MURPHYSBORO — “What kind of friends do you want in your life?” Detective Chris Coyne asked students Tuesday morning at Murphysboro Middle School. “The answer to this question can literally determine the course of the rest of your life.”
Coyne, a Metro East police officer and former Troy police officer, and Kari Karidis, Ph.D. and principal in Collinsville, visited the school Tuesday morning to talk about opioid addiction, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro. Coyne and Karidis are members of Bost’s opioid task force. Coyne talked about opioid-related deaths in Madison County. The county had 24 deaths in 2013 and 26 in 2014. In 2015, 44 total, but Coyne said half of them were from Sept. 1 through December. The number jumped again to 92 in 2017, then to an all-time high of 109 in 2018.
On Jan. 12, 2011, Coyne and his partner received a call of an unresponsive 17-year-old female named Shannon. He walked down into a room on the lower level of a split-level home to where Shannon was. The first thing he noticed is the room was very clean.
“All I know is I have an unresponsive 17-year-old that I taught DARE to,” Coyne said.
While paramedics tried to save Shannon’s life, her parents showed up, but Coyne did not know who called them. He hadn’t. Her boyfriend had not been on the phone since he arrived.
After Shannon overdosed, her boyfriend cleaned the room and vacuumed the carpet before calling for help. He called her parents before help arrived.
Again he asked: “What kind of friends do you want?”
Zeke was cruising in a car with his friends. At some point, he became unresponsive and was not breathing. They took him out of the car and laid him in a front yard, where he died. Madison County Coroner Vicki Koerber told Coyne that he would have survived if he had been taken to the hospital.
Sometime later, Coyne was speaking at a school in Edwardsville. A young lady came to talk to him after the presentation. She was Zeke’s cousin. She told Coyne that the front yard where Zeke died was his own front yard. She asked why they didn’t knock on the door and get help for Zeke.
He ended his portion of the presentation by playing and audio recording of Melissa. The recording was made at the police department. She describes the pull of addiction, the attempts at rehab, and contracting Hepatitis C.
She gave students some advice. Never take that first step. Do not even try drugs.
“Drugs will put you three places: jail, institution or dead,” Melissa said in the tape.
For Kari Karidis, the opioid epidemic hits close to home. On Nov. 4, 2013, her son, Charles David “Chas” Karidis, lost his life to an opioid overdose. He was 23.
Karidis did not know her son had an addiction until she received a call from his friend. The friend was in rehab and saw signs that Chas was using opioids.
“Like other users, Chas was a master of deception,” Karidis said.
He was in and out of rehab from April through August. Karidis thought things were better. Then, Chas was arrested Oct. 6, 2013. He was convicted in drug court, but there were no beds available for inpatient drug rehab. He was released Oct. 13 to an “intensive day program.” On Nov. 4, 2013, he died of an overdose.
“I want to scare you. I want you to be afraid,” Karidis said. “My son was no different than any of you. He had hopes. He had dreams. He had ambitions.”
She continued by saying she was proud of him. He fought hard. She called addiction a struggle not many people win.
“Addiction is not a choice. It is a disease. You don’t choose it. It chooses you,” Karidis said.
Bost told the students he sat in this auditorium many times as a freshman and sophomore in high school. He talked about the SUPPORT Act, a comprehensive measure designed to address overprescribing and abuse of opioids in the United States. It was passed and signed in 2017.
“I’m so sorry at the age you are you have to face these problems. In a perfect world that wouldn’t happen,” Bost said. “It doesn’t matter your gender, race, how much money your parents have or where you live. This can affect you,” Bost said.