Dis­cus­sion about opi­ate abuse held at KI High

Record Observer - - School - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

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.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

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.

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