NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 16, 2013

Straight talk on drugs

Parents, residents urged to remain vigilant

By Angeljean Chiaramida
STAFF WRITER

---- — SEABROOK — Mike Magliaro wants to arm his boys with information on the dangers of drugs.

Magliaro and his two sons were among the dozens of people who attended a drug forum Thursday night hoping to learn how to prevent the town’s children and residents from turning to a life of substance abuse.

“I brought my boys here tonight because I wanted them to be exposed to information about drugs,” Magliaro said. “It was actually pretty interesting.”

Nicholas, 14, and Domenic, 11, sat beside their dad and listened intently to Seabrook CVS pharmacist Alison Mollica, Seabrook Detective Brett Walker and others speak of the deadly world of illicit drug use.

After, the boys both said what they learned was important, explaining that they had already heard classmates discussing smoking things they shouldn’t be thinking about inhaling.

Seabrook has seen its share of teenagers and adults lost to drug overdoses. For years, police have worked to curb the actions of dealers and inform the public of the risks of drugs. Local schools have offered curriculum to help kids make smart decisions involving drugs or alcohol.

Thursday night’s forum was the first joint effort on the subject involving police and the Seabrook Watchdogs, a neighborhood watch group. But it won’t be the last, according to Seabrook police Chief Lee Bitomske.

Bitomske said the drug problem didn’t pop up overnight and it won’t be stopped overnight. It’s going to take a team effort, he said.

The illegal use of prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Vicodin, fentanyl, morphine, codeine, Adderall and Ritalin; illegal drugs like heroin, crack, cocaine and marijuana; and the new designer drugs like “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana were all discussed.

Mollica said she didn’t think twice about taking part in a session that would delve into the national epidemic of prescription drug abuse that’s exploded over the past decade.

She and her staff have enacted policies to reduce the filling of prescription for drug-addicted individuals or those who buy drugs just to sell them illegally.

She calls doctors every day to verify that addictive pain medications are legitimate, she said, and prescriptions from Florida are routinely turned away, as are those from out-of-state physicians except those in Massachusetts and southern Maine.

Mollica said prescription drug dealers had developed a pattern of flying to Florida in the morning, hooking up with doctors who write prescriptions irresponsibly and then getting on a plane back home before the day is through.

“We fill legitimate prescriptions from legitimate doctors,” Mollica said. “But if we don’t feel comfortable filling a prescription for some reason, we send people away.”

Mollica advised parents and those who have children around the house to tightly control access to all medication, no matter what it is. She recently checked a bottle of medication for a woman and found the woman’s child had gotten into it, opened the capsules and removed half the granules inside each one.

She also urged parents to control medication when it’s prescribed for their children.

“When kids get their wisdom teeth out, you give them one pill,” Mollica said. “Then lock up your medication and keep track of each pill.”

Pharmacy tech Christi-Ann Dufour agreed. She shared stories from her high school days of fellow students talking about stealing pills from medicine chests, especially when they were at parties at other people’s homes, and not caring about what they were swallowing.

Dufour said that’s why it’s important to remove medication from the house when it’s no longer needed, especially after a sick relative dies.

The Seabrook Police Department’s drug drop-off box provides an easy, safe place to dispose of unused medication, Deputy Chief Michael Gallagher said. The collection box, which was the first to be instituted in the state, has collected tens of thousands of pills in the five years it’s been in place.

Seabrook Police Department’s drug specialist Detective Brett Walker said the world of substance abuse is ever changing and the need to keep current is vital.

While prescription drugs are a constant problem and parents need to remain vigilant, he said new drug fads like “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana keep raising the bar.

Bath salts are the street name for substances never really intended to make a soak in the tub more pleasurable, Walker said.

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, bath salts are chemically based synthetic cathinone, which have a similar effect on the body as the stimulants amphetamines or cocaine. They look like powder crystals and are sold over the Internet or even in convenience stores under the names Vanilla Sky, Bliss, White Knight, Red Dove, Purple Wave and Blue Silk, among others.

Synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or Spice, is another drug of choice for youth. Currently sold legally, it consists of a mixture of herbs and spices that’s sprayed with chemical compounds similar to that which give marijuana its effect. A popular brand locally is named Bizarro, Walker said.

Like bath salts, Walker said Spice is sold commercially at some retail outlets and online.

Both drugs are often marked “not intended for human consumption” to protect the sellers from prosecution. Unfortunately, users don’t heed that recommendation and use it to get high, Walker said.

Walker said both bath salts and synthetic marijuana have proven very dangerous in some cases, especially when kids use the drugs and then drive.

With new illicit drugs tempting kids all the time, Walker encouraged parents to keep up by reviewing the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s website at DEA.gov. He said other valuable links are available on the Seabrook Police Department’s website, seabrookpd.com.