Jon Daily, who operates Recovery Happens Counseling Services in Davis and Fair Oaks, speaks to parents and teenagers Tuesday night at Davis High School. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy
From page A1 | October 15, 2014 |
When Jon Daily opened his substance abuse counseling office in Davis five years ago — in large part because he had so many Davis clients traveling regularly to his Fair Oaks office — oxycodone was the substance of choice among young people.

Daily, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in alcohol and drug counseling for adolescents and young adults, said about half of his clients were abusing the prescription drug at the time.

But shortly thereafter, in 2010, oxycodone was reformulated, making it harder to abuse, and oxycodone addicts had to look elsewhere, Daily said.

Heroin proved to be just the ticket: Easy enough to find, and at $20 per day for the typical habit — versus $250 per day for an oxycodone habit — it was even cheaper.

Daily could have predicted what was to come.

Fast-forward a few years, and heroin use among young people has increased significantly, prompting the Davis Police Department, the school district and Daily to hold a forum on Tuesday night to warn parents and students about the dangers.

The event — attended by about 100 parents, students, counselors and community members — painted a sobering picture of heroin use by young people in Davis, including six heroin overdose deaths in the past year.

Davis police Sgt. Ilya Bezuglov asked the Police Department’s youth intervention specialist, Trease Petersen, to organize the forum in the wake of not just those deaths, but also the sharp increase in all investigations involving heroin use.

Bezuglov said in his 15 years working in Davis, “I’d never seen what I’ve seen in the last two years.”

“Something very different is going on,” he said, “Unbelievable, astonishing heroin use.”

In 2014 alone, he said, 25 heroin-related cases have been investigated by police, up from seven in 2013 and just one in 2012. The offenses have included possession, sales and being under the influence of the drug, in addition to the overdose deaths, and those are only the cases the police have learned about. For every one incident they investigate, Bezuglov said, there are likely dozens more.

In years past, Bezuglov said, heroin dealers were bikers, heavily tattooed, in and out of prison, maybe homeless, and in their 30s or 40s.

“In the last two years,” he said, “I haven’t seen a dealer over 25, and I’ve seen them as young as 17 or 18.”

They go to school every day, earn 4.0 grade-point averages, play varsity sports and sell heroin.

“It became hip,” Bezuglov said. “They brag about it on Facebook and Instagram. I don’t know what happened.”

His colleague, Sgt. Trevor Edens, said, “It’s tough right now for cops.”

“Me being a narcotics guy, I used to spot them,” he said. “Now I see kids get arrested and it’s completely shocking.”

They are run-of-the-mill kids from good families and good homes, he said.

“I look at them and think, ‘Man, I would never think to investigate that kid.’ ”

But while the alarming increase in heroin use prompted Tuesday night’s forum, Daily and others urged parents to rein in any “substance bias” that would have them more alarmed over heroin than other substances young people are using.

Alcohol, Daily noted, remains “the killer of young people.”

And marijuana use has become more dangerous, simply because it is so much more potent than the marijuana of the 1970s and ’80s.

But the truth is, “Kids are not hooked on weed. They’re not hooked on heroin. They’re hooked on intoxication,” Daily said. “The name of the drug is an illusion.”

Daily’s goal is to create what he called a “paradigm shift”: That parents stop thinking of one substance as worse than another, and to treat the very first use by their child — the first use they become aware of, that is — as a call to action.

“Get them to see some kind of counselor that specializes in addiction the very first time they use,” he said. “That may be extreme, but that’s the paradigm shift I want to create.”

For one thing, he said, most kids have been using for a while before their parents figure it out.

And for another, he said, it’s a lot harder to treat someone who’s been using for years than someone who has used a few times.

And while there are kids who will experiment one time, and others who will use infrequently — and will stop using if they get caught — there are also those who will become abusers, using despite the consequences, and those who become chemically dependent, Daily said.

He urged all parents to be prepared.

“Every family should have a drug kit at home,” Dailey said, adding that testing kits can be purchased from the Police Department or his office for $5.

Ending the presentations on Tuesday evening was Davis High School head counselor Courtenay Tessler, who offered a very personal take on addiction, talking about her own family members and the toll addiction has taken on them, including the death of her son from a heart ailment caused by drug abuse.

“Addiction,” Tessler said, “is more powerful … than anything you have ever experienced.”

It depletes a family of so much, she said.

However, she added, “it is a brain disease. It is not a moral failure.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at or 530-747-8051.

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