Kirkwood High School officials try to get ahead of the heroin ep -

Kirkwood High School officials try to get ahead of the heroin epidemic

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(Credit: KMOV) (Credit: KMOV)

Kirkwood High School officials are talking openly about what they are doing to try to prevent another tragedy. This comes as the community mourns the loss of a recent graduate, who, according to her obituary, died of a heroin overdose.

"No matter if they are here at Kirkwood or are alums, they are all Pioneers, and one is too many, and unfortunately we have had incidents where we have lost some of our Pioneers," said Mike Havener, Kirkwood High School Principal.

Havener confirms multiple people who were either current students or recent graduates have died from addiction in recent years.

"This is real. This is real life. Kids are facing a lot of different things that we didn't face when we were young. The anxiety, pressure, societal pressures, the ease of getting these types of drugs and alcohol. It's a real epidemic going on, not only in Kirkwood but in St. Louis and around the country," said Havener.

Part of the school's strategy to address the epidemic is talking about it.

"We want to be out front and make sure parents, kids, and community knows that we are here to support this battle against deadly addition," said Havener. "This isn't a certain group. This isn't a certain area of the country. This is affecting everyone. It's not targeting one group. Everyone is at risk here."

The school has also hosted presentations for students, parents, and the community. They also bring in speakers who can share first-hand stories about how addiction unfolds. One of those resources is a current senior, Kolten Kaleta.

"Sophomore year, I started using heroin and kind of quickly got addicted. I went through two residential treatment programs. Two weeks into my second one, my best friend passed away and that's when I got serious. Since October 20, whenever I entered that one, I have been abstinent from all drugs and alcohol," said Kaleta.

Kaleta now shares his story with younger classmates, hopeful they can see some of the warning signs before it's too late.

"For example, one of the major things I've heard with just about everyone that has struggled with addiction is feeling alone in a big crowd. You can be around all your friends, but you still feel alone. So that's something I can speak about because it's something you notice but not something you understand the implications of what it means," said Kaleta.

He also says in communities where there is so much pressure to excel in both class and sports, students can become more vulnerable to quick fixes and a dangerous cycle that starts with abusing pain killers.

"They start with that. Eventually they run out. The doctor stops prescribing it. They find out prescription drugs like Percocet run $20 a pill and someone is like “Hey heroin is $5 and you're going to get just as high,’" said Kaleta.

It is red flags like these that school officials and students like Kaleta are trying to share with the community to help save classmates.

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