Friday, September 07, 2001

Teen-made documentary warns about OxyContin


Real addicts tell of real horrors

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        WHITESBURG, Ky. — While authorities across Appalachia are focused on tracking down black-market dealers of the prescription drug OxyContin, a group of teen-agers has been busy producing a documentary that they think may be a powerful weapon in the fight against abuse of the painkiller.

        Real addicts offer dire warnings in Because of OxyContin to anyone who might be considering abusing the drug.

        Appalshop, the Whitesburg-based cultural center that sponsored the project, plans to show the documentary in high schools throughout the region and across the nation.

        “I lost my child because of OxyContin,” said a weeping Virginia woman trying to overcome her addiction. “I have hepatitis because of OxyContin. Tomorrow, I'll know if I have AIDS because of OxyContin.”

        Faith Colwell of Hazard, a 16-year-old student from Perry Central High School who helped develop the documentary, said she believes it will be a strong deterrent to abuse of the drug, especially among teen-agers.

        “I think it should be shown in high schools,” Faith said. “People get into OxyContin because they think they won't get addicted. The people we interviewed are proof that's not the case.”

        Jessica Williams, 17, a senior at Johnson Central High School at Paintsville, said: “I think there are a lot of people this film could do a lot of good for.”

        The teens, working through the Appalachian Media Institute at Appalshop, developed the documentary during their summer break. The people interviewed were candid, said Lydia Moyer, an Appalshop employee who helped oversee the project.

        “People seemed to trust the students because they are so young,” Ms. Moyer said. “They were all intense interviews.”

        The Kentucky medical examiner's office identified the presence of oxycodone, the primary drug in OxyContin, in 69 people who died between January 2000 and May 2001. In 36 of those deaths, toxic levels of oxycodone were identified.

        If taken properly, Oxycontin's active ingredient is released slowly into the body. But abusers circumvent the time-release by crushing the pills and inhaling or injecting the powder to get the same kind of euphoric high that heroin brings.

        Authorities say more than 30 pharmacies in Kentucky were robbed in the past year by people seeking OxyContin.

        Six addicts interviewed at a treatment center in Lebanon, Va., all offered the same warning: Stay away from the drug.

        Juanita Mace of Pikeville agreed to be interviewed by the teens in hopes the documentary could prevent other people from going through what she's been through.

        “The material things you can always work and get back, but my children's childhood years, I can never get back,” Ms. Mace told the teens. “Just don't ever try it. It's a powerful drug, and you can't play with it.”

       



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- Teen-made documentary warns about OxyContin