To the Editor,
In his May 8th column, “A mother’s request for justice after daughter found dead in Elizabeth motel room,” in The Star-Ledger, Mark Di Ionna correctly addresses the ignorance and injustice that encompass much of the misunderstanding of addiction and recovery.
If there ever was a “face” of drugs, it has certainly changed. In most cases, there is no set of indicators that identify someone as a drug user. In the article, Brooke LaZare is described as a star athlete, talented musician and college student – someone that wouldn’t typically be stereotyped as a drug user. Nonetheless, her life was still halted by drug abuse. As evidenced in this tragedy, the disease of addiction knows no boundaries and there is no stereotype for drug users.
Jill LaZare, mother to 23-year old Brooke, is determined to fight for her daughter’s life and justice. Thus far, no charges have been brought against the man who checked into the motel with her, so her mother is crusading for New Jersey’s “strict liability” laws to be applied to Brooke’s death. Investigators should support Jill’s efforts.
The article also points out that there may have been a link with prescription drug use. While there is no hard evidence that Brooke’s heroin addiction began with pain meds, this wouldn’t be a baseless assumption. Most experts agree that the widening statewide heroin crisis can be tied directly to the increasing abuse of prescription painkillers, because heroin is a fair cheaper and more easily accessible alternative.
A better and more nuanced public discussion of the disease of addiction is certainly in order, so that the public can better understand both this mounting public health crisis, as well as Brooke’s untimely death. As easy as it may be for the public to simply brush Brooke’s death off as an outcome of poor judgment, those of us in the addictions treatment field understand that stories such as Brooke’s have become an all-too-common outcome playing out in every community in our state —from affluent suburbs to cities to rural areas.
It’s well past time for us to have a frank, open and comprehensive discussion on the growing public health crisis that is heroin addiction. I call on our state leaders to lead this discussion and to work toward a comprehensive set of solutions that will protect our citizens, enhance public safety, and provide those in the deadly grip of addiction with sound, effective treatment and recovery options.
CEO & President of Integrity House