In the latest initiative to combat the rising problems associated with opiate addiction and abuse, the Purcellville Police Department hosted a town hall meeting March 1 to further raise awareness of the issue and encourage early intervention for at-risk family and friends — specifically, teens and young adults.
Along with a presentation of the FBI and DEA documentary Chasing the Dragon, the panel including personnel from Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, Loudoun County Mental Health organization, Loudoun County Juvenile Court Services Unit and Loudoun County Public Schools shared stories of drug abuse and answered questions about prevention efforts.
According to the documentary, one in five high school students reports misusing prescription drugs and 75 percent of self-described opioid addicts began with prescription drugs. Eventually, prescription drug users move to heroin, which can give them a similar high for a lower price. Forty-four people die of heroin overdoses every day, according to the film.
In Loudoun County, there were 87 drug overdoses in 2016, LCSO Sgt. Paul Loconti said. Of those 87 overdoses, 61 were attributed to heroin and 17 of those overdoses were fatal. Because of the rising threat of drugs like heroin, the county said it’s stepping up ways to prevent more devastation.
For Loudoun’s youth, help often comes in the form of a court referral to county Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Developmental Services. The department offers rehabilitation and counseling services.
On the school side, students caught violating LCPS drug policies are enrolled in a three-day substance abuse educational course, Student Assistant Specialist Amy Iliffe said.
LCPS also holds forums on substance abuse and has presentations for middle and high school students. Iliffe said next school year its drug prevention presentation will start earlier so that it can be more effective. As things stand now, the first time students learn about the dangers of substance abuse is in eighth grade, which in Iliffe’s opinion is too late. She said she’s noticing an uptick in opiate use as early as middle school.
Mirna Dubon-Elam of the county Juvenile Court Services Unit said she worked through a case recently where a 10-year-old was facing drug-related charges. The drugs were being supplied by his 15-year-old brother. Dubon-Elam said the last thing her office wants to do is give a minor a criminal history and urged parents to be attentive of their children.
“A lot of parents lose track of their kids,” Dubon-Elam said. “It has to start with parents being on top of things and aware.”