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If you haven't heard the story about, Natalie Ciappa, the Nassau County teen who overdosed on heroin in 2008 just days before her graduation, I'd like to quickly recount the tragedy to you. A National Honor Society member, a cheerleader, a beautiful, vibrant young woman, Natalie Ciappa was nothing like the stereotypical picture of a heroin addict. Yet she became one and quickly. Her parents, Doreen and Victor, will tell you it happened so fast and so insidiously that once they realized what the problem was, the train of destruction had already left the station. They couldn't stop it before it was too late.
A great deal of information has emerged concerning the new surge in heroin use among our teens, but it bears repeating. There has been a spike in teen heroin use in Suffolk County and across the nation. The "new" heroin out there is really cheap and really pure, both of which make it very deadly. And it is appealing to kids because they can snort it and get high. Gone are the days when a junkie had to hunker down in an abandoned building and shoot up heroin with a dirty needle.
Since losing their daughter, the Ciappas have been selflessly working to educate parents across Long Island so they, too, won't miss the signs and lose a child. They know their story, though tragic, is not unique. They also know that heroin is not the only drug out there currently seducing our children down a path of destruction. Prescription drugs (medicine cabinet drugs) are abused more than cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine combined because they are so easily obtained.
These are the reasons why a number of Suffolk County Legislators have been holding drug forums for our communities. I have helped to facilitate one already with another scheduled in June in conjunction with Patchogue-Medford High School and the Suffolk County PBA.
We can no longer pretend that drug abuse is a problem for everyone else but "our community" and "our perfect kids." At the end of the day, drug addiction cuts across all the divides of age, race, and socio-economics. The drugs are in all of our neighborhoods, and all of our children are at risk. But parents are not powerless. Knowledge is power, and help is out there if they want it. Fighting this current drug war really does begin in our own homes, in our own schools, in our own neighborhoods.
A Community Drug Forum will be at Patchogue-Medford High School on June 7th and 7:00PM. For more information call 631-854-1400.