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Bangor policeman, teacher: ‘Opiates are here’ – Bangor Daily News

Bangor policeman, teacher: ‘Opiates are here’ – Bangor Daily News.

BANGOR, Maine — A city police lieutenant and a high school teacher teamed up Thursday night to talk about opiates, a class of powerfully addictive painkillers that have been a persistent problem, not only in Maine but around the nation.

“Opiates are here. They’re in our community and so as part of our community the school feels the need to address education about their use and abuse. That’s important,” Sasha Alcott, a Bangor High School chemistry teacher said at the start of Thursday’s fast-paced and informative — but sparsely attended — presentation.

Though publicized and open to the community, the discussion drew only a handful of administrators and teachers, one parent and three high school students.

Bangor police Lt. Tom Reagan, who is a drug recognition specialist and has worked as a drug agent, provided an overview of opiates, which are available in natural forms, including morphine, heroin and codeine, and synthetic forms, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone.

Whether natural or synthetic, however, opiates share the same three key effects on the body, Reagan said. They are analgesics, or pain relievers; they produce withdrawal symptoms when stopped; and they relieve withdrawal symptoms.

“In other words, if I can’t get heroin, I can use oxys. If I can’t get oxys, I can use hydrocodone. If I can’t get hydrocodone, I can use Percocets,” he said. “They work the same on the brain so it doesn’t matter which of the drugs I have as long as it’s one of the analgesics.

Reagan said heroin and oxycodone, the generic form of the prescription drug OxyContin, are two opiates that are commonly abused in Maine.

Smack, thunder, hell dust, Big H and nose drops are some of the street names for heroin, Reagan said.

“Around here, it’s called ‘down’ or ‘H,’” he said. In Maine, the heroin supply arrives up Interstate 95 from Massachusetts and on boats coming to the midcoast area.

Heroin, he noted, is extracted from the sap of opium poppies. Though the largest source worldwide is central Asia, most of the heroin that enters the United States comes from Colombia, he said.

Reagan described how the sap is collected and cooked in 55-gallon vats with a toxic mix of chemical solvents with “no quality control at all.”

“The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency says that out-of-state traffickers see Maine as a lucrative market,” he said. Dealers working out of motels or apartments can make $30 to $50 on one bag of heroin that would fetch only $10 to $15 back home.

Because drug dealers want to maximize their profit potential, they often add other solids, including baby powder and baking soda, to stretch the amount.

“We actually had a guy on Ohio Street who was cutting it with boric acid so that’s the quality of people who are dealing it,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said the Bangor School Department for several years has had a comprehensive kindergarten-through-grade-12 chemical health plan.

The plan’s goals are to help students understand the medical and legal impacts of drug use, the impact on individuals, families, friends and the community and to show students what they can do to prevent drug abuse.

Alcott said the high school’s biology and chemistry classes, which are graduation requirements, include several lessons in which students explore in depth the drugs’ effects in such areas as cell structure, genetics, blood chemistry and more.

The Bangor School Department’s strategy for keeping young people off drugs involves arming them with the facts in the hope they will avoid them and encouraging them to be active in healthful activities, she said.

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