Washington, DC – The deadly synthetic opioid, carfentanil, used to treat elephants, has now been reported to be connected to drug overdoses in Loudoun County, VA. More than 1,100 people in Virginia have died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016. Similarly Prince George’s and Baltimore Counties in Maryland have seen skyrocketing increases in opioid-related deaths in the first part of 2017. In Washington, DC, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has been monitoring deaths involving heroin, morphine and fentanyl for several years and saw a 102% increase in fatal overdoses due to opioid use from 2014 to 2016.
The news is filled with tragic stories.
In response to these opioid overdose epidemics in the greater Washington, DC area, the Foundation for a Drug-Free World announced the launch of its 2018 drug education initiative to fight the rising opioid, heroin and synthetics drug overdose epidemic. The campaign will start with a year-long series of seminars to educate not only those not yet on drugs but those who are working in the drug education field. The role of prevention is key to helping with the drug epidemic. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy stated that, “The simplest and most cost-effective way to lower the human and societal costs of drug abuse is to prevent it in the first place.”
Knowing that drug education is a huge challenge but is vital to the greater DC area, Drug-Free World has been joining efforts and hands with other government agencies and non-profit organizations continuing its goal of many years to help saturate the city with drug education materials to bring about a better understanding of the harmful effects of drugs.
Currently, the legal status of marijuana is not clear to everyone in the District. It has been “decriminalized” and is only legally used in certain areas. The effects of marijuana especially marijuana “edibles” – brownies, cookies, sprinkled popcorn – as well as the effects of lacing synthetic opioids and heroin with fentanyl and deadly carfentanil need to be known. Authorities are reminding citizens never to approach or touch suspected narcotics as in many cases the substances can be inhaled and even trace amounts on the skin can have extremely adverse reactions. Parents must be educated and take responsibility. Youth must be educated.
Drug-Free World is working with government agencies, the police, school personnel, school resource officers and many non-profits making available their educational material including booklets in English and Spanish on 13 different drugs, public service announcements, DVD documentaries on the 13 drugs and an educator’s kit complete with a guide on using the materials. The plan is to help others to use the materials themselves in a way most appropriate for the population being addressed.
Rev. Susan Taylor, Faith Liaison for the program called The Truth About Drugs, stated, “It is up to the community, working shoulder to shoulder with government, to bring about an increase in awareness of the dangers of not only street drugs but prescription drugs as well. Our opioid/heroin problem continues; synthetics in many forms are still used and the truth about marijuana and its actual legal standing are still not well known. We hope to be able to share the educational materials with as many youth and adults as possible so each can make their own informed choice. If everyone knew the harmful effects, the statistics would be going down. We have much more work to do.”
Drug-Free World is offering all of its educational materials for free. More information can be found at www.drugfreeworlddc.org. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is an international organization with materials in 17 languages and is supported by Churches of Scientology internationally.