Pubdate: Wed, 18 Oct 2000
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2000, Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Diana Graettinger


BAILEYVILLE - At first, the high school students whispered and giggled 
nervously. Then Tuesday's message turned deadly serious: Drugs kill.

And the students at Woodland High School listened.

They heard from the top federal prosecutor in Maine - U.S. Attorney Jay 
McCloskey - as well as Lt. Peter Arno of the Bangor Police Department and 
the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

The officials arrived with a clear message: "We are simply here to provide 
some education about what will happen if you go down this road," McCloskey 

Although Maine is small in population, it is the nation's second-largest 
consumer of the synthetic narcotic OxyContin. In Washington County alone, 
there are 100 suspected opiate and heroin traffickers.

McCloskey is concerned enough about the problem to take his message on the 
road, talking with professionals and students as he crisscrosses Maine.

After he spoke to students at Woodland High School, McCloskey met with law 
enforcement personnel and professionals in Calais, and with parents in 

For the past year, the illegal sale of prescription narcotics has increased 
Down East.

MDEA agents, along with other law enforcement officers, recently charged 
eight people with drug trafficking during a sweep that netted police 
several hundred dollars' worth of synthetic narcotics. During the searches, 
police seized a quantity of Dilaudid tablets.

That synthetic narcotic is frequently smuggled into Calais from St. 
Stephen, New Brunswick, just across the St. Croix River, or it is diverted 
from legitimate prescription use.

A bottle of 100 Dilaudid that costs several hundred dollars in St. Stephen 
has a street value in Calais of several thousand dollars.

Last February, the MDEA orchestrated a similar drug sweep in eastern 
Washington County that resulted in the arrests of 17 people on various 
counts of drug possession and trafficking.

Arno said the problem is statewide. "Heroin and drugs like it [and] 
prescription drugs, OxyContin and Dilaudid, have a devastating effect," he 

Unlike other addictive substances such as alcohol, Arno said, heroin and 
synthetic opiates overtake the user quickly. "The progression toward 
addiction is so incredibly fast that before you realize you have a problem 
... you will be so far down in this funnel, it will be difficult to crawl 
your way out," Arno said. It can easily become a lifetime battle.

Arno said children as young as 14 are addicted in Maine.

Between 1995 and 1997, there were three opiate overdose deaths in Bangor, 
and the average age was 41. During 1998-99, there were four opiate deaths, 
and the average age was 27. During the past year, there were 10 overdose 
cases and most of them were in there 20s, Arno said.

"The majority of these individuals are themselves addicts who adopted a 
steal and-or deal philosophy. People who use opiates develop such an 
expensive addiction that they need to either steal to support their habit 
... or they need to deal. When they deal, they get other people addicted," 
Arno said. The street value of a tenth of a gram of heroin is $35 to $65.

Diverted pharmaceutical drugs have created another serious problem: 
"Prescription narcotics are being sold and abused by the same people 
involved with the heroin trade," Arno said.

To battle the problem, Arno said, the state needs a four-pronged attack: 
education, demand reduction, prevention through law enforcement, and treatment.

"What can you do to help spread the message?" Arno asked the students. 
"Spread the message that heroin and opiate prescriptions ... kill."

Arno showed a tape made by police in New Castle, Del., which presented 
images of people's arms dotted with needle marks. A woman named Marie Allen 
talked about her daughter, Erin, who died as a result of an overdose.

A montage of pictures of a smiling and happy child played on the screen. 
The daughter's addiction began when she was 15 and progressed from alcohol 
to marijuana to heroin. During her quest for drugs, the young woman was 
beaten and raped, according to the tape.

After years of battling her addiction, Erin died. The last picture her 
mother saw of her daughter was the picture of the girl in the morgue.

Tearfully, Erin's mother read from a letter her daughter had written. 
"Before I knew what was happening, I sold my soul to the devil," her 
daughter wrote of her addiction.

"It's pretty scary," Woodland senior Chris White said after the 
presentation. "You don't think that [drugs] are around here. You think it's 
big city and stuff. But I think the scariest thing is it's right around 
here too."
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