By Amanda Joering
The story is part of the Kentucky Project’s series examining the state’s heroin issue and recognizing efforts being made to fight against this epidemic.
One weak moment. Just one weak moment changed the life of Fort Thomas resident Nicholas Specht, and the lives of his family and friends. In that moment, after a tragedy in his life, Nicholas said yes to heroin – and from that moment on, he was hooked.
After struggling with his addiction for a couple years, Nicholas went to rehab. While he was able to get clean, his addiction to heroin remained. That addiction led to him using again in August. He used the same amount he had in the past, but after being sober for a while, his body couldn’t handle that amount.
Nicholas overdosed, and was found unconscious on his bathroom floor. Though doctors tried to save his life, Nicholas never woke up. Three days after his overdose, Nicholas died at the age of 30.
His parents, Eric and Holly Specht, had lost their son. That tragic loss was felt throughout their family. And his family is by no means alone. With heroin usage rising across the state, hospitals and police agencies are reporting seeing an increase in overdoses, and overdose deaths.
Northern Kentucky heroin overdose deaths have doubled from 33 in 2011 to 66 in 2012. In Louisville, the death count rose 148 percent from 25 to 62 in the same time period. Statewide, the amount of overdose deaths attributed to heroin rose from 3.22% in 2011 to 19.56% in 2012.
According to the “Trust for America’s Health” report recently released, drug overdose deaths in Kentucky have quadrupled since 1999 – higher than all states but West Virginia and New Mexico.
The increase in heroin use and overdose deaths is not something Nicholas’s family is taking lightly. The family has banded together to create a NKY Hates Heroin – a group meant to fight against heroin and prevent other families from having to face the pain of losing a loved one.
“We are not going to let Nicholas’ death be senseless. We are going to tell his story over and over,” said family friend Gina Holt. “We are going to find a way to educate today’s youth and families. We are going to fight heroin and find a way to win.”
The family is urging local residents to wake up and see that people are dying because of heroin – and that something needs to be done about it.
The group is providing community resources, information about the drug and local events, and more.
Nicholas’s uncle Nick Stegner, said while the group started small, as a way for the family to deal with their tragic loss, it has really exploded recently, and they’ve taken on additional volunteers. Stegner said the group gets a lot of messages from people throughout the area who are struggling in one way or another because of heroin. In most cases, the family does their best to direct people to the people and organizations who may be able to help them.
“Sometimes it’s just about listening to them,” Stegner said. “Just letting them know that they’re in our prayers and they’re not alone really helps.”
To spread the word about the group, the family had NKY Hates Heroin yard signs and t-shirts made. More and more, the signs are popping up around Northern Kentucky. Now, they’re having a hard time keeping up with the demand since so many people are contacting them to get a sign, Stegner said.
For more information about NKY Hates Heroin, visit the website NKYHatesHeroin.com and the NKY Hates Heroin Facebook page.
- Scourge in the Bluegrass: Kentucky’s fight against a killer epidemic (thekentuckyproject.com)