Heroin death sends troubling signal Communities struggle to combat rise in drug abuse among teen-agers.

January 21, 1998

ANOTHER heart-wrenching teen-age death from drugs pulls us no closer to a solution to the tragedy of narcotics abuse. This time, a 15-year-old Westminster boy died in bed of a heroin overdose, in the futile search for escape from reality.

Heroin abuse is again on the rise in the United States among minors and adults. It's no longer a "city problem," but a growing menace in suburbia. Its devastation of previous generations is ignored by or unknown to teen-agers today, a case of "generational forgetting."

According to the state's school drug survey, Carroll youngsters are more likely to use heroin than the state and national averages. More than 4 percent of 12th-graders say they have used heroin, an increase from two years ago.

Nationwide, heroin use in high school increased between 1991 and 1995. But eighth-graders were even more likely to use heroin, a strong signal that this is a longer-term problem. While heroin is less common than marijuana and cocaine, the strength of its comeback among teen-agers is frightening to those who believed the drug was under control.

Sadly, many young people who try the deadly drug believe the falsehood that heroin is not addictive if smoked. Desperation to feed the addiction leads users to higher doses and to injecting the poison into their veins for a quicker, more powerful high. The results are painfully obvious to victims' families and to the entire community.

Extensive drug education campaigns are in the schools and in the media. There's no excuse that a youngster, or parent, hasn't been sufficiently warned. But youth will often ignore much of the preaching of elders. Perhaps the school education program needs revision.

It is up to families to be alert to early signs of drug use. Law enforcement agencies need to concentrate on interdicting drug suppliers, as they have in two recent busts affecting Carroll County. Plans to engage community groups in the battle are under way, with new funds earmarked from District Court fines.

Addictions experts say the rise in cigarette and alcohol use among minors is fueling the increase in hard-drug use. That would be a good place for parents and schools to intervene, before the lethal escalation to heroin and other illegal drugs.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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