Pubdate: Thu, 24 Feb 2005
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: Julie Kirkwood
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Local heroin use called 'frightening' Some of the cheapest and most
debilitating heroin in the nation is flowing through Andover and other
upscale suburban communities as well as urban Lawrence, causing a
frightening change in drug use locally, police officials report.
Today's drug addicts no longer fit the stereotype of down-and-outers,
people living on the ugly side of life, said Andover police Chief
Brian Pattullo. The problem, he added, has spread to some of the best
homes and families in the region. "The biggest worry is heroin and the
addiction," Pattullo told a drug-prevention forum in Lawrence
yesterday. "We have professionals (in business and other fields) that
we've arrested that you wouldn't even know used drugs." The six-hour
forum, broadcast live by WCCM Radio in Methuen, featured police
chiefs, school officials, neighborhood activists, outreach workers and
politicians from across the Merrimack Valley. All described the toll
drug addiction is taking on the local scene.

They spoke of the difficulty of preventing and treating drug abuse as
well as the signs of hope.

"Now, as opposed to when I was first beginning, you've got more people
in the neighborhoods coming forward (to help with investigations),"
said Lt. Michael Wnek of the Methuen Police Department.

The forum was the first time the radio station had ever devoted six
hours to one topic, said host Bruce Arnold.

He said he was inspired to do the broadcast after a drug forum at
Salem, Mass., High School last month drew about 1,200 people, just
days after The Eagle-Tribune ran a series on the casual use of
OxyContin and heroin among young suburbanites.

He was also captivated by the story of Jeff Allison, the Peabody
baseball star who nearly died of a heroin overdose last summer, a year
after being drafted by the Florida Marlins and receiving a
million-dollar bonus. "Thirty-three years ago we did a five-hour
broadcast dealing with drugs," Arnold said. "It has gotten worse over
33 years. It's not any better." Police chiefs from Andover, Lawrence
and North Andover and officers from Haverhill and Methuen described
the extent of the problem locally. They said many young people and
adults are smoking or sniffing heroin instead of taking the drug

OxyContin, the prescription pain-killer, is similar to heroin in
effect and is readily available to young people, said Sgt. John
Arahovites of the Haverhill Police Department. Kids may sneak pills
from their parents' medicine cabinet at home or buy it on the street
for about $80 per 80-milligram tablet. Teens often start with
OxyContin but then move to heroin, which is much cheaper and pure
enough now that it can be snorted rather than injected. Heroin, the
police officials said, sells for about $4 per packet. "It's very
inexpensive, very potent and very strong," said Lawrence police Chief
John J. Romero. "Right now, I know for Lawrence, it's the biggest
problem we're up against."

It's not only the cheap supply that makes the Merrimack Valley a
regional destination for drug deals. It is also our location right off
Interstates 495 and 93, the police officials said. Drug dealers drive
down from Southern New Hampshire and Maine to buy heroin to resell in
their home communities, Arahovites said. "We're having a serious
problem in Haverhill with heroin," he said. Drug deals may not happen
openly on Broadway in Lawrence as they did six years ago, Romero said,
but they still happen. Now a deal takes 15 seconds and you might not
even notice it.

At the end of the forum, Arnold and his co-host Marc Lemay identified
a few themes that had emerged from the day's discussion: a lack of
funding for drug prevention and treatment programs and a need for
parents to get involved in their children's lives.

"This has been educational and hopefully eye opening to the people who
have been listening and attending here today," Lemay said as he
wrapped up the live broadcast at Central Catholic High School in
Lawrence. The hosts said they hoped the forum would lead to more
discussions on drug abuse, and perhaps eventually a solution.

Gloria Schwarz, a neighborhood activist in Lawrence, said she is
already planning to take the next step. She plans to set up drug
education programs at her local schools for students and parents.

"It's just the fear that the parents are not going to respond to it,"
she said.
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