Try­ing to break heroin’s grip

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

In a bit of cross-me­dia pro­mo­tion, we’d like to ask you to take an hour this week­end to watch a very im­por­tant tele­vi­sion pro­gram.

Mary­land Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion will show a doc­u­men­tar y about opi­oid drug abuse in our area. “Break­ing Heroin’s Grip: Road to Re­cov­ery” comes on at 7 p.m. to­mor­row, Satur­day, Feb. 11. The pro­gram will also be streamed on break­ and will be avail­able on MPT’s YouTube chan­nel. The film lasts 40 min­utes, and will be fol­lowed by a 20-minute live phone bank pro­gram of­fer­ing view­ers solid in­for­ma­tion about treat­ment. Ex­perts from Mary­land’s 24-hour cri­sis hot­line, over­seen by Mary­land’s Be­hav­ioral Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion, will staff the phone bank.

MPT has part­nered with the Mary­land, Delaware, D.C. Press As­so­ci­a­tion (of which the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent is a mem­ber) and APG Me­dia of Ch­e­sa­peake (the par­ent com­pany of the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent) to pro­mote this pro­gram, and to sup­port and en­cour­age on­go­ing news cov­er­age about the rav­ages of opi­oid ad­dic­tion in our com­mu­ni­ties. The doc­u­men­tary it­self was made by MPT in part­ner­ship with the Mary­land De­part­ment of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene. South­ern Mary­land has seen an in­creased rate of drug in­tox­i­ca­tion-re­lated deaths, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est DHMH re­port.

The re­port, which com­pares pre­lim­i­nar y data from Jan­uar y through Septem­ber 2016 to pre­vi­ous years, in­di­cates that the coun­ties are on pace for a record num­ber of lives lost, with more than twice as many fa­tal­i­ties in Charles (34) dur­ing this pe­riod com­pared to 2015, and slight in­creases in Calvert (18) and St. Mary’s (12) as well. Over­all, Mary­land saw 1,468 fa­tal­i­ties through the third quar­ter of 2016, up from 904 deaths for that pe­riod in 2015. And that’s way up from the 465 who died in 2010.

The face of heroin ad­dic­tion has changed in re­cent years, and now cuts across all so­cioe­co­nomic seg­ments of so­ci­ety. It’s no longer some­body else’s prob­lem. It’s on all of us to help erad­i­cate this scourge.

It can hap­pen eas­ily enough. Af­ter an ac­ci­dent, in­jury or ill­ness, a pa­tient might need pow­er­ful painkillers to take the edge off and get some relief. For an un­for­tu­nate mi­nor­ity of folks, that starts them on a slip­pery slope to full-blown ad­dic­tion, need­ing to score heroin af­ter their care­fully con­trolled pre­scrip­tions ex­pire.

And of course, this il­le­gal and dan­ger­ous nar­cotic is not reg­u­lated by the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, so there’s no guar­an­tee of its pu­rity. The state DHMH re­ports that heroin is now of­ten cut with Fen­tanyl, an ex­tremely po­tent syn­thetic opi­ate, which the Drug En­force­ment Agency warns can be up to 50 times more pow­er­ful than heroin. And the user of­ten has no idea what’s re­ally in that bag they just bought.

The MPT doc­u­men­tary fo­cuses on three re­cov­er­ing heroin addicts and their sto­ries. The first fea­tured in the film is Lau­ren Fowler, daugh­ter of Farming 4 Hunger founder Bernie Fowler Jr. and grand­daugh­ter of for­mer state sen­a­tor Bernie Fowler Sr. Now three years into her re­cov­ery, Lau­ren Fowler tells the story of her spir­i­tual awak­en­ing in jail af­ter a sui­cide at­tempt and her even­tual break­away from a $300-a-day heroin habit.

Also fea­tured are per­sonal ac­counts of a Bal­ti­more woman who is 25 years into her re­cov­ery, and a man from Washington County who is three years into his climb back from heroin’s grip.

Aware­ness can lead to em­pa­thy, which can hope­fully lead to so­lu­tions. Please take an hour to watch “Break­ing Heroin’s Grip: Road to Re­cov­ery” to­mor­row, let its mes­sage soak in, and then re­solve to help.

It re­ally is a life-and-death mat­ter.

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