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North Hills

North Hill Middle School to host Town Hall discussion of opioid epidemic

| Monday, March 12, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
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It often starts innocently enough with a sports injury or a wisdom tooth extraction.

The patient is prescribed an opioid like codeine, hydrodone (Vicodin) or oxycodone (OxyContin) to relieve the pain.

However, with just a 10-day supply, one in five of these patients will become addicted according to a study led by Bradley Martin, professor of pharmaceutical evaluation and policy at the University of Arkansas. A 30-day supply can lead to addiction in nearly one in three people.

“And if you're exposed to opioids before the age of 23, the chances of getting addicted are 400 times higher than later in life,” said Dr. C. Thomas Brophy, a board-certified specialist in addiction medicine and emergency medicine.

As local school districts launch their spring sports seasons this month, community leaders and experts want to inform parents, students and residents-at-large about opioid usage and the warning signs, prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.

“The Opioid Epidemic” Town Hall Meeting will be held March 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. at North Hills Middle School. It will be hosted by the North Hills School District, Ross Township Police Department, West View Police Department and Magisterial District Judge Richard Opiela.

It is free and recommended for anyone age 12 and older.

Attendees will hear from local leaders fighting the opioid epidemic in this area, including Brophy; Brian Dempsey with the Drug Enforcement Administration; Philip Little with the state Attorney General's Office; West View police Chief Bruce Fromlak and Ross Township police Chief Joseph Ley.

A speaker series with rotating breakout sessions will begin at 7 p.m. Topics for three, 20-minute breakout sessions include:

• Student Activities and Pain Management

• A Parent's Perspective

• Community Action – How You Can Help

An informal question-and-answer session with light refreshments will follow.

Doors will open and informational tables from local support and resource organizations will be available starting at 6:30 p.m.

Free childcare will be provided by North Hills High School's Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) organization and National Honor Society members. Pre-registration for childcare is required at www.nhsd.net.

Opiela warns that the opioid epidemic affects every walk of life, including people living in affluent communities like the North Hills.

“I had 50 case reviews today. Seventy-five to 80 percent of them involved opioids,” he said.

“In the 2000s, we saw one overdose a week. Today, we see six to seven a day,” added Brophy, founder of Trinity Wellness Services, an addiction treatment center in Hampton Township.

From an economic standpoint, the opioid epidemic affects every resident through increased crime rates, insurance rates and car accidents, said Opiela.

Solutions include more than raising awareness and limiting opioid prescriptions. At the town hall, attendees will learn what steps they can take to help.

“One of the most important things we can do is drop the stigma associated with addiction. It serves no purpose. There are plenty of functional addicts who avoid getting help because they're afraid they'll be ostracized,” said Brophy.

“We want people to attend the town hall so they can get informed on how to avoid and prevent addiction,” said North Hills High School senior Angelina Lazzara, a member of SADD. “I know kids on drugs. They lose motivation and don't want to be involved anymore. This event will help people realize this problem is real.”

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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