BELFAST, Maine — Even the most beautiful of Maine’s communities can hide an ugly secret, according to local medical providers fighting to educate locals about and prevent the increase of opiate addictions.
“Epidemic is a safe word to use,” Dr. David Loxterkamp of Seaport Community Health Center said recently. “It’s such a deep-seated problem. It’s deep-seated in the community. We’re pulling drowning people out of the river, many of whom jump back in … the better approach is to prevent them turning to drugs in the first place.”
That’s why the health center is hosting a free screening of “The Hungry Heart,” a new documentary about the problem of prescription drug addiction in Vermont. The movie will be shown 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at the Colonial Theatre in Belfast, and it will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
The movie is powerful and hopefully will increase community awareness of a problem that some may not completely understand, Loxterkamp said.
“If we don’t intervene early, if we don’t make the community aware — if we don’t get the help we need and that our patients need, this will go on and on and on,” he said. “We’re not being very successful with treatment.”
According to the doctor, many people in Waldo County who struggle with prescription drug abuse start using when they’re very young — just 13, 14 and 15 years old. The teenagers learn to use drugs as a coping mechanism for problems at school or home, and other stressors. Those can include parents who use drugs, poverty and low expectations for the future. In 2004, Loxterkamp’s clinic started a drug recovery program because medical providers were seeing young people hooked on opiates and did not know how to treat them.
The first young woman he treated was in the process of drug withdrawal, and all Loxterkamp could do was try to make her more comfortable by giving her medicine for nausea and trying to rehydrate her. It wasn’t enough — she eventually relapsed, despite having a very supportive family. After that, he kept his eye out for treatment programs and ideas. More than 70 people are coming to Seaport Community Health Center to take part in its suboxone treatment program, which aims to help people get entirely clean of opiates.
But he’d rather they never began illicitly using drugs in the first place.
“These are your kids. This is our community we’re taking care of,” Loxterkamp said. “If they don’t go out and get successful treatment, it’s a lost generation.”