Drugs Not Just A City Scourge 

Drugs Not Just A City Scourge 
Posted by FoM on October 27, 1999 at 14:26:32 PT
By Eileen McNamara, Globe Columnist
Source: Boston Globe
Who, exactly, do we think uses illegal drugs?Surely not white, middle-aged, elementary school principals, if reaction to the arrest of Margaret Loder-Healy on a charge of heroin possession is any guide. 
The sight of the matronly educator from the Newton, N.H., school system, standing before a federal magistrate in her sensible shoes, has us positively flummoxed.Where are the young black and Latino actors who star in the videotape that plays in our heads when we hear the words ''drug bust,'' or ''heroin addict?'' Where are the mean streets that form the stage set of our imagined ''drug wars?'' Where is the backdrop of social dysfunction - unemployment, violence - that we assume composes the classic subplot of illicit drug use?Margaret Loder-Healy, mother, educator, community leader, is big news this week, the actor cast against type.Alas, the scriptwriters of this melodrama are delusional. Just how delusional is clear in the shattered voices of Laurence and Susan Sheehan. Only days ago, the prosperous Wellesley couple buried their beautiful, well-educated, gainfully employed daughter, dead of a drug overdose they never saw coming.It was not supposed to happen to her or to them.''We all think, this is suburbia, Disneyland, we're protected, that these things don't happen here,'' Alison Sheehan's heartbroken father said yesterday. ''That's a fantasy. Drugs are pervasive. They are a fact of life, of all our lives.''In her eulogy for Ali, Sue Sheehan recalled the little girl who mastered the piano at age 5, the young woman who only last spring began participating in public readings of her poetry after working at her office job. She evoked memories of the schoolgirl who loved tennis and ice skating, soccer and skiing. She remembered the daughter who, having just earned her certification as a yoga teacher, was eagerly planning to launch a yoga program for children.How did a young woman whose dad still thought of her, at age 25, as ''a little pixie'' end up one Saturday night in October in a drug-induced coma in the emergency room of Mount Auburn Hospital?Maybe she was just young and foolish. Maybe the persistent pain from a neural disorder, diagnosed during her freshman year at the University of Arizona, led her to experiment with street drugs. From her final resting place in Woodlawn Cemetery, Ali Sheehan can't tell us.It is easy enough to judge the dead. It is hard to understand a young woman of promise and privilege spending the last hours of her life at a party ingesting illegal drugs, harder still to fathom the ''friends'' who, fearing arrest, waited too long to summon medical help.''My plea is simple,'' Sue Sheehan told mourners at her daughter's funeral. ''If you have a friend who is doing drugs and passing out, call for help before they stop breathing. Ali's life could have been saved if only she had been brought to the hospital before she had stopped breathing. It sounds so simple, but apparently it is not an easy act to do. We help blind people cross the street, why not at least give a passed-out person on drugs the opportunity to breathe again?''It's the question the parents of Scott Krueger asked two years ago when the MIT freshman died of alcohol poisoning after a fraternity party. It's the question, thankfully, the parents of a Wellesley College student need not ask because friends got her to a hospital in time after she drank past the point of intoxication at another MIT frat party earlier this month.We ought to ask some questions of ourselves, as well. Why are we so shocked to find drug and alcohol abuse in our most prestigious universities, in our most prosperous communities? Why are we so quick to demonize a principal who is said to have been receiving treatment for her heroin addiction? Is it a lack of tolerance for the vulnerable? No forgiveness for those who relapse?''Our society believes in free will. Well, I don't in the case of drugs. Doctors, family, and friends, when you suspect a person is on drugs, confront them!'' Sue Sheehan pleaded in her eulogy. ''Tell someone who will intervene! We can't have young adults ending up like this.''Or middle-aged ones, either. Margaret Loder-Healy doesn't look like a heroin addict, we say. Who does, exactly?Eileen McNamara's e-mail address is mcnamara story ran on page B01 of the Boston Globe on 10/27/99.  Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company. Related Article:District Judge Arraigned on Drug Charges - 10/25/99
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