Pekin Event Aims to Educate Public About Addiction

A mother who lost her son to a heroin overdose last year has gone lengths to increase awareness about the dangers of addiction. She has organized the first annual Fight the Fight Addiction Awareness Walk which takes place August 7 from 2-4 p.m. at the Mineral Springs Park lagoon. She shares her story with Pekin Daily Times.

Pekin Daily Times Reports:

A person is injured, they are prescribed opioid painkillers and they become addicted. Unable to obtain the pills, they turn to heroin, on which they overdose and die, leaving a grieving family to question how it all could have happened.

This story has been told too often, which is why one mother is doing something to stop it.

Wendy McCready, who lost her son Alan Vaughn to a heroinheroin overdose last year, has taken strides to help educate others of the dangers of addiction and what it could possibly lead to. She has organized the Fight the Fight Addiction Awareness Walk in an effort to do so, which takes place from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at the Mineral Springs Park lagoon.

Throughout the afternoon, eight community members and experts will speak about the signs, effects and consequences of heroin addiction, McCready said.

“A lot of people aren’t educated on addiction, just like I wasn’t before my son became an addict,” she said. “I certainly didn’t know he was about to die from it.”

Alan Vaughn’s fatal battle began eight years ago, when he was prescribed opioid painkillers for his back pain. This lead to an addiction and physical dependence on opiates, which eventually landed him in the firm grasp of the cheaper and more easily obtainable heroin. This was something his mother, who described Vaughn as having the biggest heart of anyone she had met, said she would have never seen coming.

“If you think it could never be your child, then you really need to stop thinking like that,” she said. “… We raised our kids right, taught them morals and right from wrong, but addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter where you live or what color you are, everybody is at risk and needs to be educated.

Pekin Police Public Information Officer Mike Eeten — who will speak Sunday — echoed this sentiment, citing opiates’ physically addictive characteristics as a cause.

“When we think of addicts, often we think of a guy living in a tent down by the river or something,” he said. “But with heroin, it’s people that you wouldn’t ever think of as a drug user, or even a drug dealer. We see kids that come from great families that get addicted to heroin.”

McCready believes that if people better understand how to respond then lives will be saved.

“Parents need to know that they need to be ready when their child or loved one is ready,” she said. “Addicts need to get help right when they want it because if they wait just one more day, then they might not want the help anymore”

After the speakers, those in attendance will walk once around the Lagoon in solidarity and support. McCready encourages those taking part to bring signs covered with the pictures of lost loved ones, or displaying messages to the tune of “I hate heroin.”

Eeten, who has investigated several overdoses firsthand, said even those that haven’t been effected directly should consider attending the walk.

“It is never an easy thing to see a young life cut short because of addiction,” he said. “In order to put up a good fight against this, we need the whole community to buy in.”

Eeten said a major step for everyone is the better monitoring of when and how opioid painkillers are being used and where extras are ending up.

Once the lap around the Lagoon is complete, a short “fight song” will be performed, while walkers receive balloons for a balloon release around the lagoon.

Throughout the evening, several local rehab clinics and medical experts will have tables available for added information.

Once such table will aim to promote Narcan, a drug used in emergency situations to treat overdoses of both synthetic and natural opiate overdoses. Those that visit the table will receive training on how to use the drug, as well as a kit to have in their own home in case of emergency.

Immediately following the walk and balloon release, Gateway Pekin will be holding an open house at its Pekin treatment center. Experts and counselors will be on hand to answer any questions regarding drug and alcohol abuse. Light refreshments will be served and attendance at the walk is not mandatory to attend the open house.

McCready hopes that the two events will save other parents the heartache she has gone through.

“My son was one of my best friends,” she said. “… My goal is to keep any other parent from having to bury their own child.”

Are you concerned a loved one may be addicted to opioids? Learn more about prescription drug abuse online at RecoverGateway.org or call 877-505-HOPE (4673) for a confidential consultation.

About Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers
Every year Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment helps thousands of adults and teens get their life back on track and gives renewed hope to those who care about them. With 50 years of treatment experience, our specialists take the time to understand of the specific needs of each individual. We then develop a customized treatment plan with recommendations for the most appropriate care based on an individual's substance abuse and mental health history. As the largest provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment in Illinois, Gateway has 11 treatment centers throughout the state. Gateway outpatient and residential substance abuse treatment programs are not one-size fits all, but unique treatment plans that give an individual the highest chance for a successful outcome. With insurance acceptance and a track record of success, Gateway Treatment Centers help thousands of individual’s successfully complete treatment each year, and find the hope they need to live again.

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