Courtesy photo.

County residents discuss opioid epidemic

Concerned citizens gathered at Middletown High School this past Monday to watch the FBI produced documentary “Chasing the Dragon” and discuss the growing concern of opioid abuse.

Presented by Deputy Sheriff Daniel McDowell of the Frederick County Sherriff’s Department in conjunction with staff at Middletown High, the town hall style event began with short speeches from sheriff’s department as well as Hagerstown Drug Enforcement Agent Brian Fitzpatrick.

“The number one thing I want you to take away from tonight is it’s not a parallel between prescription drug abuse and heroin,” Fitzpatrick said “it’s a direct connection.”

Agent Fitzpatrick relayed a number of stark statistics relating prescription drugs to heroin addiction, stating that four out of five heroin addicts gained the addiction from abusing prescription pain killers, and that, though less than six percent of the world’s total population, the United States consumes 99 percent of the world supply of Hydrocodone, a prescription opioid.

“Now if you back up 20 years ago, Oxycodone was in commercials directly into your living room,” Fitzpatrick said. “and back then it was advertised ‘It’s safe, it’s effective, it’s non-addictive’ and that’s one of the reasons we’re here right now.”

After Fitzpatrick spoke, attendees viewed “Chasing the Dragon,” a documentary produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, gave a glimpse into the world of heroin addiction through the testimonials of people who have either experienced the addiction first hand or lost someone to it. After the film, the floor was open to ask questions to the Sheriff’s Department and Middletown High school principal Lee Jeffrey.

“You can’t always tell ‘bad (kids),’” Principal Jeffrey responded when asked about alerting parents if their child is “hanging around with bad kids.” “And maybe that’s part of the problem. Because addiction is a medical condition and ‘bad’ may be a bad choice, but not a bad person. And so, being labeled as a bad person, as opposed to making a bad choice, is a big difference. Maybe kids would be more inclined to work with us if we didn’t define them as ‘bad.’”

Deputy Sheriff McDowell ended the evening with words of thanks, as well as a plea to spread the word about opioid awareness in Frederick County.

“I posted this (event) more than any other, and we have 37 people here, which is a disappointment to me,” he said. “There are 639 chairs here, I was expecting to fill at least half of them, and I filled 37. So I appreciate you coming, but we’re going to have to do this again. Because honestly, it’s not going to stop unless we, as a community, do something to open people’s eyes.”

If you would like to see this film for yourself, it is available in both mature and censored versions for free on YouTube.

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