It takes just a second to connect yourself to someone who has lost a loved one to an overdose from prescription pills. On the final day of the Newport Beach Film Festival, the victims of the epidemic were remembered during a candelight vigil.
Behind the Orange Curtain -- a documentary exposing the growing epidemic of youth abusing deadly prescription medications -- had its final viewing Thursday to a sold-out crowd. A candlelight vigil was held on the lawn outside Big Newport Theater just before the film started. Parents brought photos of the children they have lost and placed them on the grass. The candles were lit in remembrance by parents, friends and family members to honor the lost lives.
"The important message of Behind the Orange Curtain is so powerful. It's an incredible tribute to my son and all the kids that have lost their lives," said Judy Kelly, whose son Tyeson Collester overdosed at 25. "It's the worse thing that could possibly happen to someone. You don't expect it and it sticks with you for the rest of your life. People say it's going to get better, but it never does."
The documentary tells the stories of Orange County parents whose children overdosed on prescription pain and anxiety medications including OxyContin, Oxymorphine, Seroquel, Opana, Xanax, Vicodin and Norco. According to the documentary, the pills are easily accessible to kids through their parents' medicine cabinets, their friends, shady doctors selling them for $80 a pill, on the street, raiding medicine cabinets at open houses and from other kids selling them at school.
"I talk to my daughter a million times about illegal drugs and alcohol, I never thought to talk to her about prescription drugs," Brent Huff, the film's director, said. "You don't see it, you don't smell it. It sneaks up on you and one day you're dead."
Several of the parents interviewed in the documentary said when their children overdosed, none of their friends reported it and instead leaft them for dead, because they feared they would be sent to prison because of their own drug use. As a response to those revelations, the filmmakers are pushing for a Good Samaritan Bill, one that would allow people to report an overdose even if they are high and in possession of illegal drugs without the consequences of getting into trouble with the law.
Natalie Costa, the film's executive producer, says she was motivated to make this film after her daughter's life long friend, Mark Melkonian, passed away from a drug called Opana. The medication is prescribed to treat brain cancer patients.
"It's really emotional because it started off with my daughter's friend who passed away," Costa said. "We've all become a family through this whole cause. When they start singing, and the candles are lit it's gut-wrenching."
For more information on the film please visit behindtheorangecurtain.net.