Meet the Epidemic

Lauren Berta, News and Opinion Editor

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“I never thought it would happen to us…..Now, here we are, and he is passed away. You cannot believe how it changes your life.”

Jack Bell passed away in 2016, a graduate of Homestead High School and only 19 year old. He played trombone in the Jazz Band and guitar. He was very creative musically. He also enjoyed outdoor activities like skating. He also died of heroin overdose.

Jack by no means fit the normal profile for drug use. His mother, Mary Ann Bell, is the president of Wells Fargo for all of Indiana and Ohio and his father Greg Bell runs an on-line coffee retail business. He had no shortage of love or attention in his home.

The ugly truth is that didn’t stop him from using drugs and it doesn’t stop others. A person doesn’t have to be miserable, or come from a poor socio-economic background to turn to drugs. The effect that drugs have is indiscriminate.  

For Jack it started with vaping.

“We didn’t like it; we asked him to stop,” Mary Ann Bell said, referring to her and her husband.

However, Jack did not stop, and he escalated his drug use from just vaping. The next thing he turned to was marijuana.

“He had a lot of nervous energy; he had a hard time getting his brain to shut down,” Bell said. “He claimed that the marijuana helped him slow down, to think and be calmer.”

Whether this was true or not, his use of marijuana continued to escalate.

“It got to a point where he was using it every day,” Bell said.

Soon marijuana was not enough. Using it every day, it had started to lose its effect, so he moved on in search of something that would give him the high he wanted.

“Marijuana is not a gateway drug for everybody, but it was for him,” Bell said.

What enabled Jack the most, was the new people he put in his life.

“His friends changed, people we didn’t really know. He wouldn’t bring them around,” Bell said.

He started to hang around some older boys, three to four years older than him, 20-21 year old adults. These negative influences fueled his behavior for two years.

“I got some tips from some friends that he was dabbling in other substances experimentally,” Bell said. “That was what drove us to start drug testing him.”

His parents went to the lengths of drug testing Jack at home in an attempt to put him on the right path. However, the times they did this, he only ever showed positive for marijuana.

He graduated with his class in June and his parents threw a party for him where everything went well.

“He was on his best behavior,” Bell said. “He was poised and really great with interacting with adults.”

The family then went on vacation in July to Colorado, where he stayed with his parents nearly the entire time.

“I would bet my life that he did not use any drugs during that time,” Bell said. “He was yet again, at his best, fun and carefree. He was thinking about college.”

When they returned from vacation, he wasn’t ready for college. He tried working different jobs but none of them were long-term.

“He had some emotional issues, including low self-esteem,” Bell said. “He didn’t have a plan and he didn’t quite know what he wanted so we were working with him.”

Jack had the full support of his family. They all tried to help him find direction in his life, but then, out of nowhere, the unbelievable happened.

“Saturday morning on August 20th, there was a knock at the door eleven minutes after nine and it was the police,” Bell said. “He was dead.”

The Bells had always been concerned about drugs because of his marijuana use, but they had never expected this.

“I wouldn’t classify him as an addict,” Bell said, thinking back to their 10-day family vacation. “If you’re an addict, you’re going to suffer withdrawal. You’re not going to be able to go ten days without anything.”

He did not have a heroin addiction. The Friday that he overdosed, it was only the second time he had used it.

He had stayed at a friend’s house for a party and he decided to try heroin.

“He didn’t get the buzz he heard you could get from it and the next night he tried more,” Bell said. “This time it was enough to kill him.”

His death wasn’t the result of a long-term struggle against heroin, but a newly developed reality of his drug experimentation.

“He had never been arrested for drugs, he had never been in rehab,” Bell said. “He really didn’t have your typical drug problem.”

He was not addicted, he never was, but he might have been surrounded by people that were.

“I think that the person who showed him how to do it was a full-blown addict,” Bell said.

These influences reached Jack even though he had a network of people who loved him and who were ready to help him.

“We weren’t a family that couldn’t pay rent or couldn’t clothe or feed him,” Bell said.

He had the things he needed and he knew the consequences of drug use but he rushed in. He never thought it would happen to him, but that just wasn’t true.

“It could happen to anyone,” Bell said.

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