North Tonawanda Holds Opioid Awareness Meeting

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By: Brendan McDonough

Reporter for North Tonawanda

They did not come to talk about ways to treat drug abuse, but instead were focusing on ways to stop it before it starts. Inside the Spruce Elementary School local official met with members of the community to talk about what can be done.

The event was hosted by the Community Health Alliance of North Tonawanda or CHANT.

Superintendent of the North Tonawanda City School District, Gregory Woytila, says it takes a village to raise a child, that include both school officials and the students’ parents.

“It starts at the home, we have the kid 6 hours a day and if we do some programs or if we have a health class, I think that parents can do a lot with just being persistent and telling them why you are worried, parents need to start this conversation much earlier than they think, do not worry until they are in high school but it starts now in elementary school” said Wattala.

Others says the want to see drug addition classified as a chronic disease.

Dr Gale Burnstein, Commissioner of Erie County Health says if kids start taking drugs and a young age it can have a life long effect on their brains.

“People get exposed to these substances and it really has some permanent damage to the brain, especially with young people because their brains are not fully developed until about 25. People who are addicted to opioids are not bad people, they just had bad luck. Nearly 80 percent of those who are addicted had their first legitimate expose though legitimate pain medication, either from a prescription or a from a friend that gave them a prescription they had,” said Burnstein.

They say it’s important to also tell your pharmacist that maybe you need a lesser strength medication. Joe Mesi knows all about pain. He is a former Heavyweight boxing champion. Ironically, Mesi now works in the pharmaceutical field and says learning about the drugs in your house is key.

Mesi says he was never addicted to drugs but admits he did try some things during his boxing career.

In fact, just last year he noticed he still had many of the drugs from his boxing days still in his house.

“I recently says all of my expired opioiids way in the back of the shelves, I never took them and while they were expired I am sure they still had damage to them. We need to educate ourselves about this crisis and get rid of any medications in your house that could get into the wrong hands,” said Mesi.

Changing the way we think about drugs is one thing, but enacting tougher laws is also something that needs to be done. Rebecca Wydysh, a Niagara County Legislator for the 2nd District, is doing just that.

“I think we need to look at why is this happening, where is this starting and really get to the root of the problem. At the County level we are working to improve our statics and tracking, we need to know what the problem is,” said Wydysh.

Organizers are hoping the kids out there will hear their words and make the right choice to stamp out opioid use before it starts.








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