By Robert Mills
LOWELL — State Rep. Thomas Golden isn’t invited to party with Dracut High School students this weekend.
Therein lies his problem.
Golden, a Lowell Democrat, teamed up with Lowell School Resource Officer Timothy Golden, Middlesex Community College, and The Partnership at Drugfree.org to deliver a presentation on drug abuse to high-school students last night.
Students from Lowell, Dracut, Lowell Catholic, Chelmsford, Greater Lowell Technical High School, and Nashoba Valley Technical High School attended. It was, at first, a standard lecture on the slippery slope of drug use.
Prescription pills, seemingly harmless and easy to get, lead to Oxycontin. Oxycontin costs $80 a pill, meaning addiction can cost nearly $30,000 a year. Heroin, with the same effects, now sells for $3 to $5 a bag. For an addict, the choice is easy.
It’s a series of events that has stricken and killed high school kids all over the nation.
“It’s an epidemic,” said Officer Golden.
Asked if they had been offered drugs in school or at parties on weekends, nearly all of the 55 students raised their hands.
“Do you know anyone who’s addicted to prescription pills?” asked Amy Bloustine, of The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
“Yes,” one girl said faintly as students around her raised their hands.
Students told stories of drug use among junior-high students — kids in the fifth to eighth grades.
They were told they could talk to their parents or teachers. A teen from GLTHS spoke.
“I feel like it’s up to us, the kids, to say, ‘that’s not cool,’ ” the teen said. “That’s going to be better than having a teacher tell us, ‘Oh, don’t do drugs.’ ”
“What can we do?” another student asked.
Rep. Golden pounced. It was the comment he had been waiting for.
“That’s what this is all about. That’s what we need to find out,” Golden said.
Rep. Golden explained the goal was to get students to return to their schools and brainstorm; to talk to their classmates about using drugs.
“We can sit here all day long as adults and tell you what to do,” Rep. Golden said. “But we’re not invited to the party on Friday or Saturday.”
Students agreed that would be more effective than lectures from adults. They began sharing ideas — talking to younger classmates — using graphic examples of consequences to get their classmates’ attention.
Rep. Golden said the idea came up as he was talking with Mike Lenzi of the GLTHS Committee, and John Leahy of the Lowell School Committee.
“We’re just trying to start this as a catalyst,” Golden said. “The top-down approach doesn’t work.”
Dracut seniors Victoria Taylor, Rachel Norsigian and Chelsey Mahoney said talking to classmates about drugs can be scary, and said some classmates are obstinate.
But they said they want to meet with their teachers to continue the conversation about what they, as students, can do. A student from GLTHS said he plans to do the same at his school, and hopes he can visit middle schools in Lowell.
“We’re trying to help you,” Rep. Golden said. “We need you to tell us what you need help with.”
In a week, Golden will send a follow up email to each student who attended last night. He’s hoping for a lot of responses.