Substance abuse problems plague both cities and suburbs

It's easier than ever for teenagers to become addicted to drugs.

An educational pamphlet and samples of naloxone, a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s a startling, and unsettling truth: drug addictions are destroying lives and relationships across Massachusetts, in both inner cities and suburbs. The Springfield Jewish Community Center welcomed families Sunday morning to help them learn about the dangers and reality of substance abuse. They held a “Substance Abuse in the Suburbs” panel discussion at 11:00AM.

“There were issues right in this community, in Longmeadow, and specifically in Western Mass in the suburbs in place that people kind of think their kids are safe,” said Donna Gordon, the clinical director for Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts.

“It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere. All aspects of community,” said Mark Lange, a mental health counselor who is on the substance abuse team at Baystate Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer. He said it’s easier than ever for teenagers to get addicted to opiates. They don’t need a needle or heroin: they can get that same high from prescription pills, like Oxycontin, which are fairly accessible. Lange said sometimes, addictions begin when injuries end. People still have medication left over and continue taking it for the high. They notice they’re addicted when they try to stop taking the pills and feel withdrawals.

There’s no simple cure for a drug addiction. Even though there are drugs available like suboxone that treat the physical aspect of addiction, there’s no medication to take to treat the psychological or social aspects of it. Those are the aspects that truly affect a whole family, and a whole community.

“Rather than making it a moral failing or sign of weakness is to realize this really is like a disease and so one of the best things you can do is to not be shaming the addict because shame will just make the addiction dig in even deeper,” said Lange.

Also on the panel was Rachel Kofman of Longmeadow who shared the story of a family member’s death from drug overdose. Cindy Solin, a private practice clinician in Longmeadow, shared her experiences with families coping with these problems.

Opioid addiction and overdose deaths are at epidemic levels in Massachusetts. Communities hope through their efforts, and those by the state task force, they can help save relationships and save lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with a drug addiction, you can find was to help here. You can find statistics on overdose deaths here.

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