Pubdate: Wed, 03 May 2006
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2006 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


"I think that Houlton has a serious drug problem - and it has been 
overlooked, big time."

That sobering statement from a recovering drug addict Monday evening 
slammed home the concerns of many in Houlton and surrounding 
communities, concerns also illustrated by the standing-room-only 
crowd at a two-hour town meeting on substance abuse.

Hundreds crowded into the Temple Theatre for the forum titled "Taking 
Back Our Communities from Drugs." Those who attended the event 
sponsored by the Link for Hope Coalition lined the walls and crowded 
the balcony once seats in the two cinemas had been filled.

The Link for Hope Coalition has worked for years to create a safe, 
healthy and productive community. Monday night's meeting targeted 
both young people and adults in two programs that ran simultaneously. 
Each session covered numerous topics, including instruction about the 
types of drugs currently available and how to recognize signs of abuse.

It was a subject familiar to Jordan, a Houlton native 10 months into 
recovery from opiate addiction, who described his life with unabashed 
honesty. Punctuating his sentences with "like" and "you know," the 
20-year-old said he first dabbled in drugs as an 11-year-old when he 
began smoking marijuana.

He did not do it out of boredom or because of a bad home life, he 
told the audience. He did it because he felt "very uncomfortable in 
my own skin."

"I started using [drugs] to make myself feel comfortable," he said. 
"And it definitely made me feel comfortable." Jordan eventually 
progressed to harder drugs, abusing opiates and discarding old 
friends to cling to people who could "get me drugs."

He began holding the secret of his addiction together with a glue of 
lies, telling his parents he was going one place and then heading to 
another to do drugs, stealing from friends and family and selling his 
Christmas presents one year to support his addiction.

"I stole from anyone who was around," he said matter-of-factly. "I 
did a lot of things to a lot of people."

At this point, said Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Division Commander 
Darrell Crandall, prescription medications such as OxyContin and 
morphine have a street value of more than $1 per milligram, while 
methamphetamines are being peddled to abusers for around $110 to $250 per gram.

Jordan tried unsuccessfully to quit several times and said that he 
woke up in the hospital twice after "a couple of benders," events 
which weren't quite remembered. He finally awoke to face what he had 
become while sitting in the Aroostook County Jail for eight months. 
And, he admitted, after his friends started dying from drug-related causes.

Currently in recovery, Jordan has earned his high school diploma and 
is making plans for college.

Crandall, who last month told Houlton town councilors that an average 
of more than four people per month were busted last year for drug 
offenses in Aroostook County by the MDEA, spoke bluntly to adults 
about the paraphernalia that abusers use to produce, conceal and 
consume illicit drugs.

As he spoke, Crandall displayed pictures of bags of cocaine, stacks 
of marijuana and prescription pills on the giant movie screen behind 
him. All had been seized in MDEA raids. He spoke about razors that 
users may have on hand to cut up their drugs, glass and metal pipes 
for smoking crack and meth, and the postage scale often used to weigh drugs.

Becky Miller, co-chairperson of the coalition, said she was impressed 
by the number who attended the event.

"This is a great turnout," she told the crowd Monday evening. "This 
is just tremendous. I want to thank all of you so much for coming. 
.. Obviously, there is a big problem out there, and I think that a 
lot of us are quite aware of it."

The crowd at Houlton's meeting mirrored the 1,200 people who showed 
up at a similar event held in Caribou last week. That forum was 
sponsored by the Community Alcohol and Drug Education Team and was 
held at the Caribou Performing Arts Center

The next Link for Hope Coalition meeting is scheduled for July 12 at 
6:30 p.m. at Houlton Regional Hospital.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman