Counselors: 'No magic bullet' for drug addiction
BY ANDREW STRICKLER
July 11, 2008
Drug counselors and narcotics detectives liken the effort to combat heroin and save an addicted child to a maze, a nightmare, a 15-round heavyweight fight.
"There is no magic bullet to this," said John Venza of Outreach Project, which runs drug treatment centers on Long Island and in New York City. "A lot of parents think there must be a single thing to do and ... say, 'This is what we need to do.' But it's more of a long process."
Victor and Doreen Ciappa found their daughter, Natalie, 18, dead in a Seaford rec room June 21 after she went to a party with friends. Although the exact cause of death has not yet been determined, Nassau officials on Wednesday linked the Plainedge High School student to a heroin ring operating primarily out of the Hempstead bus terminal.
Among a dozen people recently arrested was Ciappa's ex-boyfriend, Philip Ordaya, 21, of Massapequa, who police have charged with drug conspiracy. No definitive link has been made between the ring and the heroin Ciappa is believed to have taken before her death.
A "Lucky 13" stamp on a packet of heroin Doreen Ciappa found in her daughter's bedroom before she died matched stamps on packets found during recent raids of the ring, according to Nassau police.
Doreen Ciappa's story of struggles with her daughter -- attempts to convince her to enter rehab, a terrifying overdose, searches of her room -- resonated with experts, who said many aspects of heroin addiction defy expectations and even reason.
Parents of addicts "have to be a little hardened," said Barbara Keller, executive director of the Suffolk Coalition to Prevent Alcohol and Drug Dependencies. Keller and others said many parents hesitate to seek professional help for themselves and their families. "If you know your loved one; you know when something is not right," she said. "Trust your instincts."
In addition to inpatient, outpatient and intervention services, parents can also go to Family Court, where a judge can order a child to undergo an evaluation period by a counselor, who can also guide the family to drug abuse services.
Police and schools are also responding. In May, Nassau police met with representatives from more than 75 percent of county districts to learn about the spike in heroin use, according to Det. Lt. Kenneth Lack.
Their reactions "ran the gamut from 'Thank God you're here and doing something,' to others saying, 'We don't think the problem exists in our community,'" he said. Lack said the meeting, while primarily educational, put schools on notice.
"Their responsibility is to contact the parents and say, 'We think this child has a problem,' he said.
Det. Lt. Peter Donohue of Nassau's Narcotics/Vice Squad said his team has gotten several calls in recent weeks from school officials for help understanding drug slang, but there are no heroin-related investigations under way that began with information from a school.
"We're looking for to be more proactive rather than reactive," he said. "We want them to take the first step before the problem really festers."
Staff writer Nia-Malika Henderson contributed to this story.
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