Discussion about opiate abuse held at KI High
STEVENSVILLE — On Thursday evening, Sept. 21, two nights after the “Opiates, Heroin, the Community and YOU!” presentation at Queen Anne’s County High School, the program came to the auditorium at Kent Island High School. The mission of the program was to inform parents and students about the opiate crisis sweeping the nation and how to prevent it from overwhelming Queen Anne’s County.
KI High Principal John Schrecongost welcomed everyone, saying, “We usually host celebrations here in the auditorium, however, this gathering is of a more serious discussion.”
Queen Anne’s Sheriff Gary Hofmann said, “We plan to have an unscripted dialogue of parents to parents during this program tonight about the dangers of drug abuse.” He introduced a documentary made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under former Director James Comey, titled, “Chasing the Dragon, The Life of an Opiate Addict.” Hofmann cautioned the audience, “This is semi-graphic.”
The movie showed interviews with a wide range of people who have become addicted to opiates, leading many of them to become hooked on other powerful drugs and all incarcerated over time. All of the people interviewed were caucasian, middle to upper middle class. They ranged in ages from 19 to mid-40s. All stated they never wanted for anything while growing up. They came from families that provided them “with everything.” Several of them had started smoking marijuana when they were as young as 11.
One woman, a mother of three, had a job that payed her over $100,000 a year. She got hooked on a prescription pain killer. She eventually lost her job, her home, her children were placed in foster care, and she was sent to prison for crimes committed to support her drug habit that got out of control. The message from all those interviewed was that all of them got out of control, and they didn’t care about anything other than where their next fix of drugs was coming from.
One young man who was an Eagle Scout said, “I started with pot and progressed into hell. I didn’t care, I just did it. Increasing drug addiction turned me into a monster.” In the film it stated over 46,000 people a year in the U.S. died from drug overdoes, over half of those from abuse of opiates — prescription drugs such as painkillers. On average, 44 people each day in the U.S. die from overuse of prescription painkillers.
The message was: “You’re not invincible; you’re not the exception. Drugs can and will consume your life.”
Following the movie, two parents stood and addressed the audience who lost their adult children’s lives to addiction. Anthony Reno Sr. Reno said, “My son, Anthony Jr., died four months ago. I was naive. I think most of the nation is naive about the overpowering nature of durg abuse in our country.”
Reno gave an example of how drugs can consume you. He said, “If you take a frog and throw it into a pan of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out of the pan. However, if you put the same frog into a pan of lukewarm water it won’t panic. It’ll stay there. Overtime, you can turn up the heat on that pan until it’s too late, and the frog in his comfort is cooked!” He used the analogy with people hooked on different drugs. Like the frog, the progression will end your life.
Reno was followed by Chris Jones of Grasonville, whose 23-year-son, Brandon, died from an overdose. While cooking dinner, she found him dead in his bedroom only 40 minutes after having a conversation with him. The end of the conversation she said, “He told me — ‘I love you mom!’ Forty minutes later he was gone.”
Jones told the audience, “I never wanted for him to be unhappy.” She added, “I was accommodating. I even had gone out an bought him marijuana to smoke at home when he was 16.”
Brandon’s addiction progressed over time. He began stealing from his parents, even taking family jewelry and exchanging it at a local pawn shop for cash.Jones said, “I went to the pawn shop and found it.”
The program ended with a question and answer discussion. Parents from the audience asked Reno and Jones different questions about how to help/protect their children.
Jones said, “Always let your children know you love them. Never make them feel they’re alone with their problems.” Jones said she had seen situations where, when people discovered their children were addicted to drugs, they’d throw their children out of their house or refuse to talk with them anymore. “That’s not the way to deal with it”, she said.
Kate Ryan from the Queen Anne’s County Health Department was also present and spoke about help available locally. Call her at 410-758-1306, ext. 4525. Queen Anne’s County Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Cuches discussed procescution of drug offenders.
Another town hall on opiate abuse is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at Stevensville Middle School. It is sponsored by Queen Anne’s County Drug-Free Coalition.
The panel of speakers who addressed those who came to Kent Island High School Thursday evening, September 21, for information about drug abuse that has been sweeping the nation. From the left, KIHS Principal John Schrecongost, Sheriff Gary Hofmann, parent Anthony Reno Sr., parent Chris Jones, QA Health Department official Kate Ryan, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services Director Gary Fry, and QA Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Cuches.
Fifth- and second-grade students stood at the flag poles and took turns during the ceremony explaining the importance of the U.S. Constitution.