A student at Wayne Valley High School died from an apparent drug overdose Wednesday night. Emergency medical technicians rushed to the scene and administered CPR for several minutes. But there was nothing they could do.
The student didn’t really die, however. The overdose and subsequent funeral were part of the fourth annual Reality Tour.
Recovering addicts, officials, and police spoke frankly about the immediate and long-term consequences of alcohol and drug abuse. The event was sponsored by the Wayne Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse. For the first time, fifth- through eighth-graders were invited to attend.
It was the second event held in the past two weeks to address the increased concern officials and parents have regarding teenage drug and alcohol use. A community forum was held last week.
“I grew up in a suburban town. I had a great childhood growing up,” said Angela, a 28-year-old recovering addict. She was one of a few members from Straight and Narrow, a non-profit addict recovery group from Paterson. “I simply started smoking cigarettes and quickly moved onto marijuana. Anything you put in front of my face, I would try it.”
“Wayne is just like every other community in North Jersey,” said Mayor Chris Vergano. “We actually have a problem here and we’re addressing that problem.”
The issue of underage drinking and drug use in town has grown to the point that two police officers were transferred to the narcotics unit to help combat the problem.
Of the 44 overdose deaths in Passaic County from September 2012 to May 2013, seven occurred in Wayne.
“How bad is it here in Wayne, it’s bad,” said Detective Mike Zaccone, the school resource officer at Wayne Valley. Zaccone, and Detective Mark DuBois at Wayne Hills, work with the students and counsel them through alcohol, drug, and other issues they may be experiencing. “We are in the mecca. North Jersey has the unfortunate distinction of having the best dope in the region.”
More users are mixing drugs, both illegal and prescription substances, an alarming trend that is leading to more users overdosing.
Wayne police said that more and more children and teenagers are raiding their parents’ medicine cabinets and using whatever medications they find.
“To the parents of younger children, keep your eyes open. Snoop, get in their face,” said Donna Andelora, a Wayne resident. Andelora’s son Joseph died of a heroin overdose in December 2012. He was 22. “Don’t accept the closed door. Don’t accept them not answering your questions. Be a parent. Do what you have to do everyday.”
The police department is accepting unused or expired prescription medications Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 130 pounds of pills were dropped off the last time the service was offered.
The Wayne Alliance meets at noon the third Wednesday of the month in health room no. 2 in town hall. For more information, call the Alliance at 973-694-1800, ext. 3244.