Marblehead confronts a killer

Opioid drug overdoses killed four people in Marblehead last year and tonight’s screening of a short film titled, “If Only,” is intended to trigger a no-nonsense discussion about how to halt the death rate.

Scheduled for 7 p.m. in the middle school performing arts center, the film focuses in part on the root causes of addiction. It looks at prescription drug use and how the safe and sensible handling of painkillers can keep potentially-addictive drugs out of the hands of children.

The community discussion scheduled to follow the screening is likely to be marked by anger, sadness and tears. How can a discussion about a killer that claimed four lives in a small town not be marked by emotion?

The conversation will include town and law enforcement officials who will be there to help lead and focus the discussion. But it is also scheduled to feature a recovering addict and someone who lost a loved one to addiction. What follows is sure to be riveting and, at times, unbearable.

Heroin and a larger range of addictive drugs are killing people in Marblehead and across Massachusetts and America. The death toll has captured statewide and national attention, and it is hard to deny the reality that few communities in America are immune to addiction or not touched by its curse.

To their credit, town officials and other people involved in tonight’s presentation are not only interested in focusing on addiction, they also want to provide practical information to people affected by addiction.

The evening promises to include conversations about the hard reality of recovery. Part of that discussion will center on breaking the stigma of addiction and shining a light of support and encouragement on addicts and their families.

Other discussions will trace the road to addiction, including prescription medication use and abuse, and the fact that statistics show addiction is a problem in Marblehead just as it is a problem in other communities across the country.

Perhaps the most painful conversation poised to unfold tonight centers on the pain of losing a loved one to addiction. People who overdose and people who overdose and die are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandchildren, wives and husbands. Their deaths leave gaps in many lives.

Government can’t legislate society out of the addiction crisis. Society can’t empower police to arrest their way out. There is a war being waged against addiction but there is no final battle or climactic showdown that will end the fight once and for all.

Discussions like the one taking place tonight at the middle school will deal a blow but not a knockout punch against addiction and its harvest of grief.

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