Painkillers and heroin use the focus of Virginia Beach Schools event

Heroin and prescription drug overdoses killed 728 Virginians in 2014, according to a report from the office of Attorney General Mark Herring.

In Virginia Beach, School Board member Carolyn Weems lost her daughter Caitlyn to a heroin overdose in 2013, after the 21-year-old had become addicted to painkillers. Now, Weems and the nonprofit Protecting Children Foundation are partnering with the school district and Herring to host an event on Dec. 3 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center to spread awareness of the danger and use of the drugs.

Virginia Beach School Board member Carolyn Weems (Courtesy of Virginia Beach Public Schools)
Virginia Beach School Board member Carolyn Weems (Courtesy of Virginia Beach Public Schools)

“It is our hope that our suffering will not be in vain; that our story might shine the light into this dark place,” Weems said in a release.”It’s a place that we, as parents, would rather not look, but the cost of ignorance is too much to bear.”

The workshop, titled “Dead Serious: The Street Drug That’s in Your Medicine Cabinet,” is free but limited to 500 people. Registration is required. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with the opportunity for attendees to talk with local organizations about drug-related resources. A panel discussion will begin at 7 p.m. with Weems, Herring and others. They will also show a documentary, “Heroin: The Hardest Hit,” about the danger of heroin and prescription drugs and their impact on Virginia families and communities.

“We really believe the message will resonate, especially with young people who may be at risk of experimenting with these dangerous drugs,” Herring said in a release. “We have to make sure people understand how deadly prescription drugs can be when abused, and how quickly heroin and opioid addiction can take over your life.”

The workshop will focus on how painkillers, including those prescribed for sports injuries, as they were in Caitlyn Weems’ case, can lead to addiction and heroin use. Carolyn Weems, the vice president of the Protecting Children Foundation, wrote about her daughter’s experience for other parents in a guest column on the Virginia Beach Schools’ website.

“The faces of this drug are sweet girls who loved soccer, college students, moms, retired folks and neighbors,” she said in the release.

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