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Pine-Richland hosting addiction seminar

Karen Price
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Dr. C. Thomas Brophy, a local emergency medicine and addiction doctor, will be speaking at Pine-Richland about the dangers of opioid addiction.

Dr. C. Thomas Brophy has a background in neuroscience, emergency medicine and addiction medicine, but he is also uniquely qualified to speak on opioid addiction because of his own brother’s experience with dependence and recovery.

The message that opioid addiction can happen to anyone from any walk of life is one he’ll bring not only to Pine-Richland students but also parents and community members in October, along with information on how addiction changes the brain and why prevention is the best way to fight the epidemic gripping the nation.

“I grew up with great parents in a nice home,” he said. “My sister has a master’s degree, I’m a physician, but with the same parents, same household, same circle of friends, same upbringing and moral and ethical values, while my sister and I were successful, my brother was shooting heroin into his neck in abandoned houses. Now how does that happen? One of the big things is breaking down the misconceptions that it’s not a parenting failure or that you lived in the wrong neighborhood. While those things may contribute, there’s so much more to it.”

Area residents are invited to come hear Brophy speak on the science behind how opioid addiction works in the brain and the consequences of abuse at the high school auditorium from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 9. Officers from the Northern Regional Police Department will also be there to answer questions on opioid use and supports in the local community.

Brophy will then address students in grades nine through 12 at an in-school assembly Oct. 10.

“I think the biggest reason we are bringing this to the community is as a preventative measure,” lead school psychologist Dr. Maura Paczan said.

Brophy is the founder of Trinity Wellness Services, a treatment center in Allison Park that focuses on the mind, body and soul in a holistic model of addressing addiction and recovery. In the past few months he’s spoken to roughly 20 school districts, including Hampton, Chartiers Valley and Baldwin.

One thing that parents and students might not understand, he said, is how quickly things can spiral out of control with opioid use because of the structural changes that occur in the brain with use, or just how low the recovery rates are for people in full-blown opioid dependence.

Many parents are often surprised to learn just how present and available opioids are, especially in the form of pills, or that being an athlete is now listed as a risk factor for opioid abuse because of the desire or pressure to play through injuries.

According to statistics, Brophy said, one out of five people between the ages of 18 and 24 will abuse opioids. Many start by occasionally popping a pill as part of recreational drug use.

“I counsel high school kids and they’ll tell me, ‘Well, what are we going to do after prom? It’s easier to get a bottle of Vicodin than a bottle of vodka,’” he said. “Your kid may be a golden boy or golden girl, but chances are they’re going to be exposed to opioids in young adulthood. One misconception is that a kid comes out of high school or college and says, ‘Maybe I’ll try heroin this weekend,’ but it never happens that way. The most recent studies show that 94 percent of heroin use starts with recreational pill use, and something all addicts say is, ‘I wish I never took the first one.’ From all the current data from people struggling with opioid addiction, we know how important prevention and education is.”

Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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