At a meeting of the Island Park Civic Association last week, Detective Pamela Stark, of the Nassau County Police Department’s Community Affairs Department, spoke to parents about the prescription drug epidemic on Long Island and what they can do to minimize the chances that their children will misuse these potentially dangerous medications.
Stark has been addressing drug abuse with students and their parents for months, visiting 55 of the county’s 56 school districts, including Island Park. She describes for parents the signs to look for and how to protect their children.
“The Centers for Disease Control has stated that this is the biggest epidemic right now in the United States,” Stark said. “Our new stat for Long Island is that one young adult every day is dying of an overdose.”
Prescription drugs are becoming the drugs of choice for teenagers, Stark said. One of the main reasons is because they’re so readily available. Most people keep their prescriptions in their medicine cabinets. “When you have people over, that bathroom is free rein, and you have prescription drugs in there,” she said.
A new video, produced with money forfeited by drug dealers who have run afoul of the NCPD, shows how easy it is for a teenage to acquire dozens of prescription pills from the homes of friends and family.
“There are a lot of young people out there that just don’t feel good about themselves,” Stark said.
Heroin is also becoming more popular on Long Island, she said, and it is usually the drug people turn to when they can’t afford prescriptions anymore. Heroin costs less than a pack of cigarettes and is much more pure than it was years ago. That means that it can be snorted or smoked — needles are no longer required.
“The reason young people will use pills instead of heroin is that they really do want to be healthy, and they feel that this is secure,” said Stark. “It’s been given by a doctor. So at least they know what they’re getting.”
Arrests in Nassau County for possession of heroin and opiate drugs have been growing. As of Aug. 20, there were 241 arrests for heroin and 342 arrests for opiates in Nassau County this year.
People should not leave prescription drugs lying around the house after they’re no longer needed, Stark explained, because that just makes them easier to steal. “If you have a prescription that’s a narcotic, you cannot dispose of it except by giving it to law enforcement,” she said. “That’s the law in New York state.”
The NCPD has prescription drug disposal boxes in each of its precincts and community policing centers. Many school districts, including Oceanside, also organize drug reclamation days, when people can bring their unused prescriptions to schools to be disposed of properly. The Police Department inventories the drugs they receive — but not the names on the bottles — and then has them incinerated.
Stark explained that parents need to be cognizant of what they say and do around their children. “I’ve heard of parents coming home and saying, ‘I had a rough day. I’m going to go take a Xanax,’” she said. “Children hear that.”