INDIANAPOLIS - Drug use among teens is a growing problem and studies have found that parents are a major influence in why some kids do drugs while others don’t.
Jesse Dorfmeyer’s spiral into addiction started when he was 13 and was experimenting with marijuana.
"At first it was an occasional thing, then it was all the time. Always chasing a higher high," his sister Ciara Dorfmeyer said.
That included prescription pain medications and then heroin. Despite his addiction, Dorfmeyer often warned his sister to stay away from drugs … but then he overdosed.
"My brother passed away April 15th, two years ago. He was 19. He turned 22 yesterday," Ciara said.
Jesse died from a drug that has made an alarming comeback. Heroin is a major concern for law enforcement, primarily because it's cheap.
"We use canine units from Hamilton County to randomly search schools, parking lots and vehicles and then identify who might be suffering or making risky choices, then try to get them the help that they need," Sgt. Gerry Hepp with the Fishers Police Department said.
While more teens die from prescription drugs than heroin and cocaine combined, officials with the National Institute on Drug Abuse said that marijuana use among teens, at nearly 23 percent, is at its highest in 30 years.
Dillon Payton started using drugs when he started smoking marijuana in the sixth grade.
"My parents thought I was a basketball player. They thought I was perfect," Payton said.
Payton eventually graduated to heroin and was in and out of rehab six times over two years. It ended on his fourth overdose when he nearly died.
He's now been drug-free for nearly a year.
"I don't remember anything. That's what kills me. I don't know what happened from junior high through high school. It was like a devastation. It was crazy," Payton said.
A Columbia University survey found that 60 percent reported that drugs are used, kept or sold at schools.
Kristi Dunigan is a drug-prevention program director for Healthier Morgan County Initiative.
"We're in an epidemic. Our country, our state is in an epidemic. We're looking at youth that are starting at age 10 in our county," Dunigan said.
But what's the difference between teens that use drugs and those that don't? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids that learn of the risks from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don't.
"I don't feel like it's a conversation that has to be weekly or daily, but I feel if it's a conversation that a teenager feels comfortable talking with their parents, that it could be a change for the better," Mooresville High School senior Jesse Cordray said.
Since his death, Jesse Dorfmeyer’s sister and stepmother have become public advocates against teen drug use, using Jesse's story to get through to teens.
"I want to say that the outcome really is jail, institution or death. There is no other outcome for drug use," Jesse’s stepmother Jenn Tackitt said. "I think I'd tell him that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't try harder."
Follow Chris Proffitt on Twitter: @chrisproffitt
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