The use of alcohol has been linked to drug addiction in many studies. It is not an easy subject to discuss, especially at the primary and secondary school level. Manhasset residents would like to say, “it doesn’t happen in my town,” but the truth is it does. Just last week, a young woman who was in the prime of her life lost her battle against opioids. This is just one of too many stories that are plaguing the landscape of the North Shore and Long Island. The drug scene is real and becoming more and more difficult to navigate, especially with the legalization of marijuana in numerous states, including New York with medical marijuana.
The task of understanding what Manhasset youth face is a big part of what Manhasset Coalition Against Substance Abuse (CASA) is all about. Newly hired project director Lesley Mazzotta held her first sector meeting on Jan. 17 since taking the position in October 2017.
The meeting was open to the public and had numerous resources from Nassau County and from various community groups including Long Island Council of Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Nassau County Police Department, the National Guard Counter Guard Drug Task Force, the media, CASA board members, Kiwanis International of Manhasset/Port Washington, civic representation and school administration.
Jen DeSena, the executive director of Manhasset CASA, was excited to discuss the newest initiative called Student Athlete Leader Training (SALT) which provides peer to peer leadership to students in the lower grades. The feedback from the sixth-grade teacher is that the program sends a positive message to the students and is very well received. There are 33 members on this pilot SALT team. Though the initiatives are well received, as was the Chris Herren program called Rebound, the problem of substance abuse is paramount.
On Jan. 11, Manhasset seventh- and eighth-graders participated in a presentation by Katie Schumacher, an NYS certified teacher and founder of Don’t Press Send. With cyberbullying tragedies, and anxiety and depression on the rise, this was an important and timely lesson to discuss and reinforce at home.
A Port Washington resident, Dani Scalia, spoke to the group about the ability of kids to obtain synthetic marijuana and other opioids here on Long Island. She cited the arrest of a man dealing drugs from Baskin Robbins in Port Washington near Weber Middle School as well as out of the local Grab and Go on Main Street. These establishments are both near the schools and easy for kids to get to from anywhere, yet the stores are still open.
Police Office Steve Krukowski spoke about the seriousness of vaping, or smoking e-cigarettes, and how it is quite popular among teens. They smoke it in areas where there are no cameras like the bathrooms or the locker rooms. Not being familiar with e-cigarettes, I did a little research.
The e-cig consists of a cartridge, battery and an LED light, which when turned on heats a liquid that is housed in the cartridge which produces an aerosol vapor which the smoker inhales or vapes. According to Scientific American, there is evidence that e-cigs deliver some toxic substances of their own, such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), nitrosamines (linked to cancer) and lead (a neurotoxin). Though the toxicant levels of e-cigs may be lower than in cigarette smoke, levels of formaldehyde and metals have been found to be comparable to or higher than those found in conventional cigarettes. Silicate particles, which are a cause of lung disease, have also been found in e-cigarette vapors. There are also other liquids which are synthetic that are vaped.
Synthetic marijuana is much more powerful than the weed smoked in the past. The potency is higher; it is practically 92 percent pure compared to the 3 percent of potency that was available in the past. With all these changes, the answer is still parents talking to their kids. If you don’t know how, there is a lot of information out there.
For more information about Manhasset CASA, visit www.manhassetcasa.org.