WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Drug overdose is now the #1 cause of accidental death in the United States.
Opioid addiction is driving the epidemic.Every day in America, 44 people die from prescription opioid overdoses and heroin use has more than doubled according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The epidemic cuts across all ages, races, gender and wealth, hitting cities, suburbs and rural towns.
On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the DEA and Discovery Education launched a new education program for middle and high school students, educators and their parents. It's much more than "Just Say No."
Operation Prevention explains the science behind the addiction and how the brain is "hi-jacked" by the misuse of prescriptions drugs or heroin.
During the launch, a "virtual field trip" was held at McLean High School with several experts including Brittany Sabock, 25, who is a former heroin user from Carroll County Maryland.
"Shooting heroin everyday, multiple times a day," is the way Sabock described her life when she was 17. Before that first heroin dose, she said she was focused on school and softball. Suddenly, heroin took away all her goals and dreams.
"It's so crazy to think that this little substance, little substance in a bag could control my mind and body like that. And it did. It overtook everything. And I knew right from wrong. I was raised with morals an values. And all that went out the window," said Sabock.
She said she came close to dying and is now trying to keep others alive.
"I've overdosed, yes. I put my family through hell, you know. My mom, my poor mom. But...I tell these parents, if they're still breathing, their is still hope. Never give up hope," said Sabock.
She got help and is now helping others get off drugs with her work at the Carroll County Health Department. And she's part of this new nationwide education program.
DEA Assistant Administrator Lou Milione says this epidemic is different than from other drug epidemics out nation has faced, "We see the scope of the opioid crisis as so devastating with so many thousands of people dying every year that we wanted to do everything could, so we partnered with Discovery to get word about the risks of opioid abuse to the youth of this country."
Mary Rollins, Senior VP of Partnership Discovery said the opioid epidemic "terrifies me as a parent. And one of the most important parts of this effort is a tool kit for for parents. It's not only the information they need, but it's how do you start a dialogue with your student, your kid."
DEA experts, Peggy Compton, Associate Dean at Georgetown University's School of Nursing and Health Studies to talk about the science of opioid addiction.
A handful of McLean freshman biology students took part in the launch by reading questions from the 200,000 students across the country who were tuning in for the launch. The students said they learned something about heroin and opioid addiction that they didn't know before.
"It all starts so innocently. I don't think anyone tries it to be addicted. It's not like you intentionally want to ruin I the rest of your life, you know? But it's definitely really scary," said Freshman Sophia Shield. The students were were unanimous in their approval of the program.
All the materials and information is available for free at http://operationprevention.com.