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A community forum next week on prescription drug abuse will emphasize education and prevention, particularly in teenagers, featuring a speaker who overcame an addiction to prescription pills.

The fifth Prescription Drug Abuse Community Workshop and Forum will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at the College of Southern Maryland Prince Frederick Campus and will be presented by the Prescription Drug Abuse Abatement Council, headed by the Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse Inc.

After an update on prescription drug and heroin use in the county from Sheriff Mike Evans (R) and Dr. Laurence Polsky, Calvert County health officer, attendees will hear from Erin Anthony Bahadur, who spoke at the first forum in 2011 as a resident of the local detention center, where she was residing as a result of her prescription drug abuse issues, said Candice D’Agostino, CAASA coordinator.

Bahadur will return to share her story of successfully overcoming her addiction.

“Hopefully, other people will see that there is a way to beat this and there is a way to move forward,” D’Agostino said.

Breakout sessions on how to do just that — beat addiction — as well as how to prevent, control and recognize it, will follow.

One of the forum’s goals is to raise awareness about the growing problem of prescription pill addiction in Calvert County, which often morphs into a heroin habit, because both are opiates, and heroin can be purchased for a much cheaper price on the street, D’Agostino said. Another goal is to provide resources, information and guidance to those who are working through the issue of addiction with a family member or friend.

One of the main goals of the forum is to help people, particularly parents, spot and address warning signs of substance abuse in teens.

“What we’re starting to see here is that these are the high achievers,” said Calvert County State’s Attorney Laura Martin, who is also a member of the Prescription Drug Abuse Abatement Council. “These are kids you would never think would be involved in any type of drug.”

For this reason, the forum will provide parents with tools to identify red flags, which include fatigue, irritability, changes in appetite or sleeping habits, loss of interest in school or extracurricular activities or changes in friends, said Polsky, who is also a member of the council.

Attendees will also have the chance to talk with families of substance abusers as well as recovering addicts in order to glean strategies for successful navigation of these hurdles.

Other breakout sessions will focus on an early diagnosis of substance abuse, supporting someone with an addiction problem and treatment and rehabilitation programs. One session, called “POP Positivity — NOT Pills,” will target kids ages 11 to 14.

“Teenagers may end up being influenced easier than adults in terms of trying drugs that can lead to addiction, disrupt their education and lead to a whole host of problems in their adult lives,” Polsky said.

He said having at least one meal as a family each day can help parents combat drug experimentation and addiction by providing a venue for them to check in with children about stressors in their lives and address them in a constructive way.

D’Agostino said the bottom line in substance abuse prevention is to teach kids to make good choices and healthy decisions. Parents, she said, should learn what’s prevalent and popular with young people and start a dialogue with them about substance use and its consequences.

afrazier@somdnews.com