

Long enough for their companions to have called for help.

After their son's death, Mr. and Mrs. Malina began challenging the 
status quo. The Malinas want hospitals to provide better written 
observations and evidence collection in suspected overdose deaths. They 
want parents to wake up and watch out.

The Malinas have started a nonprofit group, called the American Way of 
Life Foundation, that they hope will be as ubiquitous as Mothers Against 
Drunk Driving. They want to send volunteers to be with families at the 
hospital when a child overdoses. They want to convince kids to call for 
help when there's an overdose and they want young, former users to talk 
to other youths about the dangers of drugs. They want police and 
prosecutors to pursue charges against those who help overdose victims 
obtain drugs. They want to give meaning to their son's death.

The human losses from heroin are real and climbing. Parents need to know 
there is a heroin trend, and that the users may be just across the 
breakfast table or down the block in the $500,000 house.

For information about the American Way of Life Foundation, call (972) 
2486454. For drug treatment information, call the Greater Dallas 
Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse at (214) 5224999.

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