Trooper, physician detail drug problem Heroin use growing, they warn parents

March 06, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

As promised by the principal of Westminster High School, a state trooper and an emergency room physician delivered a strong warning to parents and students at an anti-drug forum last night.

The trooper recited statistics that he said are evidence of a growing drug problem in Carroll County.

The Carroll County General Hospital emergency room physician told of three heroin-related deaths and more than 50 cases of heroin overdose in the past six months.

Knowledge is essential in the battle against drugs, but Sherri-Le W. Bream, the principal, asked for more than avid listeners.

"Don't just be satisfied with coming to get information," Bream said. "Stay involved with the schools. Be informed and be in tune with what our children are doing."

At an anti-drug forum at Westminster in October, a disappointing crowd of about 40 attended; last night, several hundred were present. Many chose the forum over a high school basketball playoff game across the hall.

"Seeing this auditorium filling up is the best news I have had all week," said Jerry F. Barnes, the Carroll County state's attorney. "The message of concern you are sending out trickles down to our kids."

The proliferation of drug overdoses has triggered alarm all over the community. Parents want to know why heroin is invading the county and how to go about "Keeping Kids Off Drugs," the forum's theme.

State police Sgt. Mike College, a 20-year veteran of the war on drugs, said he has never been more concerned than he is now about heroin, a drug that is increasingly potent and available to "kids with a no-fear attitude."

"For addicts, it is worth the trip to the worst areas of Baltimore, places I would not go," said College, a member of the drug enforcement unit. "City police are saying that 30 percent of the people they are arresting for drugs in Baltimore are from Carroll County."

College attributed 75 percent of the petty crimes in Carroll to substance abusers and predicted crime will worsen as addicts become more aggressive.

"Thefts and associated crimes are running rampant," College said.

Given the potency of the available drugs, addiction happens quickly, he said.

"They experiment, get hooked and don't know how to get help to get off heroin," College said.

He urged parents to get to know their children's friends and to monitor their activities.

"Heroin is bad stuff. Even potheads and acidheads don't hang out with heroin users," College said. "Misery loves company. Users hang around with users."

Dr. Christopher Morrow said drug overdoses have increased alarmingly in the emergency room at Carroll County General.

He said he usually asks abusers where they got their drugs.

"Six months ago they would tell me Baltimore, but now more often than not they say they got them here in Carroll County," Morrow said.

Shirley Andrews gave the audience a look into a family devastated by heroin. She told the story of her 16-year-old son's descent into addiction to the drug, which took his life nearly two years ago.

Andrews directed her final comments to the many students in the audience.

"At those high-risk moments, think twice," she said. "Think of what your parents would say, what they would feel."

Education is the first step, said Linda Auerback, who founded Residents Against Drugs (RAD) and helped organize the forum.

When a 15-year-old Westminster student was found dead of a drug overdose at his home Jan. 9, parent activists like Auerback formed RAD, which has lobbied legislators for tougher drug laws.

"It took the death of a child to get us here," said College. "Stay angry. Find out what is out there."

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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