SHELTON, Conn. — As the scourge of opioid addiction continues to affect families across the state, Shelton leaders held a presentation Monday to help parents and citizens better identify the symptoms of addiction and protect their loved ones from tragedy.
“This is an ice-cold reality in our region,” said Superintendent of Schools Christopher Clouet. “It is affecting our children right now.”
The Board of Education, Shelton Police Department, Shelton PTO, the Greater Valley Substance Abuse Council (GVSAC) and the Shelton Youth Services Bureau teamed up for the presentation, which included brief speeches from city students.
Fifth-grader Gabriella Perry, 11, reminded those gathered that, if current trends continue, an estimated 1,000 people will die of drug overdoses in Connecticut in the year she’s a freshman in high school.
“Awareness needs to begin in elementary school,” fifth-grader Isabella DiPalma told about 75 people at the Shelton Intermediate School event.
Shelton Police Officer David Eldridge said he hasn’t seen the opioid situation as bad as it is now in the more than 20 years he has been on the force.
And the solution is not locking up addicts, he said. Education, law enforcement and health resources are all needed to combat the problem.
Like other speakers, Eldridge said opioid addiction often starts with painkillers prescribed after a sports injury or a root canal. The person can become addicted and then turn to heroin, which gives the same high, but might be cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.
Since the average addict spends between $110 and $300 a day, some turn to crime to pay for a persistent habit, Eldridge said.
Lorrie McFarland, a GVSAC prevention coordinator, said heroin and other opioids are more addictive than tobacco and cocaine and can have lasting effects, even if the addict stops using.
“Heroin actually rewires the brain forever,” she said.
Speakers reminded parents to lock up prescription medications and dispose of them at local police departments if they are no longer required.
Parents worried their children or their children’s friends might be sneaking pills should make a habit of counting their medications. Parents should also alert school nurses if a child is given a temporary prescription.
A dose of prevention can go a long way to averting a lifetime of problems, said Steve Rovinelli, a Griffin Hospital anesthesiologist.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “You care for nothing else in the world but the next hit."