After student’s death, drug abuse memorial planned

cwootson@charlotteobserver.comOctober 23, 2013 

  • Want to go? The Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education organization is planning a candlelight vigil at locations across the country. The Charlotte event will take place at Queens University at the Burwell Building, 1900 Selwyn Avenue. A reception starts at 5:45 p.m., followed by candle lighting at 6:15.

Alex Uhler’s grades never slipped. His roommates never noticed erratic behavior. He always showed up on time to his job at Selwyn Pub.

So when the Queens University of Charlotte student was found dead last year in his apartment from a heroin overdose, his mother says the people closest to him were shocked.

Now, Charlotte resident Deanna Uhler is hoping that other students and families will learn from her son’s experiences.

The Uhlers, Queens University and the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education organization are planning a candlelight memorial Thursday night on the campus.

Studies show heroin use in particular is on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of Americans with heroin dependence or abuse doubled from 214,000 in 2007 to 426,000 in 2011.

“Alex’s dad is a (California) police chief. I have a good job with US Airways. He was an Eagle Scout, a pre-med student with very good grades,” Deanna Uhler said. “Anyone that knew Alex personally would never guess that he had a heroin addiction.”

When her 21-year-old son died, Queens sent a note to students but withheld details out of respect for his family. Now, the school hopes that sharing the story will inspire people in similar situations to get help.

“It’s a teachable moment that it could happen to anyone,” said John Downey, the dean of students at Queens. “A lot of college students think they’re invincible. I could sit here and do the scare tactics, but it’s different whenever they see it happen to one of their own. It’s different.”

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson

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