These Parents Are Bravely Revealing What Killed Their Teenage Daughter

"Shame doesn't matter right now."

Losing a child is painful. When Fred and Dorothy McIntosh Shuemake lost their daughter at 18, they made the bold decision to be truthful about her death, to sweep aside the stigma and blame attached to it.

So Alison Shuemake's obituary began with how she died: by heroin overdose.

Alison and her boyfriend were found in their apartment on the floor, next to a needle, in late August. They had had a history with heroin, but Alison recently checked out of a rehabilitation center, and seemed happy and proud.

In a southwest Ohio town set to break the record yet again in heroin-related deaths, Fred and Dorothy decided not to mask how their daughter died. Despite the prevalence of heroin use in the area, heroin-related deaths remain a taboo — but the Shuemakes wanted to send a message. 

"There was no hesitation," Dorothy told the Associated Press. "We've seen other deaths when it's heroin, and the families don't talk about it because they're ashamed or they feel guilty. Shame doesn't matter right now."


While experiencing the agony from losing a child to heroin, the Shuemakes want to raise a discussion on how such deaths can be prevented.

The family isn't the first to be so straightforward in a loved one's obituary. But Fred and Dorothy wanted to make sure that people in their community understood the dire consequences of heroin use. 

In Butler County where the family resides, the coroner's statistics show that in two short years, heroin-related deaths went from 30 to 103 in 2014. This year, AP reported, 86 people have died of heroin overdoses in the first six months. 

Across the nation, a heroin epidemic runs rampant.

From 2002 to 2013, there has been a 63 percent spike in heroin use in America, especially among women, young people and the wealthy. 

Consequently, heroin overdoses have become more common, too. From 2011 to 2013, heroin-related deaths almost doubled, to 8,200. Since 2002, overdoses have nearly quadrupled

There are measures being taken to curb heroin use. States have taken the matter into their own hands, introducing various legislation. Federally, the White House recently announced a plan to fight the increase in heroin use and deaths, one that pairs public health with law enforcement.

But Alison Shuemake's obituary hits home on a personal level.

Scott Gehring, head of an addiction treatment nonprofit in Butler County, praised the Shuemakes' "strength and foresight" to include her cause of death in the obituary.

"That's something that needs to happen. People die of overdoses and it gets swept under a rug," Gehring told AP. "Until we as a society are willing to acknowledge that it is here and affecting all of us, we're going to continue to see the death count rise."

Alison's parents had called the parents of her boyfriend, Luther Combs, to tell them what was going to be in her obituary. Combs' own was published days later; it, too, stated he died "of a heroin overdose."


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