Pubdate: Sun, 09 Jan 2005
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Eagle-Tribune


The problem of opiate addiction, the subject of a two-part  series that
appeared in the Eagle-Tribune newspapers last week, demands our  attention
and action.

The new scourge of cheap heroin has police, educators and social workers
shaking their heads.

And it has those parents who aren't crying over the  loss of a child
wondering whether their son or daughter could be next. The problem of opiate
addiction, the subject of a two-part series that appeared in the
Eagle-Tribune newspapers last week, demands our attention and action. It
won't just go away. Indeed, Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett
and others in law enforcement say the low prices at which heroin is  sold on
the street today is simply part of the dealers' business plan. Once  enough
people are hooked, the cost will go up -- bringing a new spiral of crime
and hurt. What's required now is a multi-pronged assault not only on the
drug-sellers, but on a culture that has come to expect a solution for every
problem in a bottle of pills and the kind of pressures that prompt young
people to seek escape in mind-altering substances. As last week's stories
made all too clear, this problem is not confined to any one community or any
single demographic. And the crime it spawns as addicts seek the cash with
which to feed their habit, can touch anyone at any time in any place. "I'm
scared," Blodgett declared.

And the stories related of lives lost, families split apart and youthful
potential squandered, should frighten us all. The numbers tell part of the
story: * 300 -- the percentage increase in the number of opiate overdoses in
Essex County over the last 10 years. * 39 -- the number of fatal drug
overdoses in Essex County in 2003, according to figures obtained by filing
Freedom of Information requests with area police departments. * 350 -- the
number of people served by a Peabody methadone clinic that expected to have
180 clients when it opened two years ago. * $1 billion -- the amount of
legally prescribed OxyContin sold in 2001. * 2.8 million -- the number of
people who admitted using OxyContin for nonmedical reasons in 2003,
according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. But much more powerful are the
words of those whom this epidemic has impacted directly. "I cashed in the
trust of my family.

I pawned my freedom." -- Former Peabody High School honor student and class
treasurer Andrew Moskovitch, who related his battle with OxyContin addiction
to reporter Paul Leighton. "Bye, mom." -- Four-year-old Nickolas after
visiting the grave of his mother who died at 28 years of age from a lethal
overdose of heroin and cocaine. "It's getting to be like coke when it came
on the scene in the early 1980s to mid-80s. That's where we're at with
heroin today.

It's here. You have to deal  with it." -- Haverhill Police Sgt. John
Arahovites. The stories related in the series told of pain, of hope, and of
the reluctance of some to acknowledge the extent of the problem Education is
paramount, and Blodgett, with Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins and
others, will kick off a regional awareness effort Thursday with an all-day
program for school, medical and law enforcement personnel at Merrimack
College in North Andover. In too many cases, police, teachers, even parents,
would prefer to ignore or rationalize kids' involvement with drugs.

That doesn't help; and neither will the decriminalization of marijuana laws,
favored by voters in a nonbinding referendum on several area ballots last
November. Most in law enforcement insist  that drug is a gateway to
experimentation with more harmful substances. Continued police pressure on
those who would profit from the sale of illegal substances is also

Mayors and selectmen should make sure local departments have the resources
needed to combat this nefarious trade. But there was near universal
agreement that the most effective way to address this epidemic is to do
everything possible to remove the demand for opiates. Frighteningly, experts
say even one taste of concentrated OxyContin is enough to  get you hooked.
Parents -- "the anti-drug," according to one public service advertising
campaign currently airing -- face a formidable task these days. But the
fight against this epidemic must begin in the home. It must be waged by
parents who make it their business to know what their children are doing and
who they are hanging out with -- not because they're nosy, but because they
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