Pubdate: Thu, 21 Sep 2006
Source: Daily Record, The (Parsippany, NJ)
Copyright: 2006 The Daily Record
Author: Matt Manochio
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Mendham Summit Looks For Ways To Stem Wave Of Abuse

MENDHAM -- A record 30 people have died from drug overdoses in Morris 
County this year -- the highest number since 24 people died in 2002 
- -- and toxicology tests are pending on three suspected overdose 
deaths, the Morris County Prosecutor's Office said on Wednesday.

The number was revealed at the Parents-in-Partnership Drug Awareness 
Summit on Wednesday at the Daytop drug rehabilitation center, 
sponsored by the prosecutor's office, the Morris County schools 
superintendent and Daytop-New Jersey.

More than 250 educators, parents and police officers attended. The 
summit was geared to inform parents and educators about what drugs 
are popular in Morris County and how to spot usage in youngsters.

Often Heroin

Many of the overdose deaths involved heroin, although most involved a 
combination of drugs. One of the deaths is suspected to involve 
fentanyl, another opiate, which is more potent than heroin and often 
leads to overdoses, said Morris County Prosecutor Michael M. Rubbinaccio.

"The drugs being abused today still include heroin, cocaine, morphine 
and marijuana, but also include the abuse of fentanyl and 
prescription medications," he said.

Among teenagers, prescription painkillers are popular, experts and 
teens at the summit said.

Christina, for example, told the audience that she was only 11 years 
old when she started getting high from an assortment of prescription 

"I started using every day. I started cutting class more often," said 
the 17-year-old Morris County girl, who now is in rehabilitation. She 
was joined by two other Morris County teenagers, Chris, 17, and 
Brian, 18, who explained in detail what got them hooked and why they 
couldn't stop.

Brian began smoking marijuana when he was 13, and the habit soon 
progressed to cocaine. Chris started smoking marijuana when he was 15 
and drank alcohol on the side.

"I smoked it every day,"said Chris, whose last name, like those of 
the other teens, was withheld.

"It almost ruined my relationship with my parents."

"Ninety percent use drugs for the reason that drugs exist -- to take 
away pain," said the Rev. Joseph Hennen, Daytop's vice president, who 
moderated the discussion.

Brian said he began using drugs to get back at his mother, who 
revealed to him that his dad wasn't his biological father -- a fact 
that angered him.

Christina resorted to drug use out of loneliness. Chris said drugs 
were part of a "subculture" in high school, and he thought he could 
balance out his life by using drugs as a release from school and 
other activities.

The teenagers have been at Daytop for varying lengths of time, and 
they said they're somewhat apprehensive about what awaits them upon 
reentering society.

"It's a whole new different start for me," Brian said. "I'm worried a 
little bit, but I'm taking this place very seriously."

Chris summarized his experience by saying, "The pain to remain the 
same is greater than the pain of change."

The audience gave a standing ovation to the teenagers, who received 
warm hugs from Hennen. That panel discussion was one of several meant 
to impress upon parents just how severe the effects of drugs can be 
on a child's life if their use goes undetected.

U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie addressed the 
audience at the beginning of the event, which was moderated by Rubbinaccio.

The summit was held in the wake of this summer's Operation 
Painkiller, when the Prosecutor's Office conducted a sweep of arrests 
of young people charged with being involved with the sale or 
possession of prescription painkillers.

Special Agent Douglas S. Collier, a public information officer for 
the New Jersey division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, gave 
a PowerPoint presentation that detailed abuse of prescription drugs 
including Vicodin, Xanax and OxyContin.

Collier said that some of these drugs -- including OxyContin -- are 
time-released to provide pain relief for 12 hours. He said teenagers 
abuse them by crushing them up and chewing or snorting them to remove 
the time-release effect and get "all of it now."

Collier said that 15 million OxyContin pills were produced in 2000, 
and just four years later that number rose to 29 million.

Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller typically used by cancer and AIDS 
patients, is another drug that's now being abused more often, said 
Collier. He added that people stick the drug into the side of their 
mouths, where it's absorbed into the body very quickly for a high.

Fentanyl also can be used therapeutically in the form of a Duragesic 
patch, which slowly releases the drug into the system.

Collier said people have been known to find used patches from the 
garbage, microwave them to dry them out, and then attempt to smoke the residue.

Robert Weber, who for the past 17 years has been the chief narcotics 
officer for the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, told the audience 
that abuse of certain types of drugs can be cyclical.

He said marijuana seems to be the most abused drug.

Weber said a large majority of adults get hooked on prescription 
painkillers, usually because they have a legitimate medical 
condition. That's not the case with children.

"It's easy to get, it's easy to use, it's safer to obtain," Weber 
said. "It doesn't carry the stigma that other drugs (do)."

Weber also said that parents are grossly misinformed about their 
children's behavior when the youngsters are unsupervised. Weber 
reviewed statistics that said, for instance, that 80 percent of 
parents polled said that alcohol and drugs wouldn't be at a party 
attended by their child.

Meanwhile, 50 percent of the children polled said they would be present.

Similarly, 98 percent of the parents were under the impression that 
there would be parental supervision during a party, whereas 33 
percent of the youngsters said the parents wouldn't be there.

"We have to pierce the idea that a lot of people have --'not my kid, 
not my town,'" Weber said. "Until communities acknowledge that, (it 
will be) difficult to bring resources to the table to combat (the) problem."

Weber said children have access to money to buy these drugs, either 
through after-school jobs or allowances.

"Kids have time to search," he said. "They're not going to 
Morristown. They're going to Newark."

Weber stressed the need for parental involvement, and the need for 
them to hold their children accountable for their actions.

"If you don't hold them accountable, the criminal justice system 
will," Weber said.

Weber advised that parents examine the contents of their medicine 
cabinets, throw out any prescriptions that have expired, and keep a 
close eye on the ones that haven't.

Heidi Wing, a mom from Madison with three children, said she planned 
to take the information she learned and bring it to her local 
parent-teacher association.

"I was surprised by it, absolutely," she said of the program. She 
added that she was most shocked by the abuse of prescription painkillers.

"I knew it was out there," Wing said. "I never thought, for instance, 
to lock up my medical cabinet."

The day, which began at 9 a.m., concluded shortly after 2 p.m. 
Educators including John Kazmark, Larry Reynolds and John Adamus, the 
school superintendents of Mountain Lakes, Pequannock and Hanover Park 
Regional, respectively, addressed the audience about what school 
districts are doing to combat drug abuse.

They were joined by Patrolman Scott Arentowicz, the Randolph High 
School resource officer; Marcia Brands, a therapist; and Beth 
Jacobson, coordinator of Municipal Alliance.

One tip that came from the panel was for parents to inspect their 
children's rooms, as well as their cars, and to keep track of their 
Internet use.

Angelo Valente of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey 
concluded the day by playing multiple public address announcements on 
a large screen concerning drug use and parental intervention.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman