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PTSA/SEPAC Drug Forum

by Nancy Farrell
February 10, 2015

A panel of local experts addressed a packed audience at the Adams Middle School auditorium to talk about drugs and our kids. The forum was organized by the Holliston PTSA/SEPAC.

Darlene Vittori-Marsell, PNP, BC, for the Center for Adolescent and Young Adult Health, TriCounty Medical Associates, started the presentation with an in-depth look at the developmental stages of adolescence and how substance abuse intersects with the big changes in their bodies, and especially in their brains. One essential message here is that recent scientific research for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has found that the longer an individual postpones the first use of alcohol, tobacco or other drug use, the less likely the individual is to develop an addiction or other lifelong problems, including depression.

Another message is that parents are the most powerful influence on their kids when it comes to drugs. And here's some advice shared in a handout by the PTSA's Lynne Rahim from the New Beginnings Programs founder, Bill Phillips.

What You Can Do As Parents
-Don't assume an adolescent doesn't drink because he or she is involved in extra-curricular activities.
-Spend quality time with your children
-Listen
-Talk to friends' parents
-Educate yourself
-Understand your child's world
-Reinforce your child's strengths
-Be a good role model

Another panelist, Detective Charles Todd of the Holliston Police Department gave a comprehensive view of the kinds of drugs that are accessible in Holliston. Detective Todd, who has been on the Holliston Police force for 34 years, described a path to illegal drug use that is occurring -- from prescription drugs to the illegal purchase of prescription drugs to heroin. The cost of prescription drugs in the illegal market to maintain a four-pill a day habit is about $120. per day. The heroin is a cheaper option, but what might actually be in a $5 bag is unknown, and is often cut with more dangerous substances. And, he reminded, a person with a drug addiction may steal to feed it. Todd also told the audience that Narcan, a nasal spray prescription remedy for a heroin overdose, is being carried in Holliston police cruisers.

Detective Todd talked about the array of new drug products on the street. The decriminalization of marijuana has lead to some creative product development. The marijuana on the market now is far more potent than in the sixties and there are choices about what kind of drug experience you get, Todd said. It is also available in many different forms: in oils to be used in electronic vaporizers, "vaps," or as "shatter," a butaned form of marijuana, that looks like a shattered brown bottle. Taking a bottle of beer and a bag of marijuana from a backpack, he talked about the strange situation that has arisen from the decriminalization of marijuana. A police officer can legally cuff and send to court a person under 21 for possession of the bottle of beer, but "can't do anything" to a person in possession of the bag of marijuana. He also talked about synthetic drugs on the street market that are not illegal, such as "bath salts" and "molly."  Bath salts, he said, have a really, really bad effect on people.  

Margaret Fitpatrick, the Director of Holliston's Youth and Family Services, talked about the importance of identifying adolescents who are at risk for drug abuse. Her department works in collaboration with the police department and the schools to reach out to kids in trouble. She reminded parents that they are the experts of their kids, and that they should have confidence that they can impact the decisions their kids make about drugs. The conversations parents have with their kids about drugs should be ongoing, Fitzpatrick told the audience of anxious parents. And, please don't hesitate to call her office if you need help, if only to understand a confusing behavior that may be drug related.  

Holliston School Resource Officer Bryan Digiorgio spoke about a prevailing idea among teenagers that marijuana is not harmful. Whether it's "dabs," "g's," "vaps," or "nuts," marijuana is not good, he said. He also talked about the serious risks of social hosting, and how social media has impacted the party-at-my-house scene. Keep the computers adolescents are using out in the open, he recommends.

Gina Stucchi, who grew up and is raising her family here in Holliston, has a compelling and heart-wrenching story to tell about her own addiction to drugs. It began with prescription pain pills and lead to heroin and jail and a loss of family and a long road back to sobriety. It is so courageous and compassionate for Gina Stucchi to share her story. There are many lessons to be learned from it. You can hear her tell it on the January 13th episode of Heartbeat of Holliston at http://hcat.pegcentral.com/player.php?video=728b7e2630994a7da4b3a1138a369e11

Some of the interesting things that came up in the Q & A period included:
Question: Are water bottles filled with vodka being sold at school and school events?
Answer: Water bottles are being used in this way, but there was some uncertainty about whether water bottles filled with vodka are being sold.
Question: Are there drug awareness programs for kids?
Answer: Students are taught about drugs in Wellness classes beginning in fifth grade. The schools often host speakers to address students on this topic. In a couple of weeks former Celtic Chris Herren will speak to high school students about his experience with addiction. His documentary on addiction, "Unguarded" is highly recommended.
Question: If the school sends home letters that someone has lice, why not send home letters that drugs are being sold?
Answer: There is a confidentiality issue. And letters sent home address safety issues for the general population.

The most urgent message from the panel is that parents educate themselves about drug and alcohol addiction. This forum presented a daunting picture of drugs in Holliston. A community follow-up to this forum is being planned. HCAT's Heartbeat of Holliston and Just Thinking programs are featuring many segments on the topic. We at the Reporter will keep you informed of upcoming community events on the topic and invite you to share your story and insights about drugs and alcohol. Let's keep the conversation going.

 

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Comments (11)

The side effects from Marijuana typically begin within minutes of ingestion and can last between three to eight hours. Weed smokers who attempt to suddenly quit will experience withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, lack of appetite and agitation.Read teh blog on "Marijuana addiction treatment"https://www.slorecoverycenters.com/drug-rehab/marijuana- addiction-treatment/

- Elina Smith | 6/1/17 7:11 AM

I am so sorry I was unable to go to the forum. My youngest is now in high school, a junior. Over the years, I have seen wellness programs educate the kids about the dire evils of tobacco and alcohol (both legal over a certain age) and omit conversations about many, many other drugs. The decriminalization of pot (which I voted against btw) was incomplete -- without making it subject to restrictions in age, like tobacco products, it is a gaping loophole. According to my son, pot use is rampant at the high school, whereas alcohol, not so much, because the kids know no one can really do anything (as mentioned above). It may not be as harmful as heroin, but it is SMOKING and it does affect brain development at a crucial time. The stuff out there is STRONG. Interesting, if you go out in Boston on a weekend night, the crowds of young people out smoking in the streets are for the most part smoking pot, not cigs. Is that what we are aiming for? As far as I know, I thought molly was just as illegal as E, no? I hope this is the first in a series of drug forums.

- Anita | 3/10/15 12:47 PM

Brian is right. No one is advocating a dispensary in the H.S. Please search the term "Straw man" to understand "John's" motive. Basically, a straw man is a false representation of another's point of view. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that you be ignorant or uninformed of the actual point of view. Ms. Greendale, if no one comes on your show it is because pot smokers support the rights of others to abstain. Pot smokers are not the 'pusher man'. Pot smokers are people like Willie Nelson, Carl Sagan, Michael Phelps, Jack Nicholson, Kareem Abdul Jabar, NBA star Phil Jackson, Bob Denver (Gilligan), John Denver, Al Gore, Bob Dylan, H.S. football coach and model citizen Snoop Dogg, Richard Branson, Jack Nicholson, comedian Ron White, John, Paul, George, Ringo, Cheech, Chong, Wm. F Buckley, Sarah Palin, PBS travel writer Rick Steves and many, many more. Look at how the laws are going across the country to understand the prevailing attitude or try to lock them all up if you are really smarter than all of these people.

- Carl | 2/13/15 12:37 AM

John, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or attend HHS, but I'll try to respond. Remember, high schoolers don't always have water in those bottles, not to mention most of the science shows experienced cannabis users are no more likely to be in a car accident when they're high than when they're sober. Plus, a good deal of kids today are prescribed some form of medication, most of which is much more potent than weed - so if the choice were between a CVS and dispensary in my child's cafeteria, i'd pick the dispensary (But I concede the water is probably safest, unless it's Holliston tap). My point is not that marijuana is without its risks. Clearly, your mind can turn to mush if you smoke too much/too young and the chance you get cancer rises over time. But to speak about it in the same context as opiates and other hardcore drugs is obscene, and makes even less sense than comparing water to weed. And Mary, while I appreciate the invite, I don't consider myself to be the TV type and only reside in Holliston a few months during the year. But I don't think it will be all that difficult to find an individual with some common sense in town year round.

- Brian | 2/10/15 6:43 PM

Max fine is $100 for adults or someone under age. Not to much of a scare factor.

- Bob | 2/10/15 5:52 PM

Mary McNamara, Middle School Staff, did record the forum and HCAT is in the process of preparing the video for broadcast. Sign up for our weekly eblast, if not already, to receive a notice of when the the program will be airing. Email office@hcattv.org or call 508-429-8979 to have your email added to the eblast list.

- Dennis Bergeron | 2/10/15 1:31 PM

I am looking for people who believe that marijuana is relatively harmless to come onto television and present that perspective. I have people ready to talk on the anti-marijuana side, but need proponents. Would one of the people who commented here be willing?

- Mary Greendale | 2/10/15 11:45 AM

Great point Brian. Let's see if we can open up a marijuana dispensary in the cafeteria! Think of the revenue! I hope the school resource officer is ensuring that no seniors are getting into their cars with water bottles. That's all we need is someone who is overdosing on water out on our roads.

- John | 2/10/15 11:04 AM

Thanks for a great summary of this important presentation. I was unable to attend due to stomach bug and was disappointed it wasn't on HCAT.

- Val | 2/10/15 10:38 AM

So the big question is, why don't we have a drug sniffing dog in the police department. You'll never eliminate drugs in society, but if you want drugs out of the school, let a dog roam the hallways on a periodic basis. Another question, the police officer says he can't do anything for kids with weed, but although it's decriminalized, it's still not legal (like Colorado). They can't arrest a kid, but they can write a summons for a hefty fine, right? Plus, as minors (most students are under 18) the rules are different, right?

- Hungry Hippo | 2/10/15 10:25 AM

It's irresponsible to lump marijuana and heroin into the same category. Lying to children and telling them weed isn't safe just confuses them (And has not worked, may I add). More people overdose on water than marijuana. This should be the last thing on the school resource officer's mind at a time like this.

- Brian | 2/10/15 9:05 AM

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