Parents were looking for answers, teenagers were looking for understanding and police were looking for help.
More than 200 people came together last Wednesday night on the second floor of Old Town Hall for the first in a series of forums targeted at the growing use and abuse of prescription drugs and heroin among teenagers in Andover.
“Legal drugs have become a gateway for illegal drugs,” said Melissa Weiksnar, lead speaker at the “Just Listen” event dubbed “The Real Deal: Substance Abuse in Andover, 2013.”
The former Tyngsboro resident told the heartbreaking story of her daughter, Amy, who died of a heroin overdose at age 20. Weiksnar presented a slide show of pictures from her daughter’s life, set to the Pure Prairie League song, “Amy.” The series of photos of her daughter from infancy to young adulthood ended with her gravestone.
“Nobody expected her to die,” said Weiksnar, a member of a three-person panel brought together by Andover Youth Services Director Bill Fahey working with the Andover Police Department. “She was bright, beautiful, athletic and had wonderful friends.”
But from an early age, Amy Weiksnar started experimenting with marijuana. By the time she was 17, she had tried heroin.
“When my daughter was a senior in high school, we had a decision to make,” said Weiksnar, dressed in her daughter’s favorite sweats, necklace and ring. “Do we look at colleges or rehab?”
But she was a “high-performing addict,” who got good grades and got into the Boston College nursing program.
So they chose college, after the experts told her that Amy would make academics a priority over drug use.
They were wrong.
Just before she turned 21, Amy ended up in a rehab facility. While there, she somehow got access to heroin and overdosed. The facility she was in didn’t have Narcan, a nasal spray that can bring overdose victims back to life, Weiksnar said. Doctors in the emergency room worked on her for two hours but couldn’t revive her.