Community Needs Knowledge With Opioid Battle

“You can’t do enough stories on this. It impacts everyone in our community because nobody is immune from it.”

That’s a comment that has resonated with us for several months. It came from a high school teacher on the lower shore about the opioid crisis facing this community as well as those across the country. The statement came after the teacher noticed fresh track marks on a student’s arms. The teacher notified the school nurse and what happened from there is a familiar tale. There was a report to the parents, who were unaware, then numerous attempts at treatment and years later an overdose with a lot of heartache in between. It’s an unimaginable turn of events that is more and more routinely inflicting this community with heartache and emotional devastation. It has to stop.

As a media company serving this community, it’s imperative we put a spotlight on this epidemic, which is tearing families apart and causing pain and suffering through young lives being lost in the worst case or severely jeopardizing their future at the minimum. We have done dozens of stories on the growing opioid addiction here, but we are planning to explore it with increased vigor to help raise awareness.

We are actively invested in spreading awareness about this problem and the associated resources that might help families and other segments of our society. The motivation is simple. Quite honestly, it’s because we are scared. We are frightened and worried about our own children and their future. The only non-option is to do nothing. We know there are others who feel the same.

Drugs are nothing new, of course. Families and communities have struggled with addiction and associated problems from drugs and alcohol for generations. While history confirms that is so, we must admit the current state of affairs with highly addictive opioids is something altogether different. Heroin, for example, is a unique animal because it’s cheap, easy to obtain and more addictive than anything else.

There are many layers to this proverbial onion and we are committed to continually exploring the many different angles to this story. We started this week with several articles including hearing what message some youth in Wicomico are hearing in schools; how the local health department is tackling the epidemic; how families are coping when there are tragic consequences from this addiction battle; how law enforcement is attacking the dealers when their dope causes someone to overdose; and how police agencies are partnering to go after users and distributors with increased vigor.

We are just getting started. This is not a multi-part series with an end in sight. This is a long-term commitment to continually reporting on this growing epidemic that has parents stressed and micromanaging their kids because they fear the outcome if they don’t.

What’s most disturbing about this crisis is nobody is spared. Young people are getting addicted to opioids despite having involved parents and caring homes. It makes parents wonder what they can do to keep their kids on the right track. For many, these thoughts are all encompassing and distract from enjoying the rearing years for fear they won’t be able to prevent or see the signs of addiction down the line.

We will close with the words of a mother who turned to writing after her daughter overdosed at 21 years of age. She shared her story with Wicomico County students this week.

“No one wants to get addicted to this drug, but it’s more powerful than you can ever imagine,” Marie Allen told the children. “She started with drinking, then marijuana, and by 19, she used heroin for the first time. Within two years, she was dead …”

Her words and the photo of her daughter dead in the coroner’s office shocked the students she was speaking to this week, but that’s what is needed. The kids of today need to be scared of this drug. That is the harsh reality that we are dedicated to exploring. If you want to share your story and be a part of this ongoing effort, feel free to email us at editor@mdcoastdispatch.com.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.