Montgomery County officials seek to raise awareness of growing drug use, overdoses

- Officials in Montgomery County visited Damascus High School to speak with parents about the growing problem of drug use, particularly heroin and overdoses.

A recent poll found three in ten Marylanders have a close friend or family member addicted to opioids.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has set up an emergency task force to combat heroin and opioid use and officials from the state’s attorney's office as well as police are going to local high schools to talk with students.

At Damascus High School Thursday night, parents got a preview of what their kids will learn in the presentation.

One thing they are trying to educate kids about is the Good Samaritan law.

“If it's a party with just drugs and alcohol and someone is overdosing, and people are in lifesaving mode calling 911, the statute is clear – you are not going to be arrested,” said Steve Chaikin of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office. “And you know, God forbid they were arrested, the police will work with the state’s attorney’s office and we’ll review the case and we're going to get it dropped.”

The focus is on saving lives and not locking up kids.

There were 578 heroin-related deaths in Maryland last year.

First responders and more police officers are being armed with Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose. But they need to get there in time and they don't want kids or adults to avoid calling 911 out of fear of getting in trouble.

Some parents at this meeting described themselves as admitted helicopter parents. But others were very candid saying so far, they haven't had those important conversations about drugs with their kids.

“They don’t really go on in my house that much because our family hasn’t experienced those issues,” said Kim Obendorfer. “However, I have four friends that have lost children in the Damascus area to heroin.”

“They have to bring in real samples,” said Nives Bidwick. “They need to say this is the name of weird drugs today because parents and I don’t know.

“I didn’t know what a ‘pharm party’ was. A pharm party is a new word for me. It’s when they put pharmaceutical drugs in a basket and you grab them as you go in the front door.”

And it is not just heroin use. Prescription drugs, cocaine and synthetic marijuana use are all on the rise.

Officials want parents to be on the lookout for signs from their children, including observing pupils larger than normal, sudden weight loss or gain, changes in sleep habits and changes in personal grooming habits.

If you think your child or anyone you know has a problem, they advise them to seek help immediately. The state’s attorney's office is providing the PTSA with $500 to use toward raising awareness.

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