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Drugs—'It's everybody's problem'

Calvert County’s Prescription Drug Abuse Abatement Council held its latest community awareness workshop Thursday, April 3 at the College of Southern Maryland’s Prince Frederick campus. The two-and-a-half hour workshop gave attendees a glimpse of the strategies being implemented by law enforcement, treatment specialists, pharmacists and physicians, and gave concerned citizens an opportunity to ask questions.

“We’ve been fighting a war on drugs for four decades and we haven’t made much progress,” said Calvert County Health Office Dr. Laurence Polsky. The substances that have created problems for society, Polsky explained, have been around since primitive times. He explained that people are drawn to drugs and other potentially dangerous substances for a variety of reasons, including peer pressure.

While the struggle to lessen the dangers of prescription drugs seems to be gaining momentum, Polsky warned, “we have limited resources.”

“It’s everybody’s problem,” said Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans [R], who read a list of local drug enforcement statistics from the past two years. The sheriff implored attendees to give police as much help as possible by reporting suspicious activities in the home—out-of-the-ordinary behavior by children, missing prescription medications—and on the road—other motorists driving erratically. “Everybody can help,” said Evans.

As bad as the prescription drug problem has become in Calvert, Evans declared “the doctors and pharmacists are making a difference” with proactive measures. However, Evans stated that many drug addicts unable to obtain opiod pain relievers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin and now purchasing heroin. “It’s cheaper,” said Evans, who confirmed the results have been lethal. Deaths that have been the result of heroin overdoses have increased in Calvert.

Workshop attendees also got to see that the face of drug addiction has no prototype. While substance abusers are thought to be underachievers who can’t function in the work place, a young woman named Erin Anthony Bahadur stood before the audience and told her story.

“I am an addict,” said Bahadur, who spoke at the council’s first community forum nearly five years ago when she was serving a jail sentence. She chronicled her descent from a high-achieving 18-year-old who “was incredibly against drugs” to an individual who succumbed to peer pressure and experimented with a variety of substances. Although she did well in college and pharmacy school, her life spiraled out of control from prescription opiates to heroin. Having drugs accessible for distribution, Bahadur soon faced felony charges for distribution.

“It’s extremely difficult to explain addiction to someone who is not an addict,” said Bahadur. “Looking back, it’s amazing I didn’t overdose and die alone in my apartment.&

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