CALAIS, Maine — “Do not think drug abuse can’t happen to your family,” Calais Police Chief David Randall told two dozen parents, clergy, teachers and others gathered Tuesday for a drug detection forum.
Kids today don’t raid the family liquor cabinet, they steal from medicine cabinets, Randall said.
They don’t pass out beer at pit parties, they hold “pharming” parties and pass out pills, he said.
At one point in the forum, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent Amy Dorsey illustrated how easy it is for people to hide drugs. She asked a volunteer to look through a school backpack to find drugs or to identify any items that could be indicators of drug use. Initially, the volunteer found nothing.
Then Dorsey pointed out that pills were secreted inside a lip balm tube; pot was hidden in the binding of a school dictionary; pills and other drugs were hidden in fake soda bottles. She noted that hand sanitizer can be eaten for its alcohol content; office supplies such as white-out and computer dusters can be sniffed; and tampons can be soaked in vodka and inserted rectally to get drunk.
As she listened to Dorsey and removed some of the drugs from their hidden compartments, volunteer Karen Moraisey of Princeton, who has two teenage daughters, said, “This makes me sick to my stomach. As a parent, I would never think to check stuff like that.”
Not all children experiment or abuse drugs, Randall said, but she added, “Drug abuse comes in many faces. I’ve seen many families torn apart over this.”
The reality is that Washington County has a serious drug problem, particularly with opiate addiction, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Supervisor Mike Crabtree said.
“We are still fighting an influx of Canadian prescription drugs coming across the border,” he added.
“Prescription drugs are so rampant because they are easy to access,” he said. Five years ago, Crabtree said signs were being given out to people who had a death in the family that read, “All prescription drugs have been removed from this home.”
He advised against listing that cancer was the cause of death in obituaries because thieves will target those homes during funerals, knowing that cancer patients take strong painkillers.
“Pay attention,” he advised. “See what your kids are up to. Note if there is sleepiness, weight loss, weight gain, mood changes. All of these could indicate a drug problem.”
Pharmacist Becky Hanson detailed the many opiates and other drugs popular with abusers. “Very real dangers lurk in your medicine cabinets,” she said.
Robitussin DM, for example, is a cold medicine that teens overdose on by drinking. It goes by the street names of dxm, ccc, skittles or poor man’s PCP.
“You can’t just put your ear to the door and hear your children talking to their friends,” Hanson said. “Now they are texting and using the computer.”
Calais Police Department drug expert David Calroni told the parents, “You can never be too paranoid when it comes to your children.” He outlined the symptoms of drug abuse and illustrated the tests the police use for impairment.
Eric Mailman, an EMT with Calais Fire and Rescue, said he had seen too many drug overdoses and reactions in his six years on the force. “I am the last person you want to show up at your house. It means things have gone very, very wrong.”
Randall said he hoped the information provided at the forum helped. “If nothing else, I’ve tried. If we can help one student, one family, we’ve accomplished a lot.”