NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) – A city at the center of the state’s opioid epidemic is educating young people about the dangers of drugs. Juniors at New London High School heard some tough talk about how easy it is to get hooked. They heard it from someone who knows all too well.
“My son’s life was over and I couldn’t bring him back,” Lisa Johns told the crowd in the auditorium, choking back tears.
She lost her son Christopher to a heroin overdose. He got hooked on painkillers after an appendix operation at age 16. When he died in October of 2014, he was one of 5 deaths in 4 days in the New London area.
“I need to help these kids understand the dangers that it does cause death and unfortunately it cost me my only son,” said Johns in an interview.
She joined a group called Community Speaks Out, and this is what they do – talk to students about what happened to their own families.
“We’ve spoken at about 7 or 8 schools now,” said Community Speaks out member Joe de La Cruz. “Our group’s gotten over 40 people into rehabs in the past 6 months.”
His son is now 24, and has battled opioid addiction for years. “If you try it once and you like it, your life is completely different. No matter what path you were on, it’s a different path for you now,” de La Cruz said.
They know first hand that these kids’ parents need educating, as well.
“If you have prescription pain medication in your cabinets, and you’re not using it, get rid of it, because that’s the first thing that they will do,” said Johns.
This forum brought together police, firefighters, and city agencies, and they know it’s not just students who can get addicted.
“A lot of them, it’s their parents that this epidemic is affecting,” said New London Mayor Michael Passero. “So believe it or not, the roles are sort of reversed and that’s why we want to educate our children.”
State and federal officials are talking about getting more treatment options for addicts. Doctors are talking about writing fewer prescriptions, but the simplest and cheapest way to fight the opioid epidemic is to make sure everyone of every age is well aware of the dangers of these drugs.