The Franklin County Opioid Collaborative is hosting an event next weekend to raise awareness to the serious prescription medication and heroin abuse problem in this area.
The event, “Prevent the Zombie Apocalypse,” will be held in downtown Labadie, Highway T and Front Street, Saturday, Oct. 26, and will feature a zombie run beginning at noon. There also will be live music and activities provided by various Franklin County service providers.
The opioid collaborative includes the Franklin County Children and Families Community Resource Board, the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit, Foundations for Franklin County Inc., Preferred Family Healthcare and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of the narcotics unit, said the zombie theme was chosen for the event because zombies are popular right now, but also because people who abuse prescription opioids and heroin take on the appearance of zombies.
“When we find individuals who are abusing opiates or street heroin, they look like a zombie,” Grellner remarked. “That’s how the drug is affecting them.”
He said abusers often foam at the mouth and their skin takes on a grey hue due to a lack of oxygen getting into their blood. Opiates cause a suppression of the diaphragm which in turn, inhibits breathing.
Grellner explained that opiate pain medication “is the same as heroin.” He noted that many people who get hooked on prescription medications may switch to street heroin because of the higher cost and difficulty in obtaining prescription drugs.
“People start with presciption opiates, then get addicted and switch to heroin,” Grellner said. “Over two-thirds of prescription drug abuse involves opiates.”
He said there is a serious problem with doctors overprescribing opiate painkillers.
“We want to get the message out to kids about the danger of abusing opiate pain medication,” Grellner stressed. “But we also want to address the issue with parents. Just because a medicine is prescribed by a doctor doesn’t mean it’s safe and not addictive,” he remarked. Parents need to closely monitor the use of such drugs by their children to prevent abuse, he said.
Over the past several years, the drug task force and other law enforcement agencies have seen a spike in both the abuse of prescription opiates and heroin and in overdose complications and deaths.
More recently, investigators have arrested people from other states who are coming to Missouri to get multiple prescriptions for opiate medications filled at independent pharmacies.
That’s because Missouri is the only state in the nation that still doesn’t have a prescription drug monitoring database in operation, Grellner explained.
He has been pushing for legislation in Missouri to establish such a monitoring system but those efforts have been blocked by certain lawmakers.
Next Saturday’s event will feature five- and three-mile races and a one-mile fun run starting at noon.
High school students wearing zombie costumes and make-up will be chasing the runners.
Organizers said runners are needed to take part in the event. They can preregister at the event’s website: www.preventzombies.org.
They also can register the day of the event starting at 11 a.m.
Drug Take Back
Grellner said the zombie event will be coordinated with a national drug take-back program.
People can bring their old and unused prescription medications to the event and the task force will dispose of them in a safe manner.
It’s important to dispose of those medications that aren’t being used to keep them out of the hands of possible abusers, Grellner said.