In front of a crowd of more than 100 people Tuesday night, Samantha Lewandowski, 14, recalled the sad details of her father’s final years after he became addicted to OxyContin.

In front of a crowd of more than 100 people Tuesday night, Samantha Lewandowski, 14, recalled the sad details of her father’s final years after he became addicted to OxyContin.

“You took me away from him when I needed him,” Samantha said, reading a letter she had written to the drug. “Dad never played with me anymore. You made him look like a monster. Why was he mad at me? Didn’t he love me anymore? I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

A Whitman resident, Lewandowski said her father would not be there when she gets her driver’s license in a few years, to watch her go to the prom, to see her graduate from high school or to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. 

Samantha’s father passed away in 2003 when he was just 32 years old. He had been prescribed the painkiller after a shoulder injury and was unable to give it up after his recovery.

During a forum on addiction held at South Shore Vocational Technical High School in Hanover on Tuesday night (Oct. 23), Hanover Police Chief Paul Hayes told those in attendance that everybody has questions about addiction, including why users don’t just stop.

“Addiction is a lifelong process,” said Hayes, adding that addicts are always in a state of recovery.

The forum, run by the Hanover Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (HAPSA), included the screening of an HBO documentary, “Addiction” along with a panel discussion and question and answer session.

Hayes served as the emcee at the forum, at which panelists included a Hanover parent Barbara Devaney, whose daughter died of a Heroin overdose, Matt, a person in recovery for OxyContin use, Hanover Police Det. Jonathan Abban, Hanover Police D.A.R.E. officer Mike McKeever, Jessica Healy of the Plymouth Country District Attorney’s office, Maryanne Frangules of Massachusetts Organization for Recovery (M.O.A.R.),

Nurse Colleen LaBelle from the Boston University Medical Center addiction treatment department, Jo Ann Peterson from Learn To Cope parent support and D. Peter Collins from the New Hope Treatment Center.

The short movie featured interviews with doctors, experts and the families of addicts as well as the addicts themselves. According to the documentary, addiction generally starts when a person is between the ages of 18 and 25, though the human brain does not fully develop until a person is 25.

About 80 percent of teens who use drugs have underlying mental issues, ranging from depression to anxiety. The average person does not enter a treatment program until they have been on a drug for 20 years, though 70 percent of teens who go to treatment one time will relapse.

The parents who were featured in the movie said they never suspected their child was using drugs. One of the featured teens in the documentary, Ted, 17, was in a residential treatment center in Texas. He started out by adding vodka to his coffee and smoking marijuana. 

Then, he moved onto prescription pills.

Ted said boredom is a trigger for him. His mother talked about the difficult decision the family had to make in sending him to a residential treatment center.

Chief Hayes said the South Shore is no different than other communities when it comes to the frequency of drug use. At the forum, panelists said drug use doesn’t escape any community – it doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, they said – drugs can affect anyone’s friends or family.

Hayes said Samantha contacted the police department when she heard this forum was to be held and asked if she could speak.

Her mother, Danielle Light, also attended. The most important thing she said she wants parents to realize is that “yes, this can happen to your child.” To the kids, Samantha said, “unfortunately, I’ve had to learn the hard way.

This drug, there are no three chances, there are no two chances, you only have one chance.”

The panel discussion began with Devaney, of Hanover, who lost her 23-year-old daughter to Heroin. “The worst thing happened to me that could happen to any parent: my child died of a Heroin overdose.”

After her daughter graduated from college, she moved to Boulder, Colo. where she worked at a newspaper. Devaney got a call one day from a hospital staff member telling her that her daughter was there.

She flew out to convince her daughter to come home and found that her child had no job, was homeless and had a boyfriend who was into drugs.

She drove her daughter across the country home. She slept in hotel rooms with her and spent hours in the car and noticed no differences in her, except that she wouldn’t drive.

At the time, the two were living in a small place with just one bathroom. Her daughter told her that she wanted to go live at her grandparents’ house in Hanover, which made sense to her since the grandparents had more room in their home.

The overdose happened in that home. “I know she didn’t do it on purpose,” Devaney told the crowd, adding that her daughter was found in a bathtub.

LaBelle, nurse at Boston University Medical Center was seated next to Matt, who is in recovery. She told his story. Matt has four brothers, three of which have been touched by addiction.

Matt, 20, started with alcohol and marijuana in junior high. He played sports and was prescribed OxyContin after an injury. He took it again at a party and was addicted. He got caught during his junior year of high school and dropped out. He spent time in jail and in residential detox.

He attends five meetings a week. “He’s now clean and sober for the longest time,” LaBelle said. “He’s been clean and sober since junior high.”

“We get 10 to 20 calls a week on the state hotline a day – people crying, people screaming for help,” LaBelle said. She said their patients are lawyers, doctors, people from all walks of life and these drugs can affect anyone. “It’s a disease that doesn’t go away,” LaBelle said.

Jo Ann Peterson of Learn to Cope said a lot of these stories are the same and her son too was affected. As she spoke students standing behind her held out a list of people addicted to OxyContin and Heroin.

Peterson said the list had about 400 names on it, and many of the people who signed it have since died.

“It’s easy to judge, but it’s not easy to face the reality that it could be your child,” Peterson said. It could happen to one’s brother, sister, parents, aunt, uncle or friend, she added. “This is an epidemic.”

Her son, who has now been clean for three years, started using OxyContin after a friend’s father gave it to him — a fact the audience gasped at upon hearing. “We went through four years of hell to get almost three years of sobriety,” she said.

Maryanne Frangules, of M.O.A.R., compared drug use nowadays to a diagnosis of cancer several years ago. She called on the audience to work together to end the stigma associated with drug use and begin to treat the problem. She said it starts with people telling their stories.

Peter Collins, director of New Hope Treatment Center, said he’s seen a change in the field in the last decade. Ten to 12 years ago, the average age of a person in rehab was 36-42. Now it’s under 25 – with 85 percent of people in for Heroin addiction.

Jessica Healy, who prosecutes drug cases at Brockton District Court for the Plymouth County District Attorney’s office, said aside from all the other bad effects drug use can have, it can also get people a record and jail time.

She talked about a case she recently looked into in which the person had prescriptions for an assortment of pills from the same pharmacy from all different doctors. She said there should be some kind of a system by which pharmacies can look into such.

Mike McKeever, Hanover DARE officer, said education is key when it comes to this issue.

Hanover Det. Jonathan Abban, an undercover narcotics officer, said a lot of cases he gets involved in start with a phone call from neighbors. He told the audience while working undercover, he purchased cocaine less than half a mile from the school in which they were sitting and online.

The chief took questions from the audience, and one of the issues brought up was the lack of drug counseling in prison systems, to how to protect one’s kids, to changes in laws, to funding for programs, to programs available – like the three recovery high schools in Massachusetts, in Beverly, Springfield and Boston.

Hayes said it took seven to eight months to plan the forum, and a college class he is teaching at Curry College attended.

The audience seemed to take away a lot from the forum.

“I think it makes me more angry than I have ever have been that there are drugs available,” Rockland resident Jane Krahe said after the forum. “I hope I never have to deal with it on a personal basis.”

Victoria Herrmann, of Kingston, who is in Hayes’ college course, said the parents at the meeting made the biggest impact on her. “I have two kids, so it was kind of scary when I was listening to the parents talking, mostly because they were saying it can happen to anyone.”

Though Herrmann is not totally naïve to what’s going on in our society. At her job at a convenience store, she said “I see people. They don’t care what they’re buying or what they’re saying when they are in there.”

The chief said parents need to be vigilant and ask their children where they are going and who they are going with, and verify that information.   The more you know For more information check out these Web sites: