Parents warned about teen heroin use Drug is easily available, state police expert says

October 16, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Heroin is cheap and readily available, so the substance-abuse problem among youth in Carroll County isn't going away soon, a state police drug expert told parents last night at a Sykesville forum.

Teen-agers and young adults today are more mobile, can slip into Baltimore, buy whatever they want and get back without a parent knowing, Sgt. Mike College, a parent and county resident, told the gathering of nearly 200 at Sykesville Middle School.

Sponsored by Junction Inc., a nonprofit treatment and prevention center in Westminster, Community Forum No. 3 was one of two held in the county last night. The other was in Hampstead. Two other community forums about drug-related issues have been held this year.

In Hampstead, Thomas J. Zirpoli, professor of education at Western Maryland College, simultaneously addressed concerned parents at North Carroll High School about effective communication techniques with their children.

College and Zirpoli approached the heroin problem from different perspectives. They concentrated on their areas of expertise in the continuing four-pronged attack against drugs -- enforcement, prosecution, education and treatment -- promoted by addictions counselors, police, educators, prosecutors and county residents.

The anti-heroin crusade in Carroll County was sparked by the high-profile overdose deaths of four young residents, including three this year.

The common goals are to stop the deaths and stem the flow of drugs in the county.

Offering practical examples of signs to look for that a child might be involved in drugs, College warned the audience to be aware of their environment and be more cautious in protecting their possessions.

All a heroin addict looks for is the next chance to steal something to sell for money to buy drugs, he said.

College warned parents to lock their vehicles, sheds and guard their videocassette recorders. Any item worth $100 can be pawned for $10 or $20 to buy more heroin, he said.

Education and the family are key elements in this cooperative effort, College said. Police can't arrest the problem away and prosecutors can't jail every addict, he said.

"This is not merely a case of dealing with an addict who has a

drug problem," he said. "Drug abuse has a negative impact on addicts' communities and their families."

He said people need to be aware of the pain that parents like Debi Curran of Hampstead are going through. College introduced Curran, whose 20-year-old son, Justin Lee Dalcin, was found dead of an overdose Sept. 9 in Wyman Park in Baltimore.

College asked Curran to attend last night's meeting.

College, whose task force work puts him in frequent contact with users and dealers, said ways have to be found to reach schoolchildren at a young age to "make them realize that drug dealers who would get them hooked on heroin are no friends at all."

The availability of drugs is only part of the problem, he said. "Kids between 14 and 22 are exposed to a lot more than their parents ever were," he said.

Parents who allow their children to smoke need to realize that tobacco and alcohol, often within easy reach at home, are gateway drugs, he said.

L "Addicts I've interviewed did not start on heroin," he said.

For Linda and Marvin Combs, Eldersburg parents with children in grades six, two and kindergarten, last night's presentation was a learning experience.

"I was surprised to learn how many [drugs] are here and how addictive heroin can be," Linda Combs said.

College shuddered as he told the group that heroin used in the 1960s was 1 percent to 10 percent pure, but heroin is 70 percent to 90 percent pure now.

"Our kids don't know what they are buying out there. It's so scary," he said.

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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