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Drug trends spelled out to sparse crowd

June 08, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Arranged on a table in a conference room of the Franklin County Human Services Building on Monday night was a bewildering collection of drug paraphernalia, most of which George Reitz IV said he purchased over the Internet using a county credit card.

"They send it right to you, no questions asked," said Reitz, a prevention specialist with Franklin/Fulton County Drug & Alcohol.

A felt-tip marker, soda can, lipstick tube, necklace, flashlight, cigarette lighters, even a can of furniture polish, had been converted to stash boxes or pipes for illegal drugs. The marker could still be used to write, and a car cigarette lighter could be filled with marijuana and plugged in its receptacle to light the contraband, Reitz said.

The soda can, markers and the furniture polish bore the names of nationally known trademarked brands, making them harder to detect as hiding places for drugs and smoking devices.

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Reitz talked at length about problems posed by heroin, Oxycontin, marijuana and other drugs in the county, but few people were there to hear what he had to say.

"That's the discouraging part. Where are all the people?" said Susan Whitelock, a board member of Enough is Enough, a drug prevention advocacy group that was formed, in part, in reaction to the heroin overdose death of a 16-year-old Chambersburg girl last year. Whitelock was one of three people at the presentation on current drug trends.

Heroin has been a serious problem in the county, particularly in the Waynesboro and Greencastle areas, Reitz said. The use of Oxycontin, a powerful prescription painkiller, has been growing in the Waynesboro area and the area encompassed by the Fannett-Metal School District, he said.

Reitz said there have been several fatal drug overdoses in the county in recent months, most of them from heroin.

Three people died from heroin-related overdoses since February of 2003, Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner said earlier this year.

Taken orally, Oxycontin tablets release the drug slowly into the system, an effect speeded up when the tablets are ground up by abusers seeking a faster high.

Drug slang has changed over the years, and Reitz offered a few code words of which he said parents and teachers should be aware.

Children or students using the number 420, for example, may be referring to marijuana, Reitz said. That trend apparently began with California students and referred to the time they would rendezvous to smoke the drug, but it is also the numerical date for the Columbine High School murders and Hitler's birthday, he said.

"Pharming" is a trend in which children raid their parents' medicine cabinets for prescription drugs and take them to a party. The medications are poured into a cup or bowl and ingested in random combinations, he said.

"That used to be called a 'salad bowl,'" said Eileen Grenell, the supervisor of the drug and alcohol program's Tobacco Prevention Program.

Other legal substances are used illegally, Reitz said. He talked about an incident in Waynesboro in which middle school girls were using typewriter correcting fluid as nail polish. Inhaled, the fumes from the fluid produce a high, he said.

Reitz went through a long list of cough syrups, cold pills, cleaners and other substances that can be used to produce a high.

Alan Barrows, the recreational coordinator for Manito, an alternative education center for adolescents, said he will take what he learned Monday back to his students.

"I want to be able to provide them with the information to make good choices for themselves," he said.

Parents play the most important role in their children's decisions about drug and alcohol abuse, Reitz said. He talked about one poor example that occurred shortly after he took the job last year.

A woman called and asked him how long marijuana could be detected in a person's system. He told her about 30 days and asked why she needed the information.

"My son has a job interview tomorrow and he needs to know," Reitz said the woman told him.

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