LCO Band families affected by drug misuseEvery family on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation has been touched in one way or another by the misuse of illegal or prescription drugs, Paul DeMain said last week.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Every family on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation has been touched in one way or another by the misuse of illegal or prescription drugs, Paul DeMain said last week.
That includes his own family, said DeMain, who is CEO of IndianCountryTV.com, which provides video news and live streaming and is based on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation.
Here are two families’ stories.
Vicki Potack was 39 when she died two years ago, said her mother, Julie Snow. The death certificate listed “pseudo pharmaceutical” causes.
The term “pseudo pharmaceuticals” means “fake, illegally manufactured drugs,” said Dr. David Brown of the Cleveland Clinic. It’s a broad term that could mean anything from bath salts sold at a head shop to a fake drug that mimics an antibiotic.
But the gateway for Potack was prescription drugs, said Snow.
Potack, the mother of four children, had been “a loving, fun person who cared about her kids,” said Snow, who lives in a modest white house in the community of New Post on the far eastern end of the reservation.
Her daughter would have a few beers from time to time, Snow said, but she believes Potack was free of other drugs until she developed gall bladder problems in the later stages of pregnancy with her youngest child, Kekek, now 9.
Potack couldn’t be treated for her gall bladder until after Kekek was born, Snow said. It was painful, and Potack was prescribed opioids — narcotic pain pills — as well as sleeping pills and antidepressants.
Potack soon began to crave the painkillers, Snow said. She believes her daughter found ways to double her prescription. Snow, who observes traditional American Indian beliefs, said she believes the drugs took over and Potack’s spirit left her body long before she died physically.
In June 2010, Potack had a grand mal seizure on the back porch of Snow’s house. Although she survived, Snow was alarmed, and she doubled her efforts to get her daughter away from the drugs.
“I was begging her to stop, begging her to get help,” Snow said.
Snow still doesn’t know exactly what was in Potack’s body when she died in her home.
Her daughter’s death left the 63-year-old Snow filling the gap in her family. She adopted her great-granddaughter, Madison Quagon, now 3, who was born with hydranencephaly, a rare and incurable brain condition. She’s also caring for Kekek and his older brother, Nenaangebi.
Snow, a small, plainspoken woman who suffers from chronic pain herself, said many other tribe members also have left children behind.
“It’s destroying the family unit,” Snow said. “It’s destroying our families. It’s harming our children. The future generations are … going to have a big void in their lives. They lost their moms at such a young age, or their dads.”
A bottle of pills
DeMain’s own family has been touched by drugs within the past couple of weeks, he said.
He is concerned about a relative who was found passed out in a snowbank near DeMain’s house on the morning of April 20.
The relative only remembers being at a friend’s party drinking tequila. He has pieced together information to conclude that he probably swallowed a variety of prescription medications later in the evening, DeMain said.
He was dropped off at a family member’s home but apparently headed toward Paul DeMain’s house, three miles away.
After he was found, the relative was treated in the emergency room and stabilized in a couple of hours, DeMain said, but it had been a close call.
“The doctor said he had a lethal combination of drugs in his system and … he could have just gone to sleep and that would have been it,” Paul DeMain said.
DeMain said he’s encouraged that his relative is asking for help. The family is looking into treatment options, and DeMain said he believes the relative will be able to overcome his difficulties. He believes the community as a whole also is addressing the problem and taking positive steps.
But it’s a big problem.
“We’ve had drug-related shootings, drug-related gang activities, drug-related suicides and accidents,” DeMain said. “We need to find the solution.”