This past summer, I was selected by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and Genart as the winning filmmaker in their #endmedicineabuse teen filmmaker project, and I set out to uncover the growing problem of kids my age sharing and abusing prescription medications.
My film, Out of Reach, drew on my own, very personal connection to the issue, and took me on a life-changing adventure. Co-produced with a great mentor, Tucker Capps of A&E's Intervention, my film premiered this Fall in New York City at the Genart Film Festival.
From my first treatment to the final cut, my goal was to raise awareness about just how many teens are abusing medicine. However, it wasn't until I started talking to my friends and making this film that I understood the true scope of just how big this problem is, which is pretty scary.
In my school and schools in every town and city in America, teens are slipping into bathrooms or hallways to pop pills. They are going to parties and playing a dangerous game by taking pills without knowing what they are taking. And while most teens are very familiar with this, parents have no clue, say "not my kid," and worry more about hard drugs than the drugs their kids are getting from medicine cabinets.
Why do I care so much about prescription drug abuse? Because my father abused prescription drugs. He was once a successful chemist, but when he was teenager he was in a car accident that started his life-long dependence on painkillers. His abuse of prescription drugs caused the breakup of his marriage with my mother, and is why I barely know him today.
My film isn't intended to be a blueprint of how teens can abuse medicine, but a mirror to what is happening in cities all across America. You can change the names and the reasons why teens use, whether it's boredom or peer pressure or the desire to achieve or overachieve, but the reasons are always there.
And these teens abusing medicines look normal. They do well in school. They can be your babysitters. Your neighbors. Your nieces and nephews. Your kids.
Looking back on my experience, I'm so proud of my film and what my friends and I accomplished together. My hope is that it will make people more aware and realize that this is a real issue that is affecting the future of too many kids and teens.
I am so excited that The Partnership at Drugfree.org is working with organizations big and small to host screenings that will bring parents, teachers and community leaders together to see the film and talk about this issue. Together, we hope parents will start to talk with their kids about medicine abuse, and safeguard medicines in their homes.
It's as simple as going into your bathroom, opening up your medicine cabinet and understanding the orange bottles in front of you are easy targets for abuse. Keep them safe and out of reach.