Opioids, including heroin, hijack the brain.
In our last piece, we told you how the brain is powerless to resist the pull of these drugs. Now we show you the young girl who tried opioids and in just six months was dead. She wanted to stop using and told her sister "You have no idea what I'm going through."
She was literally hijacked by heroin.
Ken Chiakas had no idea the pain behind the beautiful blue eyes of his daughter.
“I wish I knew what she was talking about. I wish she would have came to me,” he said. “My daughter was a high honor roll student. She was an excellent kid and had a great personality. Just an awesome daughter. … She was funny. I loved to joke around .. always wanted to help daddy in the yard.”
The avid gardener loved to watch new life grow as he watched his little girl mature. Then at 17, a personality change.
“She'd be like, ‘Dad, I'm tired, I just want to watch TV,’” he said. “And I thought nothing of it.”
A traffic stop on a rural road in Crystal Lake revealed the problem. Stephanie Chiakas was doing drugs.
“She forgot to turn her lights on in the car. And she got pulled over by police and that's when we found out she was doing heroin,” Ken said.
At the time her family didn't know how bad it was. Perhaps the teenager, feeling invincible, had no idea herself what effect opioids would have on her body.
She was taking prescription medications and street heroin.
“We believe she was snorting it. She had these other two pills in her. We are not sure where she got the pills. “
Ken had been worried about his daughter that fatal night when she was supposed to stay over with a friend. He kept calling, she didn't answer. Her girlfriend came home alone refusing to say where Stephanie was.
“I knew something was wrong,” Ken said.
By morning there was panic and an admission from her friend, Stephanie had gone to the home of another Crystal Lake south high school student who was a known drug supplier in the town. The drug enforcement administration shot a video of a drug sale. Dealers from McHenry County often drive to the city for their supply.
DEA agent in charge Brent Williams is familiar with the problem in Illinois’ northwest suburbs. Agents speak at schools and to parents about the life and death consequences of drug use.
“They realize they are selling poison that's killing children, adults. It doesn't matter. Their job is to make money and profit off the drug sales,” Williams said. “From one day to the next you have no idea what you are putting in your body. If you are getting a lower dose percentage one day and then the following day you're getting a much higher percentage of heroin. It could lead to an accidental overdose.”
Stephanie Chiakas became one of the victims the night she not only purchased but did drugs at her dealer's home.
“She was found in his room at his house. He was 17 yrs old on house arrest and his mother was home. And they let my daughter lay there for 10 hours.”
By the time police arrived, they didn't need an ambulance. Stephanie had overdosed -opioid pills and powder heroin.
“It was the worst day of my life,” Ken said.
He was powerless to help his daughter. But Ken does want to help others and that's why despite the stigma of drug use, he speaks out.
“We need to speak out and speak out loud because this is not going away. It’s getting worse. Trust me, you don't want to go where I’ve been.”
Agent Williams said, “Many of these are functioning people that go to work, that hold a job, that do well in society right up to the point where they do an overdose.”
Ken embraces the reason his daughter died and weeps that opioid addiction will prevent him from ever holding her again.
“I didn't recognize it until it was too late,” he said. “I didn't really have a chance to help her out but I can tell you I would have done anything I could to help my daughter. I miss that girl!”
The boy who supplied Stephanie with pills and heroin was never convicted in her case. He went on dealing drugs in McHenry County. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to six years in prison after the overdose death of a 20-year-old who bought drugs from him.