Topics ranging from the possibility of random drug testing at Mahwah High School to why experts believe trends of heroin in prescription drug abuse are rising in Bergen County were discussed Thursday night at the Mahwah Municipal Alliance’s Town Hall Parent Meeting on the “Teenage Drug Epidemic.”
About 150 residents gathered at the Sheraton Crossroads for a presentation on recent drug trends in Bergen County by members of the Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA officers then joined a panel of local experts that included Mahwah police officers, MHS Principal John Pascale, a doctor from Valley Hospital, a lawyer, and a drug and alcohol therapist for a Q&A session on teen drug use.
“Right now, it’s heroin, synthetic drugs, and prescription drugs,” DEA Special Agent Carl Kotowski told parents of the top trends they are seeing in Bergen County and across the state.
“The situation is here in Mahwah, it’s here in New Jersey. It’s happening across the US.”
Law enforcement officials warned parents of a common trajectory they are seeing, where kids begin by taking prescription pills, but move to heroin because it produces a similar high for a much cheaper price.
Most questions parents asked during the forum focused on how to prevent teen drug use, and how to detect it once it's started. Several parents asked about the possibility of random drug testing at Mahwah High School.
“Our current policy is to deal with students who exhibit behavioral indicators,” of drug abuse, Pascale said.
“Some schools offer programs where students can sign up to be randomly drug tested. We’ve looked into it. Currently…we’re comfortable with looking for behavioral indicators. I don’t think random drug testing is the end all be all.”
The panel advised parents not to be a source of drugs, especially leftover prescription pills.
Mahwah Police Chief Jim Batelli said the PD has applied for a permanent unused prescription medication drop-off site to be placed at police headquarters. At the DEA-sponsored ‘Operation Take Back’ that Mahwah participated in on Oct. 26, “we collected over 70 pounds of pills in just four hours,” Batelli said.
“That was one of the highest amounts in Bergen County.”
MMA members said they hoped the parent forum was helpful and informative, and called the issue, “an important one in our community that we can all work together to address.”