Port City Aims To Bounce Back From Drug Abuse Of Late 1980s

AROUND 6 a.m. every day on Main Street in Gloucester, a line forms outside the city's methadone clinic, which treats people addicted to heroin.

Even in this picturesque seaside community, many here are struggling with substance abuse. A maritime culture that lends itself to alcohol and other drug abuse is partially responsible, says Philip Salzman, program director of the Gloucester Prevention Network, a nationally recognized drug-prevention program.

Teenagers, in particular, encounter drugs in school and at parties. Kelly Reardon, 16, works with Gloucester junior high school students for the prevention program's tobacco-control division.

One of the problems in Gloucester, she says, is that in the winter months, kids don't have much to do. She and others hope the city will build a teen center. ``In high school, there is nothing to do,'' says Gloucester High School sophomore Erin Palazola. ``We have a movie theater and a high school dance once a month, and that's it.''

Heroin use, especially, has been a problem here. Fishing boats would smuggle the drugs into the city in the late 1980s, and, as a result, there was an unusually high number of overdose deaths. During that time, the city saw one overdose death per month for a period of two years - a rate 10 times the national average, says Mr. Salzman.

After a local newspaper series exposed the problem in 1987, city officials took action. The mayor formed a drug task force and developed a strategic plan. And in 1991, the Gloucester Prevention Network was launched.

The prevention program works through a citywide coalition system: Eleven groups of individuals - including teenagers, political leaders, religious leaders, school teachers, and others -

work to increase public awareness about substance abuse. Some initiatives include a 24-hour hot line to report drug-related crime, organized activities free of drugs and tobacco, and educational programs about prevention for the school and workplace.

Things are now beginning to change. Heroin-related arrests fell from 79 in 1988 to 14 last year. Meanwhile, drunk-driving arrests decreased from 171 in 1988 to 116 in 1993.

But more work needs to be done, says Salzman. ``This is a community that provides hope to other communities,'' he says. ``[But] community mores take a long time to get established, and they take a long time to change.''

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK