Pubdate: Sat, 26 Oct 2002
Source: Meriden Record-Journal, The (CT)
Copyright: 2002, The Record-Journal Publishing Co.
Author: Evan Goodenow
Bookmark: (Heroin)


WALLINGFORD - Shawn McGirl spouted no "Just Say No" anti-drug platitudes or 
horrific descriptions of the effects of heroin use on the body to reach the 
audience at Friday afternoon's annual anti-drug Red Ribbon event at Town Hall.

McGirl, an 18-year-old Sheehan High School senior, told the crowd how his 
father Kieth died of a heroin overdose.

"I have to graduate and walk down the aisle when I get married without him 
watching me," McGirl said. "I have to picture him in my mind without him 
watching me."

McGirl was one of several speakers who focused on the destructive effects 
of heroin.

"Hi, my name is John and my son is a drug addict. The first time I 
introduced myself that way I cried," said John, a Wallingford father whose 
17-year-old son is a heroin addict presently imprisoned at the New Haven 
Community Correctional Center.

John, who said he promised his son he wouldn't give his last name to avoid 
the stigma of the addiction, said his son's problems began at age 10 when 
he broke into the family's liquor cabinet. Despite numerous rehabilitation 
efforts, his son's problems worsened. Two months ago, the boy informed him 
he was a heroin addict.

"I said, 'Do you want me to yell at you? Do you want me to hit you? Do you 
want me to cry?' " John said, adding that his son is coming home in three 
weeks. John said the problem is particularly difficult with children aged 
16 and 17. While still minors, the law makes it difficult for parents to 
force children and teens to get drug treatment.

John said there are no easy answers for parents in preventing their 
children from abusing drugs, but "we need to be aware of the signs (and) we 
need to talk to our children. I talked to my child last night for a half an 
hour on the telephone with a glass wall between us."

Wallingford Police Chief Douglas L. Dortenzio said heroin use has been on 
the rise in the Northeast since 1993, and that most of the drug supply 
comes from Colombia and the Dominican Republic through New York City. 
Purity levels have markedly increased while prices have drastically 
decreased. Plus, addicts can get high initially by snorting it rather than 
injecting it, a more attractive choice.

Besides discussing ways to stay free of heroin, speakers also addressed 
drunken driving. Sheehan students said a confidential survey of 140 
students found that 64 percent of students claimed to have been in vehicles 
with drivers who were drinking or driving at speeds of approximately 100 
miles per hour in a game the kids refer to as "road tag."

Youth and Social Services Director Craig Turner, whose organization 
organized the event in conjunction with The Mayor's Council on Substance 
Abuse, challenged the adults in the audience to change the techniques they 
use to prevent drug abuse. "Ask questions different from those everyone 
else is asking."
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