Saturday, February 24, 2018
Health

Candlelight vigil honors the victims of drug overdoses

TAMPA — Lynne Knowles suspected for months that something bad was going on with her daughter.

Jamie dozed off at odd hours, slept too much and woke up too early.

One day, Knowles came face-to-face with the truth.

She entered a Walgreens bathroom and found Jamie, who had just graduated from high school, preparing to stick a needle in her arm.

"I was in shock. I actually went screaming out to the pharmacists to call the police. I thought they could make her stop,’’ Knowles said.

Jamie, who started abusing pain pills before her junior year of high school, died of a heroin overdose in 2012 at age 23.

Knowles, president of the Hillsborough Chapter of Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education, or NOPE, spends much of her time these days trying to keep other students from starting down that deadly path.

She is one of the speakers scheduled to address the crowd at Hillsborough High School Thursday (Oct. 19) for the annual candlelight vigil memorializing victims of drug overdoses.

Participants will start gathering at 6 p.m. in the school’s lobby, where more than 500 photographs of people who died of drug and alcohol abuse will be on display.

Friends and family members of those on the Memorial Wall are invited to write special messages to their loved ones.

"It honors not only the (victim) but also family members and friends,’’ said Beth Butler, coordinator of the Hillsborough chapter of NOPE.

People concerned about the problem, along with those still actively struggling with addiction and people in recovery are invited, she said.

Butler, whose son is three years along in recovery from pain pill abuse, said that the stigma of addiction appears to be easing as more people come to realize that it is a disease and not the result of weak willpower.

NOPE’s main mission is to reach out to middle and high school students with a powerful message delivered by friends and family members of victims, most of them caught up in the pain pill and heroin epidemic that has swept the nation.

"We know that we’re affecting children; we know that we are helping them,’’ Knowles said. "I know the presentation is powerful and moves children, and they do remember.’’

She doesn’t preach. She just explains what happened to her daughter and how devastating it was for her and the family. She tells about Jamie’s life and reminds the audience that she now has only memories.

"I’ll never hear her say, ‘I love you, Mom,’ ever again.’’

And she tells them that two of Jamie’s closest high school friends also died from overdoses.

Contact Philip Morgan at [email protected]

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