Learn about the dangers of recreational drug use with free virtual program on Sept. 23
Days after taking MDMA (aka Molly/Ecstasy), a young man experienced an unrelenting psychotic episode. Searching for answers they weren't getting from their doctor, a family member placed a desperate call to Nancy and Ross Friedman for help. The Friedmans were able to point the family in the right direction thanks to their network established through the GPF Foundation.
The GPF Foundation was founded in Lake Forest by Nancy, Ross, a few close family members, and friends in 2018 after the couple's beloved son, Greg, took what was purported to be MDMA and resulted in his untimely death. The Foundation works to save lives through its educational program about the new realities of recreational drug use with a particular focus given to MDMA. During the shutdown, the Foundation has hosted virtual educational programs on this subject for young adults through Lake Forest College and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFU).
To continue getting their message out and studying the program's impact during this high-risk time, the GPF Foundation will host an online session at 6 pm CDT on Sept. 23, available to all Lake County residents by registering at gpffoundation.org/sign-up. Those who complete a short pre-test and post-test, and participate in the virtual meeting will receive a $10 Amazon gift card. This presentation will assist the GPF Foundation to create a longitudinal study led by Dr. Steven Miller, Associate Professor of Psychology at RFU.
The GPF Foundation has learned that recreational drug use has increased and could lead to possible fatalities due to the isolation and stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of access to medical care. In 2018, there were more than 12,000 overdose deaths from psychostimulants in the United States. Now, according to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), a federal initiative that collects data from ambulance teams, hospitals, and police, overdoses have increased nationally during the pandemic, including a 42% increase in May 2020 as compared to the previous year. Psychostimulants are man-made substances that have mood-enhancing and stimulant properties, such as MDMA and LSD.
The GPF Foundation's educational program teaches participants about the risks involved with recreational drug use, with an initial focus on MDMA. The program also provides information about the adulteration (lacing) of MDMA, identifying adverse reactions, and how and where to ask for help if/when something goes wrong when using recreational drugs.
"Our focus on harm reduction education is very different from the 'Just Say No' culture of the past. We're realistic and teach young people how to keep themselves and others safe. The GPF Foundation was created to give people the knowledge to protect themselves and assist the medical community in developing appropriate related treatment," said Ross Friedman, President of the GPF Foundation.
"With the adulteration of MDMA, today's youth are playing a modern-day Russian roulette and they are completely unaware of the possible outcomes," said Phil Hood, former Vice President for External Relations and Secretary of Lake Forest College.
In the U.S., studies reflect that approximately 50% of all MDMA is adulterated most commonly with "bath salts," the street name for synthetic cathinones which are amphetamine-like drugs that cause rapid/irregular heartbeat, and elevated temperature and blood pressure. In addition, adolescent MDMA users are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-drug users.
During the recent virtual educational sessions, the GPF Foundation has promoted its partnership with A Way Out, a local safe harbor program spearheaded by Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim. It is the first county-wide program of its kind in the U.S. The Foundation learned that all participants were unaware of the program and interested in the assistance it provides to Lake County residents. Those seeking help through A Way Out can walk into police departments within Lake County and request assistance without criminal charges for non-dealers that may be in possession of narcotics or paraphernalia. "The program is a welcome change, as participants could very well receive help in lieu of handcuffs," said Nerheim.
Established in memory of Gregory Paul Friedman, the GPF Foundation is committed to saving lives by supporting education, appropriate treatment, and overall awareness of the dangers related to recreational drug use. The Foundation's tagline, Greg's Path Forward, is the spirit of the organization, working toward a future where the general public and the medical community have the knowledge needed to combat the risks of recreational drugs. On Oct. 15, the GPF Foundation will be hosting its third annual fundraiser, its main source of financial support. This year the event will be held virtually. To learn more or to support the organization, visit gpffoundation.org.