BILLERICA -- Stewart Walton has lost two children to heroin overdoses, so when parents ask him whether they should test their kids for drugs, he says there are worse things.

"Another way of testing is called an autopsy," Walton said Friday evening, after speaking at a substance-abuse vigil in Billerica.

"Parents need to be much more involved. They need to be 'helicopter parents,' " added Walton, who lost his daughter and son in 2002 and 2003, respectively. "It will pay off in the end, believe me, and the kids will thank you later."

He was one of several substance-abuse speakers at the Billerica Project vigil in the town center.

About 70 people, some who have suffered from substance abuse and others who support the Billerica Project's pledge against drugs and alcohol, came out on a drizzly evening to remember those lost from addiction and bring awareness to the "epidemic," as Walton called it.

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