By VANESSA LANGDON
For Your Niskayuna
Niskayuna is trying to break down the stigma surrounding drug addiction one community forum at a time. The second “Talking with Your Teen” forum sponsored by the Niskayuna Community Action Program was held Tuesday March 29 at Niskayuna High School. The forum focused on prescription and over the counter drug addiction, specifically opioids and heroin.
“Everyone needs to be aware of this very important issue,” said Judy Tomisman, N-Cap president, of the necessity for these kinds of workshops. She encouraged community members to inform themselves so they can be resources for young people and on the lookout for possible issues. Whether a coach, teacher, family friend, grandparent or parent she reiterated that the more people who are armed with the proper information the more likely a healthy environment can be bred.
The library space had parents, teachers, and students present to listen and familiarize themselves with the issue of drug abuse and addiction.
The evening began with Sam Enbawe, pharmacy manager from the Niskayuna Wal-Mart, providing a broad overview of the issue.
“Americans have a comfort level with medication,” he said. “You should know there’s always risks.”
The risks detailed by Enbawe are the result of what he called the over prescribing in the country which then leads to the addiction.
According to Enbawe prescription drug abuse is taking a prescription not prescribed to you, taking it in a manner other than what it was prescribed for, or mixing the prescription for an intended result. He warns of the prevalence of “pharm parties” sometimes referred to as “skittles parties,” “trail mixing,” or “grazing.”
“When teens are asked why prescription drugs the number one response is that it’s not illegal,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a perception that there’s less shame with abusing prescription drugs.”
The prescription drugs are often taken for their specific effects – better performance in school or sports, and an increased ability to focus.
Due diligence by the adults in the youth’s lives is imperative, according to Enbawe.
“What can you do?,” he asked the group. “Monitor, secure, dispose, be aware and prepared.”
He advises watching teens take their prescribed medication, and keeping track of their own medication through the use of safes or pill bottles with timers on the tops – allowing easy monitoring of when the bottle was last opened.
Disposal is another key to the process – proper disposal ensures that there isn’t extra medication laying around.
Take away bags are available at Price Chopper and online among other places for as little as $5.
A drug take back event sponsored by N-Cap is planned for April 30. A last resort for disposal of medication is throwing it away with other unwanted material – such as kitty litter or coffee grounds, according to Enbawe. Never flush medication which leads to contamination of the water source, he said.
Unfortunately prescriptions aren’t the only medication that can be abused and become addicting, over the counter medication has issues of its own.
Robo-tripping or tussin are just two slang terms for the abuse of the cough medication Robitussin one commonly abused over the counter medication that is used for the hallucinogenic properties. The dextromethorphan is the ingredient of choice that offers the “high.” Abuse of Tylenol, containing acetaminophen, leads to liver issues while ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeds.
“Do you trust your teen to take an over the counter dug on their own?,” questioned Enbawe.
The seemingly harmless products you can purchase at a pharmacy may lead to issues later on – medicinal or addictive.
While Enbawe instructed about what to look out for, Kirsten Hoin tugged on heartstrings with her personal tale of heroin – an opioid – entanglements.
“What I see when I look around this room is hope,” began Hoin.
Her daughter, Summer Smith was a lifelong heroin addict who battled the disease tooth and nail to stay clean for her three sons. Tragically Smith was not able to beat the disease and died in January of 2015.
Hoin, speaks locally “to reduce the stigma around addiction and recognize it as a disease.”
A 5K addiction awareness memorial run will be held in Smith’s honor on May 14 starting at 9 a.m. Interested runners or walkers can sign up on runsignup.com. The race will be held at the Guilderland High School, where Smith was a student, and costs $20 to participate, with the price increasing after April 14. Proceeds from the race will be donated to the Addiction Care Center of Albany and the Schenectady YWCA.
Niskayuna High School Spanish teacher, Monica Dicocco, was drawn to the event as a friend of Jackie Porecca, who was murdered by heroin addicts in 2015, and a mother of young children trying to prepare herself for the possibility that her children or students may struggle with addiction.
“I just want to be aware and not in denial basically,” Dicocco said. “Hopefully I can be a tool.”