Last week, a 7-year-old girl in McKeesport, Pennsylvania did something countless children do every day: she went to school. But it became apparent that this wasn’t a “normal” day on her bus ride home, when the young girl told her driver she couldn’t wake her parents. The driver immediately contacted police. Once inside the home, authorities found the bodies of Christopher Dilly and Jessica Lally.
Allegheny County Police Lieutenant Andrew Schurman told the New York Daily News that the couple may have been dead for more than a day before their bodies were discovered and, according to The Washington Post, it appears both Dilly and Lally died of drug overdoses.
Also inside the home were three other children — ages 5 years, 3 years and 9 months.
Thankfully, the children appeared to be in good health, but they were still taken to an area hospital. The children were later released to the county’s department of children, youth and families.
Dilly and Lally’s deaths come on the heels of a public push to combat the drug epidemic by using public shaming and “scare tactics.” For example, just three weeks ago a video popped up online which showed a toddler screaming and crying after her mother overdosed in the middle of a store, and in September, Ohio police released a photo showing a woman and man passed out in the front seat of a vehicle — also from an alleged overdose — while a 4-year-old boy was strapped into his car seat in the back. Police hoped that, in sharing these videos, the public would be reminded of the horrific dangers and consequences of drug abuse — and, perhaps, one life would change or be saved.
Unfortunately, this approach isn’t helping anyone. Public ridicule and shame isn’t helping anyone, and I don’t believe any of these stories have deterred an addict from using. Why? Because addiction is a disease — a chronic disease.
Addicts don’t turn to opioids or heroine or other narcotics because they want to ruin their lives or the lives of their children. They turn to drugs because their body compels them to. Because taking “the drugs” becomes a physical compulsion.
Make no mistake, there is a drug epidemic in America: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid and heroin addiction has become an epidemic in the past 15 years. However, lately we — as a society — appear to be forgetting one thing: we already know drugs are bad. We already know addiction destroys families and takes lives. What we do not know is how we can help.
What we do not know is if, and how, we can stop it.
And I’ll be honest: I don’t have any solutions. I don’t have any “answers,” but what I can say is this: shaming these parents will not help. Calling them obscenities and names will not help. Sharing videos and photos of parents and their children on social media, suffering and in pain, will not help.
So yes, be upset. Be saddened. Be enraged, but also consider empathy. Ask yourself how you can help, even if addiction is a disease which hasn’t affected you. Even if addiction is a disease you do not understand.
© 2016 Kimberly Zapata, as first published on Sammiches & Psych Meds