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Dangers of Heroin Focus of Middletown Drug Program

Program drew a full house to High School North auditorium

Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni speaks about the dangers of heroin at High School North's auditorium. Photo Gregory Kyriakakis
Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni speaks about the dangers of heroin at High School North's auditorium. Photo Gregory Kyriakakis

Local officials had a simple message for Middletown families Tuesday night: heroin kills. 

Use of the drug is a growing danger throughout New Jersey—including Middletown—and leaders urged parents to play an active role in keeping their children safe.

“People just think ‘this isn’t going to happen to me, this isn’t going to happen to my kid,’” said Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni at the "Heroin Kills" program at High School North’s auditorium.

But, it does.

In the past year, heroin deaths of those between the ages of 18-25 rose by 24 percent in New Jersey, according to officials. Gramiccioni said he expects Monmouth County’s heroin-related deaths to be “well over” 70 in 2013—in line with the numbers from 2011 and 2012—once the final tally is compiled.

“That’s a staggering number,” he said.

School, county and municipal officials are working together to raise awareness by involving children and their parents in the battle against drug use.

“An effort like this, to fill this auditorium, can’t happen without the efforts of a lot of people,” said Superintendent William George. He thanked the school board, prosecutor’s office, students and staff for filling nearly every seat in the high school auditorium.

Heroin arrests in Middletown saw a spike between 2010 and 2011, nearly doubling from 60 to 115, according to Detective Lt. Stephen Dollinger. In 2013, 106 such arrests were made.

“We’ve seen an increase over the years in Middletown,” he said. “It’s definitely a problem in Middletown.”

Monmouth County’s close proximity to areas with pure heroin—for example, Newark has a 46 percent purity level, higher than the national average of 31 percent—means local users are getting dangerous and sometimes deadly highs, Gramiccioni said.

Heroin users often start off hooked on prescription pills, which could cost upwards of $60 each on the streets. They’re likely to turn to heroin when pill supplies dry up, since a bag the former can be found for about $5 and last an entire day or longer, the prosecutor said.

Gramiccioni urged parents to get involved and speak with their children about the dangers of drug use. He cited a survey that found the top reason kids stay away from drugs is because they don’t want to disappoint their parents.

“Communication is the most successful tool for parents,” he said.

JasperRam January 17, 2014 at 07:17 AM
Great response, Middletown.
always a new yorker at heart January 17, 2014 at 07:41 AM
I missed the meeting. I wish the meeting was recorded so my children & I could sit & watch it together. I pray every night that drugs don't enter the lives of our children. Heroin now is what crack was in the 80's, a cheap high and a quick way to destroy young lives.
KS January 17, 2014 at 11:17 AM
This presentation was very helpful to parents. Parents understand that the presenters want parents to have a much greater role in communicating with their children about the perils of heroin use. However, it is still not clear exactly how the middle schools and high schools are changing their communications with the student body about this issue. Are changes going to be made to the health curriculum to more effectively communicate these statistics to students? What about special presentations for the middle school and high school students, similar to this Heroin Kills presentation for the parents? Also, given these statistics, it's curious that the DARE drug prevention program continues to be shelved in Middletown. Why? If DARE was discontinued due to the high costs of program implementation, how much is the annual cost of implementing DARE? How pervasive does the heroin problem in Middletown have to become to trigger the re-implementation of the DARE program?
california January 17, 2014 at 11:56 AM
KS, you have great questions that I, too have often wondered. The DARE program was a great thing and had the kids heavily involved beginning in elementary school. The kids actually enjoyed the connection they made with the dare officers and even had a great rapport with them going on up through middle school. I think in addition to the obvious need for parental guidance with drug issues, the connection made with these officers early on is important for the kids. They npt only have to worry about disappointing their family but public figures who are on a first name basis with them as well. Even more importantly these connections were made in a positive environment before any shenanigans happened as they got older. Shame on letting the dare program become too much of an expense to continue. Is it perhaps that the revenue generated to the town by way of busting these kids for drug related offenses proves far more lucrative than keeping them away?
rteri0216 January 17, 2014 at 07:24 PM
KS & California - These middle and high school children need to hear the stories of addicts in recovery. How it happened, what happened to them, what they lost and how they came back. I manage a restaurant that employees young people who are on probation, parole and a program called Drug Court. One of my sons lettered as a freshman in football, wrestling & lacrosse. We had spoken to our kids about drugs and the effects, me running a business that employees people in recovery, would of thought I would have seen the signs. Well he had a accident at work, doctor had him in phys. therapy and on 3 oxycodone a day for 6 months. Then just released him. Well he started buying pills on the streets, stealing from the family & others to get these pills. Then he started buying the heroin at $4.00 a bag. I begged, cried, rehabs, detox, you name it I tried to get him the help. This drug had such a hold on my son that none of his family mattered to him. Then he caught a charge and was looking at 5 years in prison. Since I work close with Monmouth County Probation & the Drug Court Program, I reached out to them. My son was given a chance of prison5-7 years with having to do 85% of the time or the drug court program with 5 years and a chance of being done in 3 years. He tried to fight it at first and while he sat in the county jail for 4 months only because Drug Court held him with a no bail till sentencing, did he realize he needed the help of others he could no do this alone. When we asked him after all the talks about drugs and the DARE program why didn't you listen? His reply was I did, you are my parents it's just nagging to us. My son has been clean and sober now almost a year and a half. He attends Drug Court every other week, probation 1 time a week and has to attend 3 NA or AA meetings a week but he chooses to go everyday to a meeting. These other young men and women need to know that their is help out there for them if they are caught up in already and what the addict really goes threw. The police and all do a wonderful job telling us and them what it looks like & what it can do, but they don't really know the effects it takes on the person or their families. My son is reaching out to Drug Court and the Prosecutors office to see about going into the schools and speaking to these children. These drug dealers have children as young as 10 years old selling drugs for them.
JasperRam January 17, 2014 at 07:39 PM
rteri thank you for your painful post. I think we all need to hear just how bad this epidemic is for normal kids and families. it is devastating to all of us. we all need to help our neighbors.
california January 17, 2014 at 08:10 PM
Rteri, thank you. You are 100% correct with that. The kids do need to see and experience the lessons learned through the eyes of peers who have been through it and are "success" stories. Wouldnt that be a wonderful program, put a spin on dare adding real examples and peers who are involved in recovery and want to share their message to the kids coming through the ranks. I wish you son much success and strength through his recovery and am very happy you have your boy back.
07748 January 17, 2014 at 08:54 PM
The reason the DARE program is no longer offered is because the chief of police does not believe in the program and he put an end to it. Look what has happened since he did.
california January 18, 2014 at 12:55 PM
I guess the chief figured that it did no good for his own son so screw everyone elses kids. Nice.
BAZINGA January 19, 2014 at 01:16 PM
As parents, why don't you all band together, contact those that control the funds from your taxes for the schools and make them implement a program. Write the letters and emails. Go to the meetings at the schools and town. Force them to hear you. Be a headache until they actually do something. There is an area for program proposals. Can parents fill out forms? Has anyone tried? http://www.middletownschools.org/page.cfm?p=7846
MY town January 19, 2014 at 07:48 PM
Lets also target the dealers .
JasperRam January 19, 2014 at 07:51 PM
especially the dealers and the dealers to the dealers.
hcau February 11, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Do they have tip lines people can call to give information about possible drug distribution? That would also help in targeting dealers. Alot of people dont want to give there names or be in person when doing something like this
KS February 11, 2014 at 05:40 PM
To Holly Caullett: I understand your concern about anonymity. If someone wants to share something anonymously, I suppose he/she could consider snail-mailing an anonymous note without a return address to Dr. George at central office, the building principal, or Police Chief Oches, depending on the specific nature of the information. That would enable the appropriate authorities to investigate a concern about drug distribution without revealing the identity of the author of the note.

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