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Dose of Reality: A mother’s warning after her son’s overdose death: “Now he’s just a statistic”

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IXONIA -- There is an epidemic sweeping the state of Wisconsin -- and anyone, no matter what age, gender or level of income can fall victim.  Lesa Treuden knows that all too well.

“He was very smart,” said Treuden about her only son Dale. “He graduated [high school] at the age of 17 with high honors.  He was just so energetic and funny and wise beyond his years.”

But Dale wouldn't make it to his 20th birthday.

Dale Bjorklund

Dale Bjorklund

“I drove up to the house and the driveway was full of ambulances,” Treuden remembers about a Sunday morning in June 2015.

Sarah Bjorklund

Sarah Bjorklund

Dale’s 15-year-old sister Sarah, his best friend, wishes she could forget what she saw that day.

“I remember grabbing his hands and trying to shake him to wake him up,” Sarah said with a broken voice.  “And they were just cold.”

Dale died of a heroin overdose.

Prescription painkiller dependence started sweeping many parts of the country 15 years ago.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amount of painkillers dispensed has quadrupled since 1999.  As state governments started cracking down on doctors who are overprescribing, addicts began looking for a cheaper, easier fix -- heroin.

Prescription painkiller abuse

Prescription painkiller abuse

“It’s happening in every school district, every community in the state,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel.  “It can get any of our kids.”

Schimel has made it his mission to tackle this epidemic head on -- a mission that started when he was the district attorney of Waukesha County.

“From 2000 to 2013, drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin for opiates specifically increased by 495 percent,” Schimel said.

The reason for the spike is twofold, according to Schimel -- the accessibility of new gateway drugs like prescription painkillers, and the potency of the heroin today.

Heroin

Heroin

“In 1985, the average heroin purity on the street was between three and eight percent,” Schimel said.  “Now, we don’t ever see it that low.  We see it range from the low 20 percent all the way up to 77 or 80 percent pure.”

Treuden says she didn’t believe that heroin caused Dale’s death until she read the autopsy report.  She says it was something she only ever saw in the news headlines -- and never thought it could happen in her own family.

“As a mother, you are supposed to protect your kids,” Treuden said, holding back tears.  “I just didn’t know.  I just didn’t know.”

Dale Bjorklund

Dale Bjorklund

Dale was not what you might think of when you think of the stereotypical heroin user.  He was not an addict, nor did he ever shoot up the heroin with a syringe.  He snorted the heroin the night he died -- a decision his mom thinks was due to his depression.

“He ran out of his mental health medications about a week before he passed away,” said Treuden.

But even Sarah, the closest person to Dale, never thought heroin would be an option.  Sarah admits, though, heroin is easy to get and cheap.

Lesa Treuden and her son, Dale

Lesa Treuden and her son, Dale

“He was just getting his life together really well and he made one mistake and now he’s just a statistic,” said Sarah.

Treuden says now, it's about looking forward and trying to prevent other families from suffering a loss like her family has.

“You need to wake up and you need to look for the signs,” Treuden said.

Schimel believes the only way to put a stop to this epidemic is to get ahead of addiction long-term.

Dale Bjorklund

Dale Bjorklund

“If we can address the problem with prescription painkillers, we might not have to talk about heroin in our state.  The reason it’s here is because there is a demand for it here," Schimel said.

Lesa Treuden

Lesa Treuden

From the ashes around her neck, to the T-shirts and hats she has yet to wash, Treuden is left with only memories of Dale and hopes other parents hear her warning before it is too late.

“Nobody should ever have to go through this. Nobody," Treuden said.

20-year-old Samantha Molkenthen is charged in connection with Dale’s death for delivering the drugs that ultimately killed him.  She pleaded not guilty to a reckless homicide charge.  She is currently in the Dodge County Jail on unrelated charges.

Dale Bjorklund

Dale Bjorklund

15 comments

  • Joe

    RIP. Legalize Marijuana already. Personally speaking, to be honest, when I can’t find any for a few days I pop a pain pill. Pills, herion, and of course the most deadly alcohol kills people daily. Hundreds or thousands daily. Marijuana alone cannot kill a person. Never.

    • unbrokenunforgiven

      Pot has been proven to be a gateway drug, along with drinking or even one prescription pill….with those who have a predisposition or tendency to become dependent on a substance; all it could take is one hit or one night. If they are using to quash pain or forget the chances are they will become a regular substance user is very high. Someone who has no other avenues and feels desperate will turn to substances if they feel there is nothing else that makes them feel better. Even if the high or effect is temporary. It has nothing to do with legalizing pot, because that will not help the heroin epidemic we see. Showing people where to turn and encouraging positive outlets when dealing with their problems. It begins with a different way of thinking.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Joe. Legalize it, marijuana that is.

    But this story forgets, along with the potency going way up they are adulterating the dope with a much more potent and dangerous opiate, fentanyl. Sometimes that’s all it is, no heroin, just fentanyl. Deadly as fentanyl is 50 times stronger than even heroin!!! It’s terrible that this young man’s death could have been prevented. If someone would have had access to Narcan he would still be alive. Also this stuff where families ‘don’t know’ about someone using drugs is bull. I was a feign for 13 years, one OD and I was saved by Narcan! And yes, I LEARNED MY LESSON! I got off the opiate train, awoke from having my head up my a $! and am finally getting on with my life! Don’t forget about addicts, it’s so easy for people to write them off then shake their heads when they die. Stop, take their hand and tell them you care about them and that they win if they die and become statistics like I almost did! Tell them you love them and hope they realize they need help and there is help! Cause if you wait too long there may not be a next time. Love thy neighbor and love the unlovable, you will be rewarded for it.

  • Emma.green@aol.com

    Parents are responsible for raising their children and teaching them the consequences of their choices and actions. Death was his consequence.

    • Lesa

      you have no idea the life he endured so please don’t comment about something you know nothing about

  • Sick of jimmys

    I am very sorry for your loss, I have two children and I know it’s a parents worst nightmare to lose a child. But Legalizing weed is not the answer ! I have had my problems with substance abuse and it runs in my family! I am fortunate enough that my kids realized the situation, please talk to your kid’s and encourage them every chance you get!!!

  • Itsabouttime

    Emma you need to get more educated about addiction. No kidding it’s the parents responsibility to raise their children and teach them right from wrong. Instead of shooting off your mouth why don’t you research Stop Heroin Now or The Addict’s Mom on Facebook otherwise remain silent about your comment.

  • unbrokenunforgiven

    No one should be placing any blame on the parents, and there is a point in which they make decisions for which a parent cannot take responsibility. You can tell them, show them, and even try to help them. Which is very much what this Mom tried to do. Just like you can’t lead a horse to water and make them drink. This isn’t an isolated case, it is a big problem everywhere. Educate, show and try to help our youth. That is the point here. No family should have to endure this, so try to get the point of her story. He was a great kid. He and his sister constantly defended and helped my kids as they grew up together for the short time they had. No one knows what pain someone is trying to snuff out, so instead of passing judgement; be a part of the solution.

    • Dmarie

      Emma.Green, You may have no idea how much your callous posting may have crushed Lesa. I would like to say “Shame on you” but you can’t shame the shameless. I feel that you are ignorant. Everyone is born to make choices in their lives, a parent can help them with making the best choice, the safe choice, yet their child still can be swayed to make the wrong ones or dangerous ones. Some say that the resistance of addiction can be inherited, it may be. (??) Just like some people are quick to judge & lack empathy or they may feel they will have empathy for those that they feel deserve it. Yet they continue to go on & be ignorant & judge those that they never have met & do not know their feelings!!! Lesa’s son made a terrible, tragic choice of starting to use and the demon of addiction took over and it cost his life! Lesa did not give birth to her intelligent, precious son and think, “Now he will get a little older & he will overdose.” No, I feel that she felt like every parent feels when they hold their gift from God felt, “We will protect him, love him, comfort him & pray that he has a wonderful life, a life better then our own.” Lesa, I am very sorry for the loss of your precious son, your heartache, your devastation, your anguish! I also commend you and your daughter for the stamina to go to the media and share your heartbreak of the loss of your son, now your Angel. We all know that there always will be humans who will have the audacity to post how they feel & not knowing how gut wrenching it will make others feel. I hope that you never place your value on their ignorant postings. A warm ((((((((((HUG)))))))))) to you & your daughter Lesa.

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