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Mother shares son's tragedy to educate others

A Maple Grove mother is sharing her personal tragedy in a public way by detailing her son's heroin overdose.

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. - A Maple Grove mother is sharing her personal tragedy in a public way by detailing her son's heroin overdose.

The story is being shared in a new educational video, and it'sbeginning to go viral in the Twin Cities area. The message isn't for teens - it's meant for parents.

"There is so much shame that goes along with it, you are afraid to tell anybody," said Becky Schieg. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's rampant in our communities."

Scheig teamed up with Partnership for Change to lend her voice to the new video, which is posted on YouTube and meant for public use. Partnership for Change is a community coalition based at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and is focused on reducing youth drug and alcohol use in northwest Hennepin County.

The eight minute video "Medicine: It Cures, It Kills" spells out the prescription drug epidemic in hopes the painful details will be a wake-up call for other parents.

"We hope parents and adult community members will watch and then take action. It is possible for us to reduce this problem. It is possible. And we can save lives, but we have to work together," said Brenda Badger, Partnership for Change Coordinator.

Scheig's son Andrew long struggled from obsessive compulsive disorder, and turned to substances to cope. His addiction began with marijuana and alcohol in his younger teenage years, and then grew to include painkillers, mainly Percocet.

On a March night, a disagreement with friends upset Andrew. He turned to heroin. Scheig said to the best of her knowledge, it was his first and only use of that drug.

"He couldn't find the Percocet, so he found heroin. So he used heroin. And it killed him, a fatal mistake," she said.

Her husband Bill, a doctor, tried to revive his son but couldn't. The boy, once happy, precocious and inquisitive, had used heroin before he went to bed and never woke up. He was just 19 years old.

"We tried to revive him, it was useless," she said. "The comfort I get, I know when he left this world it was peaceful. I don't think he was in pain."

Scheig was one of 43 people in Hennepin County to die from heroin-related overdoses so far this year.

The number of heroin-related deaths in that county has nearly quintupled since 2010.

The video spells out more startling statistics. In 2010, 38,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, that's more than the U.S. population that died from car accidents and gunshots. An April 2013 study by Drugfree.org showed one in four teens reported misusing or abusing a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime.

"I've actually watched it with my own kids and had conservations with them about it. They know a whole lot more than the parents know. That's the problem, they know where to get it. They know the access. It's the parents we need to reach," said Teresa Lunt, Partnership for Change Community Chair.

The video urges parents to drop off unused medications at Hennepin County's medicine disposal sites. Becky Scheig wants all parents to check their medicine cabinets, and their instincts.

"It knows no boundaries," she said. "That is the irony in all of this, we never had prescription medications around. Andrew was getting the medications from other kids."

Andrew Scheig dreamed of one day helping kids who struggled as he did. His mother believes the conversations and change that will come from this new video is a sure way his dreams can live on.

"I have to believe that he is working through me, and he would want me to do this, because if he could help any kids that are out there struggling with addiction problems or mental health problems, he would want me to do it," said Scheig.

Two of Andrew's friends have been charged for supplying the heroin that killed him that night. A judge sentenced a 19-year-old Maple Grove woman to spend the anniversary of his death in jail for the next decade. She faced a third-degree murder charge. A 20-year-old man, who was also involved in offering Scheig heroin, goes to court next week.