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Hundreds, All Types Affected By Heroin

WHAG's Merris Badcock, who has been closely following the problem, attended a substance abuse conference in Middletown, and shows us just how many people heroin has affected.

MIDDLETOWN, Va. - At the 6th annual Community Commitment for Change Conference, sponsored by the Northern Shenandoah Valley Alliance, hundreds of community members gathered to hear about one thing. Substance abuse.

"We surveyed our members, and they wanted to do something on substance abuse. Since that time, we've had a horrible epidemic with heroin,” said Judge Elizabeth Kellas of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in Winchester-Frederick County.

Guest Speaker Michael Nerney spoke about how heroin affects the brain, what happens when users mix it with other substances, and secondary issues that arise as a result.

"For the first time ever, accidental overdose of the opioid family, which includes heroin, surpassed car accident fatalities,” said Nerney. “It is now the number one leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

Community members, police officers, social workers, counselors, even school principals, all kinds of people attended the conference today. Organizers say it goes to show just how wide-spread the heroin epidemic has become.

"Heroin has become so bad, we are working on formulating media plans to attack the problem,” said Christa Shifflett, Executive Director of the Warren Coalition, who attended the conference. “Hearing how the brain chemistry plays into that and the different rolls in male and female brains is really important as we put together a media campaign."

"You have no idea when it comes to this country what contaminates are in [heroin], what it's been cut with, what the purity is, what the potency is, if it has any bacterial or viral agents in it, so it's extremely dangerous,” said Nerney.

Heroin is dangerous, not just because it's so addictive or potent, but because it can also lead to a slew of secondary issues.

"We’ve got a long road ahead of us. We're going to have to have a very collaborative, multi-system approach to this,” said Kellas. “It's not going to be an easy process, but we've got to do it."

Learn more about the heroin epidemic across the four-state area by clicking on the links below:

Part One: Introduction to Heroin

Part Two: Heroin and the Court System

Part Three: Heroin and Hospitals

FDA Approves “At Home” Heroin Overdose Antidote

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