Hoffman bringing anti-drug message to Salisbury

Well-known BMX biker Tony Hoffman, who was addicted to prescription pain pills and other drugs, will be in Salisbury next week, talking about his battle.

The 44-year-old athlete will visit all four high schools and also be at Salisbury University for a presentation, free and open to the public.

He will be in the Wicomico Room in the Guerrieri Center at SU at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Hoffman will be visiting the local schools, said Salisbury City Councilwoman Laura Mitchell, whose concern about drug use prevention and intervention prompted her to suggest bringing him here.

The City Council has helped to pay for the popular Hoffman’s appearance, as have the Henson and Perdue foundations, Community Foundation, United Way and several local restaurants.

Mothers of children who died from drug use will also speak.

State’s Attorney Matthew Maciarello will attend, as well as Police Chief Barbara Duncan and Lt. Tim Robinson of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office.

The 44-year-old Hoffman, a native of California, started using alcohol, marijuana, prescription pain killers and other drugs, causing what is described on his Web site as a “downward spiral of addiction that led him to commit armed robbery in 2004.”

“At his sentencing, Tony was given probation and the opportunity to achieve sobriety in lieu of prison. However, he was not yet ready to make changes in his life, resulting in a probation violation, which landed him in prison in 2007,” the information states.

Hoffman spent his high school years traveling the country racing BMX, used for racing and stunt riding. BMX stands for bicycle motor cross.

“We are finally beginning to have the conversations we need to have to address the opioid addiction problem we have across the country,” Mitchell said.

“As we focus on intervention, we want to be sure we don’t forget prevention. We want to keep anybody from ever getting into that situation. It’s a whole lot easier to keep out of it than to get out of it,” she said.

“It’s one accident or surgery away,” Mitchell said.

Recently, rock star Prince died from what was, reportedly, an opiate addiction.

“He was very vocally anti-drug and anti-substance abuse but he got injured or sick and someone prescribed it to him. It’s just that quick,” Mitchell said, adding she’s concerned about signs posted in hospitals that encourage patients, “Don’t hesitate to medicate.”

She wanted a speaker to come to Salisbury before school is out for the year.

“We are all very focused on intervention, and also prevention,” Mitchell said.

Hoffman was in jail two years, at the Wasco, Tehachapi and Avenal state prisons. He planned a way to use both the positives and the negatives of his life to “help kids avoid the mistakes he had made himself.”

When he was released from prison, Hoffman started racing again and won five races as a pro. He competed at the Olympic level for two years.

The human and financial toll of drug addiction is enormous.  With the staggering surge in the abuse of opioids and other dangerous narcotics nationwide, it is a toll which is increasingly being felt here on the Peninsula.

Local hospitals saw more overdoses in the first three months of this year than in all of 2015.  In a recent study, BEACON estimated that substance abuse costs the Eastern Shore economy approximately $1.12 billion per year.  It is estimated that 87 percent of crime in Wicomico County is directly connected to those who are addicted.

In 2010, he started the Freewheel Project, described on his Web site as a “non-profit BMX racing organization devoted to educating youth on the importance of leading drug-free lives.”

The project “directs youth toward outlets, such as BMX racing, as a way to fill their time with positive activities, which improve their well-being and boost their self-esteem. His summer BMX camps have grown in popularity as has his demand as an inspirational speaker.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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