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Denial May Be At Core of Reading’s Drug Problem

Parents talk candidly at forum on substance abuse.

About 200 members of the Reading community gathered at the Hawkes Field House Wednesday night to talk about drug use in the community.

The crowd ranged from students in high school to town officials to grandparents. They clustered around white-topped tables and spoke about how drugs are impacting the community and what its root causes might be.

In the interest of not disrupting those conversations, we promised not to attach names to residents' comments.

From Reading's Residents

One woman told a table of three other mothers that she started using drugs at the age of 14 when she was a student at Reading Memorial High School.

Another mother at another table told her conversation partners that she has been engaged with the issue of drug use in Reading for years—since several of her children’s friends overdosed and died before the formation of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse six years ago.

Another mother said that she had heard that the recent introduction of breathalyzers at school dances had lead more youths to use pills that wouldn’t set off the machines.

“Kid’s can get around anything,” she said.

Where are they getting them? Well, new communication methods—particularly social media—said a mother who pined for the days when parent’s would answer the phone and pass it to their children when the caller asked for them.

The groups crystallized their ideas on “bumper stickers” and idea maps that organizers assembled on boards at the front of the room. Their slogans ranged from “smashes the myth of safety in the suburbs” to “cutting lives short” to “correlation between drugs and crime.”

One sticker read, simply, “denial”—an idea that ran through much of the sentiment expressed Wednesday night.

From Reading's Leaders

“One thing that we know for sure is that there are no simple answers and no quick fixes,” said Selectman Steve Goldy.

At the end of the event, Deb Gilburg, the master of ceremonies, told the group that there was no way they were going to solve the issue in two hours.

“If you feel unsettled, good,” she said. “It will keep your attention.”

Leaders from the group will continue the conversation Oct. 6 when the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse holds its annual meeting at the Fine and Performing Arts Center—leading up to a panel discussion on Oct. 18.

But Selectman James Bonazoli asked what comes after that—after the fervor stirred by the deaths of and fades. The energy around the issue of drug use and abuse, he said, needs to endure past the third meeting.

“This is too important for this to just twinkle and die,” he said.

Barbara September 23, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Another observation from the discussion is that I realized there is so much that I don't know about the scope and severity of this issue on Reading, and I want to learn more. More discussion, sharing of information needs to occur so that we can bring more visibility into defining what this "problem" really is. I think we will all be shocked. There are no silver bulltes but together, with active participation, we implement change that can make a difference. Reading can not accpet being known as a "gateway" for drugs.
Christine September 24, 2011 at 10:27 PM
When surrounding communities drug units aggressively target and "Arrest" drug dealers.....Where do you think these dealers eventually end up? It's not "Rocket" science!!!
take responsibility for yourself September 27, 2011 at 02:00 PM
A couple of things: You cannot control what adults do. Schools are not a substitute for parenting. It is our job to be parents FIRST. Get in your children's business. Know who their friends and friends parents are. GET INVOLVED!!! The police and schools can only do so much. I honestly believe that shows like "Intervention" need to be shown in school to give kids a real-world look at what happens when one decides to take certain substances. It's one thing to read about it in a textbook; it's another to see it up close. It can't be sugar-coated any longer. Maybe we can take a look at what bigger cities are doing to combat this problem and tailor it to fit Reading. Anything is better than nothing. Just my 2 pennies...for what they're worth......
John Carpenter October 06, 2011 at 11:02 AM
I agree with John's very thoughtful comments, and most of what others have posted. We all feel the urgency of the problem and want our kids to avoid life's pitfalls. The points about parents as mentors and as kids' first and best examples are important too. The one point where I would disagree, is starting the anti-drug (and anti-bullying, healthy choices, etc.) in middle school. Many kids make their choices of friends, values, the value of education, etc. by third grade. The Killam Pillars of Character program is a great example of values education at the elementary school level. To take it to the next level, how can we discredit and marginalize the advocates of immediate gratification, distrust, and violence, and convince our young people that the world doesn't owe them a good time? This is one of the most important issues that our community can come together to solve. Applause to RCASA for leading the charge. jc
Kat S October 06, 2011 at 11:34 AM
John and John C good comments. John C having just passed through the elementary and middle school grades with one of my children I want to mention that kids may want/like certain kids to be there friends but at that young age it is the parents who are coordinating all the "playdates". Sometimes our kids want to be friends with someone we might just have a feeling is not a good choice for them...even at this young age. Parents need to follow there instinct and heart and not worry about making sure there child is with the popular crowd. I often felt it was the parents who were struggling to fit in and having their child be friends with the "cool kids". It almost meant more to them than to the child themselves.

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