October 13, 2014

Story by: Jennie Grey

Featured in: Saratogian

Link to article can be found here: http://www.saratogian.com/general-news/20141013/oct-16-forum-to-raise-awareness-about-heroin-addiction

SARATOGA SPRINGS >> In response to the growing problem of heroin use by local teens and adults, the Prevention Council of Saratoga County is offering a community forum about heroin addiction in partnership with Saratoga Springs Public Library and Recovery Advocacy in Saratoga, a recently formed community organization.

The forum will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, in the H. Dutcher Community Room at Saratoga Springs Public Library at 49 Henry St.

The forum will assemble a panel of people from Saratoga, including individuals in addiction recovery, law enforcement, physicians, prevention professionals and concerned families, to raise awareness of the rise in heroin use in the community.

Prevention Council Media and Marketing Specialist LeeAnn Mandrillo explained that heroin is a multifaceted problem.

“Heroin is like a hydra, the mythological beast with the many heads,” she said. “You cut one head off, and two grow back. The toll it takes is frightening.”

According to New York’s Combat Heroin campaign, heroin and opioid abuse have become a serious problem in communities across New York state and the nation. In 2013, there were 89,269 admissions for heroin and prescription opioid abuse treatment in New York state alone, an increase from 63,793 in 2004.

During this same time period, New Yorkers ages 18 to 24 had the largest increase in such admissions. Nationally, nearly a half-million people were reportedly abusing heroin or suffering from heroin dependence in 2012.

In December 2013, 17-year-old Daniel Lewis of Clifton Park was charged with injecting a 15-year-old with heroin at Shenendehowa High School. The incident was the first reported case of heroin use in any Saratoga County school district.

“Heroin is a growing problem that knows no demographic and does not discriminate,” Prevention Council Executive Director Janine Stuchin said. “We know it is related to the abuse of prescription opioid pain medication, where users are switching to heroin because it is cheaper and often more available. We also know the best solutions for prevention in our community are developed from the grass roots up.”

Mandrillo said one key solution to the problem was education. She encouraged people to become knowledgeable about the signs of heroin use and to communicate to others, especially adolescents, the dangers of addiction.

“We should lock our medicine cabinets and dispose of unwanted medications on Drug Take Back Day,” she said. “Parents should speak with their children about alcohol and drug use as early as middle school. Those conversations are really important. We need to talk with rather than at our kids.”

The panel will discuss the heroin crisis, including information about addiction as a disease that requires medical intervention, long-term recovery, the scope of the problem in Saratoga County, available local resources and what the community can do to reduce and prevent substance abuse.

“Tools like this forum open up critical conversations,” Mandrillo said. “We may feel sheltered here upstate, thinking we don’t have the drug issues of the large metropolitan areas — and these programs help us really educate ourselves. We can change public health by how we talk to one another.”

More information about the Combat Heroin campaign can be found at combatheroin.ny.gov/prevention.