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Behind-The-Orange-Curtain-Postcard-FrontForward by Natalie Costa

This film started in the strangest of ways. In May of 2010, I took my daughter to her first funeral. Her friend Mark Melkonian passed away from what we later found out was from prescription drugs, namely Opana.  The complexity of that funeral is still hard to digest. There were thousands in attendance packed into a tiny Armenian church in Orange County. Dana Hills High School football players (Mark was on the team) rocking back and forth, almost passing out from grief. It was also the first time my daughter viewed a body in a casket. Needless to say, we didn’t talk on the drive home and could barely utter words for the next week. I knew in my heart that Mark’s death could not be in vain, but I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that life would go on as usual and once a year we would remember Mark on the anniversary of his death.

I approached Brent Huff, an established film director and told him Mark’s story and the countless other stories I had been hearing from parents who lost their children.

The interviews started with parents and siblings, CEO’s of companies, pastors, first responders, fire captains, physicians, interventionists, sober living facilities and the DEA & Coroner’s offices. These were good kids, from good homes, loving parents. What went wrong?

Mary McElderry, Special Agent for the DEA stated that this has become epidemic in Orange County, but this is an epidemic in every city, every county, in every state across the United States.

Orange County, home of the gated communities, blue ribbon schools, extra curricular activities and places to shop and places to worship. Here hundreds of teens and young adults have passed away from prescription drugs. Hundreds more are using and addicted to heroin.

What starts off as recreational “partying” turns quickly into a lifelong road to addiction which only 3% out of every 100 opiate addicts recover. OxyContin addiction quickly becomes an expensive problem and the users turn to heroin because it produces the same high, just costs substantially less.

Prescription drugs do not discriminate. They do not care about your social, economic or educational background and  doesn’t matter if you live on Park Avenue or the park bench. The steps are simple, you open mouth – insert pill. The spiral down is guaranteed to occur and the aftermath of addiction will not only ruin the addict’s life – but their families as well.

Watching so many of these parents try to re-assemble their lives after losing their child is daunting. Everyday they wake up, brush their teeth, look in the mirror and remember that their child is dead. Many of them are financially bankrupt from rehab centers, hospital bills and funeral costs. One young woman went to rehab 13 times before a stint in prison finally was her turning point.

This film’s goal is awareness and a call to action.   Legislation needs to be brought into play with regard to prescribing and the dispensing of such drugs as Oxycontin, Oxymorphine, Opana, Ativan, Seroquel, Klonopin and more. We need to get legislation passed (a good Samaritan law that is in 9 states including California) to help those under the influence call for help without fear of arrest or prosecution.

The answers are complex. From the pharmaceutical industry, to the “dirty” doctors, to the pharmacists, to the parents and teens themselves. Are kids turning to drugs to solve their problems? Is it easier to find drugs if you have money? Do “rich kids” have more temptation? There are no quick and easy answers, but turning a blind eye because we live in the “OC” will not make this problem go away. In fact, if we can do anything here Behind the Orange Curtain, is to get pro-active, ban together and get laws passed that stop the flood of prescription drugs into our neighborhoods and to our children. That is all our neighborhoods and all our children.