Anti-drug effort gains attention

Video: A grass-roots film on the deadly effects of heroin draws a growing interest from local and national audiences.

August 22, 1999|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

When the video ended, there was utter silence. And a crowd of several hundred in Westminster High School's auditorium -- some teary-eyed -- quietly pondered the deadly effects of heroin.

"Heroin Kills," Carroll County's home-grown video that has already drawn national attention to the local anti-drug effort, caputured yet another audience Friday night at a town meeting sponsored by the county council of PTAs.

Those in attendence, including adults and many children as young as elementary-school age, watched the 35-minute film and then listened to a panel of local experts -- law enforcers, school anti-drug officials, doctors and parents of youths who died from heroin addiction.

A common message was that teachers, and not always parents, can often sense that a child has begun to use drugs.

"Who is your ally? Your classroom teacher," said Joanne Hayes, substance-abuse prevention school-community coordinator for Carroll County schools. "Get to know your classroom teacher before there is a problem."

Mike College, of the Maryland State Police Drug Task Force, offered parents some early predictors of possible heroin use.

"No young person starts with heroin or cocaine -- it seems alcohol and cigarettes open the gateway to other drugs," College said. He added that once a youth becomes addicted, arrests and school suspensions are often no deterrent.

"They want one thing, and that is to get drugs," he said. "Education is the biggest key, because once they become addicted, there is nothing you can do. I wish I could give you success stories."

The production of the video was a response to a spate of deaths in Carroll County from heroin overdose. A local grass-roots activist group, Residents Attacking Drugs, spent seven months creating the film. Unveiled in May, the video tells a fictional story of Jonathan, an all-American teen-ager who is pressured to try heroin, then slowly falls victim to an addiction and eventually dies in his bed from an overdose.

The video will be used in Carroll County classrooms beginning this fall, and 50 other school systems nationwide have requested copies, according to RAD. The group has distributed more than 700 copies to community organizations, hospitals, health departments, politicians and others who have contacted them.

Camera crews from the ABC News program "20/20" were at the school Friday. RAD's founder and president, Linda Auerback, said the show plans to air a segment about the video -- showcasing it as a successful grass-roots effort in a small community to battle drugs -- sometime in October.

Auerback said she has been heartened and stunned by the large interest in the film. "I look at [the video] as a gift from our children to their peers across the country," she said.

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