Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

November 28, 2013

Teen drug abuse must be priority

We applaud the Andover Police Department, Andover Youth Services and others in town for bringing the reality of teen drug abuse and addiction in Andover to the forefront.

Like all communities, Andover, unfortunately, is not immune to the issue of teens using and abusing alcohol and drugs. Acknowledging that fact is an important first step.

Judging by the more than 200 parents, students and community members who turned out last week for a forum titled “The Real Deal: Substance Abuse in Andover, 2013,” there is no arguing that drug use among local teens is a problem.

Andover police Sgt. Greg Scott, a detective in the narcotics division, told the crowd he has seen all too often alcohol and marijuana use lead teens to opiates and then the less-expensive heroin. And before they know it, they are hooked.

He and others urged parents to understand that the casual use of drugs and alcohol a generation ago does not compare to the more serious nature — and corresponding dangers — associated with drug use today.

The fact that two young people have died of drug abuses this year bears that out.

But perhaps most telling were the high-schoolers and young adults who shared their personal struggles and experiences with drugs.

A 16-year-old student at Andover High School said there is intense pressure on youth in town today to succeed in every aspect of their lives. She said students aren’t necessarily using drugs to be popular or to make a statement, but because they are depressed and miserable. They turn to drugs to escape and to feel better.

An Andover High graduate — and recovering addict — agreed.

“The pressure is not helpful. It makes children crumble,” she said.

Instead of getting mad, turning a blind eye or arresting teens for drug activity, they urged parents, other adults and the public safety community to recognize the larger problems facing teens, and work on addressing those underlying causes.

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