Law enforcement tackles drug abuse in second part of health series
Published 11:38 am, Wednesday, January 25, 2017
DARIEN — The impacts, consequences and intricacies of substance abuse were the focus of the second part of the Darien: How Healthy Are We? series looking at the overall health in Darien.
“We have a problem,” Darien Director of Health David Knauf said. “It’s not going to leave us alone.”
“It’s incumbent upon to identify the resources out there and make sure they’re publicized,” said Lovello.
Lovello said Darien may not have the resources of a larger municipality, but police are making efforts to make resources available. All police cars are equipped with the overdose reversal drug, Narcan, and all officers are trained in it, as has been the case for several years. Sixty percent of Darien officers are trained in crisis intervention and the department is always staying up on drug trends. Lovello cited “glitter,” a powerful hallucinogenic, as one of the latest reports.
Marron and Palmieri read off reports from overdoses the department has responded to before going into the effects drug use and abuse has on the community. The reports talked about a 19 year-old-man found overdosing on the side of the road hours after babysitting the neighbor’s children and a 21-year-old man who was blue when police found him in his living room.
Marron, a Darien native, expressed his own concerns about the problem, specifically the abuse of prescription narcotics.
“I haven’t met a heroin addict yet that chose to be an addict,” he said. “But it seems like a likely outcome when someone gets addicted to prescription medication.”
Marron said police have trouble tracking the problem, because local hospitals aren’t required to report heroin overdoses like they are other ailments, like dog bites. An increase in crimes like DUIs, smash and grab burglaries and domestic violence also come from an increase in drug use, Marron said.
Palmieri introduced the audience to vape pens, a device creating odorless smoke that students can hide and release. Vapes, loaded with juices sometimes laced with THC (the active ingredient in marijuana), are actually worse than cigarettes. Students can also smoke spots of THC-laced wax that are easy to hide.
Palmieri said the high school’s biggest problems is with prescription pills. He’s noticed students who struggle seeking out ADD medications to help them do better and fit in.
“This is a super high-achieving school,” he said. “What are we reinforcing? You don’t know it, but you’re reinforcing drug use.”
Similarly, Palmieri said he was concerned by the drinking at the high school, saying it was beyond what he saw during his fraternity days a decade ago. Acid is also making a comeback as well as cocaine use.
“It’s hard for me to keep up with it and I work full-time in a high school,” he said. “If you find something weird in your kid’s room, we’re not here to pinch kids. The purpose is to cut this stuff off. We’re trying to get ahead of it now.”
Also featured at the event was Dr. Joseph A. Russo, CEO and executive medical director of Saved from Addiction Inc., as well as the group’s Chief Clinical Officer Maud Purcell. Audience members also heard from Malcolm Spears Jr., a Stamford native who overcame addiction with the help of Liberation Programs. Spears wrote a book about his experiences called Biggie’s Chronicles.
Gary Morello, associate minister at Darien Congregational Church, also talked about acceptance of others in helping with addiction.
“The disease of addiction does not discriminate,” he reminded audience members.