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October 19, 2016 — Heroin and opioid addiction

Understanding this Escalating Problem

Heroin and opioid addiction was the topic for AAWGT’s general education meeting on October 19 at the Mt. Olive Community Life Center. A first-class panel and performing arts group helped the 80 guests understand the depth and breadth of this escalating problem in Anne Arundel County and across the country. 

The first speaker, Sandy Smolnicky, captured everyone’s attention as she described her personal involvement with the topic by virtue of having two family members with serious, active substance use disorders. She works daily to help manage their illnesses. Since 2010, Sandy has been with the Anne Arundel Department of Health providing technical assistance to communities and substance abuse prevention coalitions in Anne Arundel County. She gave the audience a sense of the scale and impact of heroin and opioid abuse with a few well-chosen slides that conveyed unsettling statistics. She talked about the origins of this drug problem, its escalation over the last few years, and efforts to combat it. 

Next, Angel Traynor, founder and Executive Director of Serenity Sistas’, told the story of her own addiction and recovery in raw, honest and vivid language. She described becoming a certified Peer Health Educator in Substance Abuse Education and shared knowledge about different treatment options, focusing on options she believes help addicts the most. Angel believes the power of addicts helping one another is essential for recovery.

The final part of the program featured a powerful and moving enactment about the seduction and dangers of drug addiction as seen through the eyes of students from the Annapolis High School Performing and Visual Arts Magnet Program. Through creative movement and dramatic yet sparse dialogue, these talented students conveyed what it means to be a young person in the thrall of drug addiction. At the end, the audience gave them a standing ovation!

Sandy, Angel, and Education Chair Cele Brown encouraged those in attendance to learn as much possible about this epidemic and to get involved. Many individuals and organizations are taking up the fight to prevent young people from falling into a life of addiction and to make effective treatments available for those who seek help. Of the questions asked at the end of the program, many were directed to the high school group. The exchange at the end of the meeting attests to the interest AAWGT and community members have in doing more about this insidious problem. 

Watch Anne Arundel County’s video, “Not My Child,” to learn more about this topic.

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