Our four-day series on OxyContin and heroin addiction, “Wasted Youth,”
published March 25-28, generated more than 100 responses from readers.
Below is a sampling of what we received.

Speaking out is best for her daughter’s memory

  I am so very grateful to have been apart of something so powerful. I have to say, second to burying Shannah, this was a very difficult thing for me to get through. I had to relive everything over and over. I also have to say this was the best thing I could have done for Shannah’s memory. It has helped me find the peace I so wanted. I miss her everyday and always will, but I only hope her story has touched your hearts. She was a beautiful soul and now is my angel. I want to thank Steve Damish, Craig Murray and Maureen Boyle for the wonderful articles and pictures. You exceeded my expectations where I had doubt. You created hope for the future for all the families who are still suffering and need to join together and fight as soldiers.
Shannah Duggan’s mother

What is being done to get rid of OxyContin?

  The articles are informative, citing statistics, but do not answer one burning question I have. What is being done to pull OxyContin off the list of medications to treat pain? Are there any movements or list of names being collected to give to lawmakers who can stop pharmaceutical companies from producing OxyContin? If there are any movements, marches or lists of names being collected, I would like to know because I too have lost a dear friend to heroin recently.

Two brothers overtaken by heroin; one still lives

  First and foremost, I would like to thank The Enterprise and everyone who opened up their hearts and shared their life stories — some good, some bad. The best stories in my eyes are the ones where you beat your addiction and you fight that disease and don’t give up. I’m very happy and proud for anybody who has put this devil behind them, and has changed their life for the better. God bless you all. I lost my brother, my best friend, Nelson M. Peters Martinez, July 26, 2006, at the age of 35 due to a heroin overdose. He, like so many others, was in an ongoing battle with his addiction, in and out of detox, different programs, methadone clinic, Section 35. He carried this devil, this disease, with him for many years, off and on.
  To know the man that he was, you would never know he had the devil on his shoulder.
  He was a wonderful father, husband, uncle, brother, and son, a hard worker, businessman, loved to help others. You really couldn’t ask for a better person. He had three children he did everything with and I have three children and he did everything with them — until July 26, when I found him, closed in his storage unit, in Fall River. I will live with that day for the rest of my life. They had told me, when I arrived at the storage company, that he came in Monday morning but they never saw him leave. I got there Wednesday and that’s when I found him. He was gone, but he’ll never, never be forgotten. By the grace of God, one of my other brothers is currently in jail doing time. He also has the devil on his shoulder and he can’t seem to shake him. But I do thank God that he is where, he is. This disease has taken a toll on a big part of my family, like so many others. My prayers go out to everyone who has come in contact with this disease. Don’t give up on yourself; you owe it to yourself to live life to the fullest. Congrats to all those who are living a clean and sober life. Amen.

They don’t know heroin is at the end of the road

 As a substance abuse counselor, it is heartbreaking to read the stories of (and also to attempt to treat) high school students and young adults who have unknowingly started taking OxyContin and then moved on to heroin. I believe it is absolutely necessary to educate kids very early about the dangers of both drugs.
 Many patients I deal with had no idea that taking OxyContin would eventually lead to injecting heroin.
 It is in the nature of young people to believe they are immortal, but with heroin, there are no guarantees that you will live at all. I have worked with patients from every town on the South Shore including “upscale” towns such as Hanover, Hingham and Duxbury. OxyContin and heroin are everywhere.
 I am glad that The Enterprise and The Patriot Ledger are writing about this important subject. Hopefully, it will educate some people and help others to know that they can get well. It is a struggle, but it happens all the time, particularly if an addict is able to get treatment and is willing to become involved in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
 I respect those addicts in recovery who have shared their struggles and stories. My heart goes out to those who have lost a beloved son or daughter.
 Remember that there is help available and that people do get well.

It’s time to have a talk with her teenagers

 Thank you to The Enterprise staff for these stories. After weeping over the stories about Nick and Shannah, I realized that I need to sit with my four teens and explain the dangers of today's drugs. Not exactly the drugs we parents grew up with when we were teens. The numbers are mind-boggling. Who would have thought this was going on with our middle-class suburban teens? Thank you for bringing this ugly story to the surface and forcing us to confront the problem head on.

Friends from long ago end up as drug addicts

 I remember you and Pat back in Hancock Elementary School. I actually had a few classes with you. I am very shocked and heartbroken to hear what you guys have been through. I remember you guys being so carefree and loving. I'm am very proud of you both for making the effort to overcome your addiction. Honestly, by telling your story, you guys are doing something very important and I hope you guys realize that. Again, I am proud of you both and may God bless you.
 Thank you.

Once-talented friend is as good as dead now

 Great story. It's a shame the kids won't listen because they have the “can't happen to me” attitude. One of my childhood sweethearts is up in Massachusetts now, living in Plymouth and dying from Hepatitis C. Now he has cancer of the liver and will not be around much longer. He was a very talented guitarist and singer.
 He just got out of prison not long ago for robbing a bank due to his addiction. He stole money and jewelry from his mother to get money for his addiction, Now he is as good as dead. Part of me feels so badly for him, but the other part knows that nobody but him chose this route. Nobody held a gun to his head and made him do the drugs. I loved the “weed and speed” and fortunately I was never stupid enough to do anything more dangerous. I was never a follower, nor a leader. I did what I wanted to do and refused to do what I didn't want to do. If these kids of today are our future, God help us all.

Her children are reading about others’ tragedies

 Thank you for the four-day series, “Wasted Youth.” What a eye-opening series. While I am certainly aware of the crisis that our children face with drug addiction, you were able to put me inside the lives of these families that are struggling daily. It is almost beyond comprehension. My 17-year-old is now reading the series and I will then mail them to my daughter, who is away at college. It is a topic we talk of often. It is my biggest fear — ordinary and happy teenagers from caring and loving homes who made one mistake that would forever change their lives and those of their families.
  My thoughts and prayers are with these families. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with all of us.

Daughter is too young to learn the grieving process

 I think the four-day series on the overwhelming problem with heroin and OC is long overdue. I found the series to be on-point, powerfully written and well-received. Your articles show a more accurate profile of the drug addict — the pain, humiliation, desperation. Hopefully, it will give the loved ones of those afflicted a voice to speak up and not feel isolated, which we all know only compounds the issue. My daughter recently lost a good friend to a heroin overdose — her profile not unlike those depicted in your series. My daughter learned the grieving process at an all-too-young age of 18. It’s only been three months since this young girl’s passing, but the pain is still deep.

Stay relentless in reporting on drugs

 Thanks for bringing the South Shore up to speed on this epidemic that is destroying kids and their families. Please keep on this and be relentless in your reporting of this extremely important situation. Education needs to start in second grade, not fifth. By the fifth grade, a lot of addicts/alcoholics have already started. A lot of families on the South Shore want to keep this problem quiet because of the stigma, but by keeping quiet, kids are becoming addicted and/or dying in ridiculous numbers.

All students need to see Shannah’s story

 I am writing to applaud The Enterprise in helping to educate the public about the problem of drug addiction that our local teens are facing. I work as a school adjustment counselor at West Bridgewater High School and can relate to this article. I am increasingly concerned after reading the article and want to educate our students and parents more about this issue.
  I watched the slide shows and I am wondering if these are available on any other media besides the Internet? I would love to show Shannah’s story to our students.
 Thank you.

Friends don’t give drugs to friends

 The stories regarding the young adults struggling with addictions should be mandatory reading during class time with discussions starting at least at the junior high level, probably earlier. Children in today’s society just don’t seem to comprehend the dangers, no matter how much teaching and warning. To go to a party at supposedly a “friend’s” house where they are passing around pills for free — these are not your friends. They are called pushers. Friends watch out for each other — at least my friends always did. You need to find new friends. Where is common sense today? What happened to self-control and being able to say no? What about morals? If you go to a “friend’s” house and witness this, why would you want to stay, and why the compulsion to want to even try? Who was the person who put the pills to be passed around for free? Was that person ever arrested for being a pusher?
 Someone has to be held accountable. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions. Life can be hard, but trying to mask it is not the answer. It gets even harder, which is what the stories have shown. I commend those people who are struggling to overcome every day and I feel much sorrow for those families who have lost their loved ones. Just try to get a high on life. Hopefully, these stories will have an impact on the upcoming generation.

Believe in yourself and you won’t fail

 I would like to thank the Saba family for sharing their story. It is such a selfless act to share such an intimate experience with the public. I am so proud of Nick’s accomplishments. Keep believing in yourself and you will never fail.

Heroin strips us of all our self-worth

 Thank you so much to the courageous families and friends who shared their stories of tragedies and losses as a direct result of heroin. It was powerful, extremely deep and touching.
 I am a recovering heroin addict with almost 16 months clean. I owe it all to Narcotics Anonymous and the fellowship. I also owe it all to Jill Cairo, whom I believe is my guardian angel. When I found out Jill had overdosed and passed and left behind her precious little son, Liam, I couldn’t bear the thought of my twin daughters going to there own mother’s funeral, so it scared me deeply and I have been clean ever since.
 Heroin is the devil. It takes so much from us. I can identify with these stories of tragedies, losses and how it starts, with picking up a pain pill such as Percocet or Vicodin, then graduating to harder pills (OxcyContin). Then, once addicted to that, it becomes cheaper to get the heroin. In one of the articles, Shannah Duggan’s mother stated something that really hit the nail on the head. “That soon a life of order, love and promise mutated into one of chaos, misery and pain.” It strips us of all our self-worth.
 These stories will help so many people, whether they are addicts, not addicts, family members. They give people awareness on the epidemic of heroin used in young people as well as old, white or black; heroin does not discriminate. It is a deadly disease and has affected so many lives and families.
 Grateful and recovering.

She cries every day for the loss of her son

 Maureen Boyle, I would like to thank you and your co-workers for doing such a great job on this sad topic. Heroin addition is a disease. This state must recognize this fact and start to get these lost souls much needed help. Nobody picks heroin as a lifestyle; heroin takes you and brings you and your family straight to hell. I pray every day that my Todd is at peace; that’s the only way I can get through every day. Todd’s death has forever changed our family lives. I thank God for his son T.J. He is the only piece of Todd that I have left. I hope that this series has shown people how widespread this problem is. I cried reading all the stories and know just how these people feel. When you bury a child, they take a piece of you with them. I cry every day for the lost of my son, and my live is forever changed. It takes all my strength to get out of bed each day and go on with my life without the hope of Todd.

She’s almost powerless to help addicted brother

 I wanted to write and thank the editors at The Enterprise for their comprehensive examination of heroin and its growing presence on the South Shore and neighboring towns.
  I grew up in an affluent suburb of Boston, where my only exposure to heroin was in health class, and the only interventions I participated in were tearful affairs concerning underage drinking and athletic eligibility. However, more recently, my family has discovered that my youngest brother is addicted to heroin.
  The past few months have ripped my family apart, and the most frustrating part of the experience has been feeling so hopeless in the face of such an overwhelmingly frightening disease — that of opiate addiction. I’ve been through everything your excellent writers have detailed — the detox centers, emergency room visits, Section 35 discussions, interventions, relapses, overdoses, police involvement, court rooms, N.A. meetings, rehabs, halfway houses, and have been frustrated at almost every turn. I am sure I speak for almost everyone who loves an addict when I say that the most difficult part of watching my brother struggle to stay clean is knowing that I am powerless to stop him from using again.
  But I have also been inspired by the parents, case workers, counselors and even the call-center receptionists I have spoken to along the way. I have heard their words of encouragement and found hidden reserves of strength to continue supporting my brother and my family.
 Thank you, all of you.

Keeping a close eye on recovering addict son

 Nick was my son’s best friend. He had a good heart, he would always make you laugh. His death has taken a huge toll on my son, who is also a recovering addict. Between losing Nick and his ex girlfriend Shannah. I knew I had to keep him close. He went back to school and got his G.E.D. I just tell him that Nick and Shannah are watching over him, and that they would want him to do good in life. It’s just a shame that something so tragic has to happen for these kids to realize how bad these drugs are. My son is 2 1/2 years clean. But I still always have to keep a close watch for any changes in moods. Nick and Shannah are very much missed every day.

Addict needs rehab, not a prison cell

 I think it must have been very hard for the families to publish their stories. There are a lot of us that live this horrible nightmare. My brother became addicted to pills, mainly Oxys. This was at the end of his high school year. By the time he was 20, he was a full-blown heroin addict. He has been battling the addiction of pills and heroin ever since. On and off. He has stolen thousands from my parents and cost them thousands in court finds. He is the sweetest, most good-hearted person. But the drugs ( all starting with Oxys) turned him into a liar, thief and unproductive citizen. He has already been in jail once and is on his way back. It breaks my heart.
 And what hurts the most is, if we went to the court and said please help him and this is why, he would be thrown in jail, not rehab. There is nowhere for these kids to get help. My brother is now 23 and is no longer insured under my parents. And because he cannot keep a job, it is very hard to find a decent rehab for him to go into. My family has been dying inside for sometime now. Sometimes my mother and I wonder — it’s 11 degrees out, does he have a bed to sleep in? Or if the phone rings, is he in jail? Is he well? And I blame it on Oxys.

Sent South for rehab, her son came back sober

 We in LTC “Learn to Cope,” have been waiting a long time for this series to come out and it has been worth every minute of the wait.
  If the public doesn’t know and understand the extent of the problem and its devastating effects, they surely should now.
  Maureen Boyle’s article on the effects on the community is just what people need to hear. I know how easy it is to say, “Oh, that’s terrible but it’s not me” and go on with life. Once I knew about my son, I swear I saw addicts in the streets, on the corner making deals and, even worse, behind the wheel.
  The rising crime rate? All those bank robberies? Yep, drugs.
 Long term is the best answer we have so far. I sent my boy to Mississippi for nine months. It cost plenty, but not nearly as much as other facilities. Today, he is more than two years sober and, God willing, will continue.
 We should be able to set up more long term in this state, where they move from one phase to another without having to leave and hang around waiting for a non-existent spot in the next program.
  I don’t live in The Enterprise readership area, but I do have a tragic connection. My oldest son was killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver while riding a bike on Chestnut Street in Abington, on July 9, 20006.
  By the way, the driver is out on high bail and with his driver’s license intact. God help us all.

Survivors should tell their stories in school

 Thank you very much for helping people be aware of the consequences of drugs at school. All they show at school is what drugs are and say, “don’t do them.” They tell you people die from it, but in most of the movies we watch, the people live and get help. I’m in the sixth grade and peer pressure can be terrible you never know whom to trust. Maybe the survivors or parents of addicts could go around to schools to help tell their stories. I think that would help.
 Thank you.

Heroin is the devil and won’t let you go

 Thank you for the great work on the wasted youth page. Todd Gilmore was my 15-year-old’s father. I spent 10 years of my life with him and another six trying to save him. The drug not only destroys these great people but their families, too. And no, they are not dirt bags. If you knew Todd, you would never have known he was a user. We are so saddened; we knew his life would probably come to a tragic end, but not alone on the cold railroad tracks. He was my best friend. I just hope that someone will benefit from the stories. Heroin is the devil and it grabs a hold of you and if you let it, it will kill you. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I know and I’ve never even used the drug. Thank you for the articles.

Finally, a report on heroin use in the area

 Thanks to The Enterprise.
  The Brockton area had a massive epidemic of heroin use in the mid-1970s but it was never well reported. This is outstanding journalism.
 Thank you.

This could have been her daughter's story

 An absolutely wonderful article, I cried as I read it. I am a Learn to Cope member from the beginning and my daughter at this time has been sober for almost two years, but this story could of been her story. She got lucky.

Warmth and love poured in from people

 Dear Maureen Boyle, Craig Murray and Steve Damish: Thanking you for the amount of work, research, and reporting of this serious epidemic would just be a very small way to show our gratitude in the manner you presented this problem to the public. The calls and e-mails to us were way beyond our expectations and, in them, you could just feel the love and warmth people were trying to emit to us. More so, you could hear the “thank you” in their voices and messages — almost a sigh of relief that this problem was finally being addressed and, maybe, something could be done.
 Maureen and Craig, when you came over to our home, we had concerns on what you were going to do with all the information you were gathering.
  We also wondered if the other people you were speaking with were as open as us, and if they had the same concerns we had. With this fantastic series, those concerns became mute. All we wanted, as our daughter would have wanted, was that this info would be presented in such a way that “it would help just one person” from going the route of many others. We really feel that your series probably helped many more. What a good feeling that is.
 Once again, thank you for presenting, so professionally, the story of our Jill and all the other good people who succumbed to this dreaded devil. God be with you.

She hates what and who the drug makes brother

 I just wanted to thank all you guys who researched the stories. As the younger sister of a heroin addict it just helped me to realize I'm not the only one out there going through this. My older brother has been addicted for at least the past five years. He, like the rest, started out doing Oxys, then had to move up to heroin. He’s OD only once that we know of and that was in the middle of our family’s Thanksgiving. My older sister and I found him blue on the bathroom floor. We had to give him CPR and chest compressions until he finally started breathing again — and yes he’s still using. The thing that I still can’t seem to get over is the anger I feel toward him for what he’s doing. I feel like I'm the addict. I think that families like mine with addicts in them — everyone turns into an addict. By that I mean we have to deal with the police coming by, looking for them, people hearing your name and going, “Oh you’re so and so’s sister” — while the real addict just enjoys the high while it last and doesn’t care what people think or say.
  Don’t get me wrong I love my brother and want him back, but I hate what and who the drug makes him. Sorry to ramble on and on; this is just a subject that hits very close to home for me. Thank you again.