WMDT 47 NEWS - Prescription pills and heroin abuse are major problems not just on Delmarva but all over the country. WMDT wraps up this special report with an important warning for parents everywhere. Keep an eye on your child's cell phone and computer use, because drug dealers could be on your child's friend's list.
Experts say the Internet is making it easier for criminals to peddle poison, and the criminals could look just like your kids, other teens using social networks to push prescription drugs.
"Prescription drugs are that gateway," explains Beau Oglesby, Worcester County State's Attorney, "because people think, 'well, because it's manufactured by a pharmacy, because it's prescribed by a doctor, then it's safe.' And it's not."
What starts as recreational pill use, can lead to addiction, and then to harder drugs, like heroin. And Oglesby says the recent social nature of heroin use and distribution lends itself to social networking, "It is this very social situation in that everyone is participating and cooperating in getting this drug."
"Young people make dumb decisions," adds Tracy Simpson, coordinator of Worcester County Drug Court. "They're not mature. They are not fully developed. Their brains are still developing."
And it's your child's developing brain that is most at stake. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin addiction is a chronic relapsing disease, causing changes in the brain, and is characterized by uncontrollable drug-seeking no matter the consequences. Oglesby says he's seen what addicts resort to to fulfill that need, "We saw an up-tick in burglaries. We saw an incredible up-tick in scrap metal crimes. Things that were not nailed down, were stolen."
"Kids almost," says Simpson, "You know, nineteen to twenty-two, who are committing burglaries, They're committing crimes against a person. They are working in like tandem or in groups."
A task force of health, legal, and law enforcement experts in Worcester county, called "Operation: Circle Of Trust" say turning around the heroin problem is a huge priority, but preventing children from ending up in the justice system is up to parents. "We can arrest people," explains Oglesby. "We can prosecute people. But we can't arrest and prosecute our way out of the problem."
But parents are not alone in trying to keep kids safe from drugs. The legal experts, healthcare advocates, and officers who spoke with WMDT say they are all willing to help.
If you have questions about how to help your family members, neighbors, or friends who might be struggling with addiction, there are resources out there.
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