Brandon DeHaven gives first local talk since his Oxy battle grabbed headlines

DeHaven and father speak out during screening of anti-pill documentary for students
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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A young man who captured the region’s attention through the lengths his father went to save him from the world of addiction made his first appearance in Roseville Monday night, reaching out to a local audience with the blunt message that opiate addiction equals death.

In 2008, Granite Bay’s Brad DeHaven and his wife realized their family was facing a life-changing moment: Their son Brandon had been taken over by Oxycontin addiction and morphed into a dependent, full-on drug dealer with dangerous connections. Brad DeHaven went undercover, working with the Roseville police narcotics detective who had arrested Brandon to help build a case on a larger fish in the area’s drug-dealing pond. Brandon eventually got professional help with his addiction and turned his life around. After Brad DeHaven wrote a book on the experience, “Defining Moments,” Sacramento and Placer County media brought the family’s story into the spotlight.

While Brad DeHaven has become a major spokesperson against pharmaceutical pill addiction and its inroads to heroin use, Brandon has kept a lower profile, focusing on his personal journey and sobriety. On Monday night, the father and son appeared together at Woodcreek High School for a free screening of “Behind the Orange Curtain,” a film that studies how opiate use flourishes in affluent communities, killing teenagers by the day. Parents and students watched the 55-minute documentary, which includes personal accounts of two young former addicts who are permanently disabled from massive overdoses, as well as a number of parents who lost their children forever.

When the film was over, the first person to talk to the crowd was Roseville Police Sgt. Jeff Kool, the former narcotics detective who had arrested Brandon DeHaven, and then worked with his father, on the undercover operation recounted in “Defining Moments.”

“I’ve seen a big transition from prescription drugs to full heroin use,” Kool said. “We’re making heroin arrests daily now and we’re seeing it in the schools. Every community has drug problems, even the best cities.”

He added that “probably 90 percent” of Roseville’s crimes link back to various forms of drug addiction.

Kool then recounted that he had first heard about Brandon through his undercover work.

“This name kept coming up for this guy who was selling,” Kool remembered. “I had a difficult time catching him because he was very intelligent and knew how to stay under the radar.”

Brad DeHaven was the next to speak. He told the audience that despite the fact that Brandon has a good job and is making a new future for himself in the Roseville area, his son had found the courage to allow locals to connect his face with his story.

“Recovering addicts want to leave that life behind,” Brad said. “Brandon has done some radio interviews, but he’s shied away from doing appearances here because he’s starting his life all over again — so I’m very proud he’s here tonight.”

Brandon explained that he had to go through two rounds of professional treatment before he was able to have the clarity to severe his addiction from his psyche.

“Someone has to see the light at the end of the tunnel and want it for themselves,” Brandon said. “Something finally clicked in rehab and I didn’t want to hurt my family anymore. That was when I understood that my pain was nothing compared to what I was doing to them.”

Brandon also explored how being placed on behavior medications by doctors when he was young — and the habits and coping patterns it burned into him — played a role in his susceptibility to pill addiction. He recalled that a friend of his had recently glimpsed a “pill log” for students while doing work at an elementary school, noticing that dozens of kids were being given a host of behavioral medications in pill form.

“To me, that’s a joke,” Brandon said. “You’re feeding little children pills and you don’t expect them to become drug addicts?”

Brad DeHaven ended the talk by sharing a moment he had earlier in the day at a rally at the state capitol. A number of parents and former addicts who appear in “The Orange Curtain” held a demonstration against doctors who over-prescribe powerful pain killers. Brad DeHaven called it a stoic scene.

“I was one of only two parents in the crowd who hadn’t buried a child,” Brad told the audience. “At a similar event, a mother actually said to me, ‘We always said we couldn’t afford to send our son to rehab, but after he died, we came up with the cash to bury him — and it ended up being the exact same amount of money.’”

Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT