Long island and new heroin epidemic

"It hits you so hard, but it's so smooth and enticing at the same time" (Buckley 3). Those were the words used by a 19 year old former addict of the newly popular drug on Long Island called heroin. Over the past year it has been all over the news, on the television, in the newspaper and swarming through word of mouth, there is in fact "a new wave of heroin abuse" (Buckley 1). Teen heroin abuse has become such a controversial topic to many people that live on Long Island recently. It has even brought attention to high up political figures such as former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. Suozzi states "Nassau County has seen a significant increase in usage among 19- to 25-year olds. [The drug] is cheaper and stronger than ever before" (Gutierrez-Folch 1). Scary as it sounds, it is true that heroin has made its way to Long Island's youth and many are not happy about it.

This newly popular drug to hit the streets of Long Island called "heroin" has certainly gotten a reputation for itself, but "what is heroin?" and "what does it do?" are bigger questions that need to be answered first. Heroin is described as "A chemical derivative of morphine. It is approximately three times as potent as morphine and a major drug of abuse." (Levinthal 115). It is a scary fact to learn that Long Island adolescents are actually abusing this drug. The addiction rate of this drug is also a scary thing. Many people would think that heroin is a dependence drug but in fact, the results varied upon a research conducted by Norman E. Zinberg. Zinberg found that there are two types of heroin abusers, "the occasional heroin abuser is known as chipper" and "classic heroin abusers" (Levinthal 125). The occasional heroin abuser "tend to use heroin for relaxation and recreation" (Levinthal 125). In the other case there is also the classic heroin abuser; they usually fit the image that pops into your head when you think of a drug addict. The classic heroin abuser tends to use it to "escape from difficulties in their lives or to reduce depression and anxiety" (Levinthal 125). Both way of taking this drug is dangerous and also life threatening.

There is a stereotypical view when one thinks of using heroin. The thought of injecting a needle into a vein comes to mind when one thinks of a heroin abuser but that is just one of a couple ways to use this illicit drug. There is what's known as an "intravenous (i.v.) injection... that arrives at the brain in less than fifteen seconds... the effects are not only rapid but extremely intense" (Levinthal 61). There is also the "subcutaneous (s.c. or sub-Q) delivery, in which a needle is inserted into the tissue underneath the skin... has the slowest absorption time of all injection techniques" (Levinthal 61). There is the technique of orally administering heroin "by mouth, digesting it, and absorbing it into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract" (Levinthal 60). Last but not least there is through means of inhalation. It is said that "the simplest way of receiving its effects is to inhale it in some form of gaseous or vaporous state... Traveling from the lungs to the brain takes only five to eight seconds" (Levinthal 61). There has been much confusion and a major "misconception" that inhaling this dangerous drug by means of "snorting or sniffing heroin, rather than injecting it, will not lead to addiction" (NY Times 22).

If people knew some of the symptoms of heroin, many would hopefully be deterred from it. The effect of heroin sounds pleasing but the long term effects like addiction and such can be devastating. The feeling that one gets from this high can be described as: almost immediate tingling sensation and sudden feeling of warmth in the lower abdomen, resembling a sexual orgasm, for the first minute or two. There is a feeling of intense euphoria... followed later by a state of tranquil drowsiness (Levinthal 121).

That is what is supposed to be the "good" part about this horrid drug but there is also a downfall to it as well. There is "itching over the entire body and a reddening of the eyes... heroin also reduces the sensitivity of respiratory centers... resulting in a depression in breathing" (Levinthal 120). Ultimately this can lead to ones death. While the effects of this drug are bad, the withdrawal symptoms are just as bad. When heroin abusers suffer from withdrawal symptoms they are likely to experience "elevated body temperature, increased blood pressure, insomnia, pain and irritability, diarrhea, spontaneous ejaculations and orgasms, and restlessness, involuntary twitching and kicking movements" (Levinthal 122).

If the symptoms of the drug with and without the withdrawal don't seem bad enough, the treatment for heroin abusers is just as bad. There are two main types of treatments for heroin abusers, the "Opiate Detoxification" and also the "Methadone Maintenance" (Levinthal 126). Opiate detoxification involves "distressing the abuser by reducing the level of heroin in a gradual fashion under medical supervision" (Levinthal 126). The idea of Methadone maintenance was to administer a "carefully controlled narcotic drug... available to heroin abusers on a regular basis, thus the craving for heroin would be eliminated" (Levinthal 126).

Now that there is somewhat of a clear understanding of what heroin is and the side effects that go along with it, we can now get back into the problems that is causing in our society. There has been much dispute about the hike in heroin on Long Island and people all over are concerned with how it is affecting our youth. The death rate alone is enough to turn heads. "There were 46 heroin deaths last year in Nassau County and 50 in Suffolk" (NY Times 22). The death from the use of heroin may seem small but this is obviously enough of deaths to catch ones attention. This whole situation has indeed become an epidemic on Long Island. One fact that is really jaw dropping is ""During the first six months of 2009, 25 people in Nassau County died of heroin overdoses - more than from homicide and drunken driving combined; in 2008, 46 people fatally overdosed on heroin, up from 27 in 2007" (Buckley 1). It is plainly obvious that heroin is making its way to Long Island and many residents are not pleased by these statistics.

A town in Long Island that seems to have the most publicity is Smithtown of Suffolk County New York. Smithtown has been all over the news and in the papers almost every other day last summer. Countless news articles have been published about this new epidemic to hit Long Island. One article that was of great interest was Heroin on Long Island: One town's response drug use in the parks. This article exploits what is going on with the increase of heroin use on Long Island parks. At "Brady Park in Smithtown, town park ranger Thomas Lohmann" speaks of his encounters with this newly discovered heroin epidemic and his findings in the woods that he patrols. (Altherr A.4). Lohmann goes on talking about "a hangout, where among the debris was a homemade bong used to smoke drugs, fashioned from a green soda bottle... the rangers found needles here, too" (Altherr A.4). It is sad to see such a crisis erupt from a fairly quiet town that is rarely mentioned in the media. It is amazing to see all of these events unveil from a town that is only ten minutes away.

Smithtown Parks seems to be an area of interest for many heroin users in Smithtown. I have conducted an interview with Catherine Audus of Smithtown New York, a resident for "about 13 and a half years" (Audus). Audus tells how she is "a seasonal employee for Smithtown Parks department as a lifeguard" (Audus). I went on in asking her basic duties as a lifeguard and if she has encountered any used needles or anything at all drug related while at work, she responded with "We often have found dime bags but this summer was the first time we found needles... I was grossed out and disgusted that people in my town would be doing that, it was scary... I knew drugs were always around I just didn't realize how bad it had gotten since going away to college" (Audus). It was nice to get an inside look from a resident of Smithtown. It was remarkable and sad that all of this was going on even under the noses of some residents in the town. This interview gave some insight to how this heroin problem has become a new epidemic on Long Island.

The supply of heroin is indeed out there. "One of Suffolk's largest heroin busts ever... Suffolk police said they netted 10,000 packets of heroin and 100 oxycodone pills... at a home on Brooksite Drive in the Smithtown community" (Altherr A.3). That was just one drug bust, to think if all of that came from just one house then there must be more of the supply out there. An editorial in The New York Times claims "A bag on the street costs about $6 or $7, less than a pack of cigarettes" (NY Times 22). If the price of heroin is less than a pack of cigarettes, the supply must be out there somewhere. Nassau and Suffolk County are doing their best to try and combat this new epidemic to sweep Long Island.

Suffolk County tried to introduce a new "rewards" program, "a controversial program in which police offer students cash rewards up to $500 for anonymous tips about drug sales" (Altherr A.16). The outcome of this program was a positive one in which resulted with "the arrest o a drug dealer... and several other ongoing investigations" (Altherr A.16). Suffolk County authorities also mentioned "a new anti-heroin initiative aimed at eighth-graders... a news conference held at Accompsett Middle School in Smithtown" (Altherr A.16). It is nice to see that Suffolk County is not only trying to get rid of this epidemic by getting cutting out supply, but are also trying to educate and teach the youth and I believe that is where it really counts. Awareness education will only do so much, what about the current heroin abusers that are still out there? Long Island is only a small fraction of this problem that is bigger than many know. Some great input was found in the article Heroin problem isn't the half of it Long Island kids' drug problems run deep, and parents and schools need support:

More uniform from Albany is critical. If a child has a learning, developmental or emotional handicap, that child is eligible for classification and services by the New York State Education Department. Substance abuse isn't recognized as a handicapped condition - but it should be right now, local districts cannot refer a student to a drug program, as it is not a "special education" placement (Riesel A.35).

Riesel brings upon a great solution to children who might already be addicted to drugs and makes a valid point in doing so.

Just to give a little taste to the severity of this heroin epidemic, I've found a chart that gives a broader standpoint of the usage in this country.

A nice counteraction to all of this is the proposal for new laws. For every negative, there is a positive and that is exactly the case with this new heroin epidemic. "Prompted by a surge in heroin use on Long Island, county legislators have proposed laws to notify school districts and other groups about arrests for heroin possession and sales" (Saslow 1). Notifying schools about heroin possession would be a great idea to try and protect students but would also be an embarrassment at the same time to the heroin abuser. It would be nice to let the parents be aware of who the heroin abuser was so they can know if their kids have been exposed to the individual but at the same time, it would be demoralizing to that individual and bring up many problems in their future. This bill has not yet been passed for it still has to be voted on. "The Nassau Legislature will vote on its measure Dec.15; the Suffolk legislature, on Dec. 18 (Saslow 1).

From all the news stories, to the spike in heroin related deaths among Long Island, it is clear that there has been an increase in the heroin usage in the past couple of years. Frightening as it may seem, it has become an epidemic to our community and we need to fight it. New proposals are in place on how we can combat this new epidemic and bring the usage numbers down. Although we can fight this all we want, we cannot replace the lives that have been taken from it. As Tom Suozzi stated "[The drug] is cheaper and stronger than ever before" (Gutierrez-Folch 1) a problem arises from this but work is being put together to put an end to all of this. Though the proposals cannot guarantee results, hard work and diligence can help to slowly stop this epidemic. I myself am all for anything to stop the spread of the heroin usage on Long Island. I never thought that such a big name drug would make its way to a town that is just minutes away. I feel that drug awareness education should be enforced as well as treatment programs for adolescents to try and combat this problem at an early age. Following those proposals will hopefully guarantee a brighter future where Long Island can be free of this heroin epidemic.

Works Cited

  • Altherr, Stacey. "HEROIN ON LONG ISLAND: ONE TOWN'S RESPONSE DRUG USE IN THE PARKS." Newsday 4 Oct. 2009: A4. Print.
  • Altherr, Stacey. "HEROIN ON LONG ISLAND: ONE TOWN'S RESPONSE Smithtown chooses to fight." Newsday 4 Oct. 2009: A3. Print.
  • Altherr, Stacey. "Student drug tips said to pay off Lead to arrest, several probes, Suffolk officials say Program offers high schcool tipsters up to $500." Newsday 25 Sept. 2009: A16.
  • Audus, Catherine. Personal interview. 27 Nov. 2009.
  • Buckley, Cara. "Young and Suburban, and Falling for Heroin." www.NYTimes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2009.
  • Drugs, Society, and Behavior. Ed. Hugh T Wilson. Twenty-Second ed. N.p.: n.p., 2008. Print.
  • Gutierrez-Folch, Anita. "Heroin Use Becomes a New Back-To-School Concern." www.FindingDulcinea.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2009.
  • "Heroin on Long Island." Editorial. New York Times 31 July 2009, Late Edition ed., sec. Op: 22. Print.
  • Levinthal, Charles F, ed. DRUGS, BEHAVIOR, AND MODERN SOCIETY. Fourth Edition ed. 2005. Print.
  • Riesel, Howard. "Heroin problem isn't the half of it Long Island Kids' drug problems run deep, and parents and schools need support." Editorial. Newsday 29 Oct. 2009: A35. Print.
  • Saslow, Linda. "L16." NY Times. N.p., 8 Dec. 2008. Web. 4 Dec. 2009.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-36, HHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434). Rockville, MD.

Interview with Catherine Audus

Being great friends with Catherine Audus of Smithtown New York, I knew she has been a lifeguard for Smithtown beaches now for quite some time. Earlier this year I recalled a story she told me of finding "hypodermic needles" at the beach. This was around the time when heroin was becoming a major concern for all Long Island residents. Catherine has agreed to do an interview with me to explain her findings and to try and get her opinion about this small-town epidemic.

  1. What is your name and where do you live?
  2. Catherine Audus I live in Smithtown, 60 Lindron ave.

  3. Have you lived there for long?
  4. I lived there since June of 1996 so about 13 and half years.

  5. Who is your current employer and what is your current job title?
  6. I am a seasonal employee for Smithtown Parks department as a lifeguard.

  7. How long have you been working for Smithtown parks?
  8. 4 years.

  9. What are your daily duties as a lifeguard for Smithtown beaches?
  10. To keep the public safe and keep the beaches clean.

  11. Have you ever found what looked like to be used needles or anything drug related while at work?
  12. We often have found dime bags but this summer was the first time we found needles.

  13. What was your reaction when you first saw these hypodermic needles?
  14. I was grossed out and disgusted that people in my town would be doing that, it was scary.

  15. Did you ever think that something like that went on in the town of Smithtown? The town you grew up in?
  16. I knew drugs were always around I just didn't realize how bad it had gotten since going away to college.

  17. How does it make you feel that kids you grew up with are doing this horrible opiate-drug called heroin?
  18. It makes me sad because kids with such a future are ruining it.

  19. Have you ever known someone from your town to experiment with such a dangerous drug?
  20. Yes.

  21. Have you ever had anyone close to you addicted to illicit drugs?
  22. Yes.

  23. How did that make you feel? Did you want to help in fighting their addiction?
  24. Made me feel helpless and of course I wanted to help

  25. What do you think that Smithtown should do about this newly found epidemic?
  26. Besides enforcing laws and high schools really looking out for it I am not sure.

  27. Is there anything else you would like to say about the topic of heroin in your Hometown?
  28. I know it's getting a lot of press and is a serious problem but I still love Smithtown and it is a wonderful place to grow up.

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