More than 200 parents of middle and high school students learned the consequences of the growing trend of teenage drug use at a forum Monday night at Wayne Valley High School.
“People think it’s a Paterson, Passaic, and sometimes, Clifton issue," Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said. “It’s here in Wayne, too.”
The panel was composed of Valdes, Superior Court Judge Rudolph Filko, Mayor Chris Vergano, Superintendent Ray Gonzalez, and principals of the district’s middle and high schools, spoke about the need for parents to be proactive in preventing drug and alcohol use by teenagers.
Valdes said that Wayne ranked second behind Paterson in the number of overdose deaths in Passaic County from September 2012 to May 2013.
“The problem is here,” Wayne police Chief John Reardon said. “The problem is now.”
Of the 44 deaths, 23 occurred in Paterson and seven in Wayne, up from 14 and one, respectively, from September 2011 to September 2012.
“The users that we are seeing come from very good homes,” Valdes said. “Affluent, educated homes.”
The typical drug dealer has changed also, panelists said. No longer are they the strung-out junkies in alleyways. Now they are just normal-looking teenagers walking down the street.
Panelists said more than ever drug users are now mixing illicit substances to create a greater high, something that can be very dangerous. The combination of heroin and alcohol and heroin and heroin and cocaine each accounted for 9 percent of overdoses from September 2012 to May 2013.
Filko said that 34 percent of the 475 drug-related cases in Passaic County Superior Court 160 are from “suburban towns like Wayne.”
Phillip Devadan, director of the pediatric emergency department at Chilton Memorial Hospital, informed parents to look out for any signs that their children may be using heroin. Kids may only start using once a week but the frequency can quickly increase because of the drug’s availability and improving quality. A bag of heroin can cost as little as $3 to $5.
Indicators of recent or frequent heroin use include running noses, marks or scabs from itching, sweating, withdrawal from social or school activities.
School resource officers Mike Zaccone and Mark DuBois said that if a user’s habit becomes frequent enough, he or she would begin stealing money, merchandise, or anything that can be sold for money.
Residents who believe their children may be using drugs can call Detective Sgt. James Celentano at the Wayne Police Narcotics Confidential Tip Line at 973-633-3587.
The Wayne Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse is also available to help residents and their families. The alliance meets the third Wednesday of the month at noon. Call them at 973-694-3244.