NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, opioid addiction is affecting students as early as in middle school, which is why the agency will host a Youth Summit to raise awareness about the dangers of opioid addiction.
The summit will be held October 1 at the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena. Special Agent Debbie Webber said reaching children is vitally important.
“They don’t understand that nowadays, you can’t even try anything cause you could die, you could overdose just by trying something for the first time,” Webber said. “It’s going to be a one-stop shop of resources for not only students and parents. Parents are welcome to come with the classes, and teachers, and the schools."
Dr. Joseph Kanter with the State Department of Health said he believes reaching out to middle and high school students is an important step towards finding a solution to end the epidemic.
“Addiction in general is an issue that really affects families, and in that sense, it’s oftentimes multi-generational,” Kanter said.
Webber said the main part of the summit will focus on the screening of a film directed by James Wahlberg about opioid abuse and addiction.
“You cannot hear a pin drop in the auditoriums after that film is over, because it is very powerful,” Webber said.
The film depicts common struggles youths face -- like peer pressure when it comes to experimenting with drugs, which nowadays, could be fatal.
"Whereas back 10,15, 20 years ago, that wasn't the case, but now we have fentanyl introduced and pressed into pills, and that's what has upped the ante." Webber said.
Just last week, hundreds of medical professionals attended an opioid summit on the Northshore.
Kanter said he believes these conferences are important to jump-start conversations about addiction.
“Addiction is a disease," Kanter said. “We need to reduce the stigma of it, and that these are issues that we want people to feel empowered to speak out on."
Those interested in attending the summit can find out details on how to register here.