Lake Forest group hosts ‘hard-hitting’ drug abuse film screening
Jamison Monroe (from left), Dr. Heather Hale, Andy Duran, Jamie Holmes and Sean Postol field questions after a showing of "Behind the Orange Curtain." | Chandler West~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 6, 2013 9:21AM
NORTH CHICAGO — The first Midwest airing of “Behind the Orange Curtain,” a documentary on prescription drug abuse, left the audience at Rosalind Franklin University in shocked silence this winter.
In less than an hour, they watched families in Orange County, Calif., recount the disturbing reality of a prescription drug abuse epidemic in their community that has left teens and young adults dead, and families and friends devastated.
Lake Forest’s LEAD, a nonprofit organization leading youth to healthy decisions, and SpeakUP!, a prevention coalition, partnered with the university to show the film on Feb. 27 and raise awareness of the issue locally.
“Tonight is an example of a collaborative effort of caring individuals,” Michael Welch, president of Rosalind Franklin University, told the nearly 200 members of the audience in the school’s auditorium. “Many people are concerned about our youth and our adults and prescription drug use and misuse that we’re seeing and want to do something about it.”
Dr. Heather Hale of The Child, Adolescent & Family Recovery Center in Lake Bluff said comparing the local community to Orange County, Calif., is a fair comparison to make.
“It’s an affluent suburb with a culture very similar to ours,” she said.
Executive Producer Jamison Monroe cautioned the audience before the documentary started about its “hard-hitting and reality-based” content.
“This is not a happy film, not a feel-good film,” he said.
Over the next 53 minutes, the audience watched as users, parents, friends and experts talked about abuse of Oxytocin, Xanax and other prescription drugs and its deadly impact on their affluent, almost picture-perfect community.
One teen’s death from overdose occurred after his friends left him on the side of the road to die.
Others talked about “dirty doctors” who prescribe unneeded drugs to supplement their income.
The mother of a popular high school football player who nearly died speaks to students and their families, pushing her son in a wheelchair. Unable to talk, he holds up one or two fingers to communicate.
“Don’t even start smoking pot,” one woman said in the film. Others called marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol “gateway” drugs to prescription medications and heroin.
After the film ended, an audience member asked about emotional pain and its role in abuse.
Jamie Holmes, the university’s assistant professor of pharmacy practice, said abusers often suffer from anxiety and depression.
“They’re trying to self-treat,” she said.
Another audience member asked if suburban areas or bad parenting styles are to blame.
“This type of substance abuse happens across the board,” Monroe said. “Moving to the suburbs is not a drug-abuse sentence.”
Monroe said today’s parents tend to “outsource” activities with their children they once did themselves. He told parents to “spend as much time with your kids as possible” on positive things.
Hale said some abuse starts following a sports injury when students unknowingly become hooked on prescription pain medication.
“It’s super important to monitor medication, period,” she said.
Andy Duran, executive director of LEAD and SpeakUP!, said senior citizens “are often the point of access” for prescription drugs for teens and young adults who take or sell them.
Holmes said prescription drugs are not harmful if taken properly. “All medications are poisonous at higher dosages,” she said.
One audience member questioned the role spirituality plays in prevention and recovery.
“Involvement in a faith community is a huge protecting factor,” Duran said.
After the talk, Annie Merel of Chicago, a practicing therapist who works in Northfield with teens, said she knew prescription drug abuse occurred, “but I didn’t know to quite the level.”