NORTH WILDWOOD – Michael DeLeon of Steered Straight recently said Cape May County is a beautiful place to grow up and to visit.
That doesn’t mean it is insulated from problems like prescription pill abuse or heroin.
“Some people are afraid to talk about the problem of heroin, opiates, or marijuana,” DeLeon said. “Some believe talking about it might paint their community in a negative way.”
DeLeon is bringing his Steered Straight program to Wildwood Catholic High School on Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m., where he will talk about the dangers of using prescription opiates, heroin, and even marijuana. He said the dangers are being faced in every county in New Jersey.
The creator of a documentary film called “Kids Are Dying,” DeLeon said drug use is epidemic in New Jersey and across the nation. He said he “Kids Are Dying” is being turned into a national film, with the rights being discussed with Bravo, A&E, and the National Geographic channel.
“We’re exposing an epidemic which is nationwide,” DeLeon said. “And per capital, Cape May County is really suffering with overdoses and overdose deaths.”
DeLeon said the focus of his efforts has been to get the word out to the community members.
“The number one thing I tell people is, we are all in crisis. It’s triage. We have to do Narcan distribution, we need emergency funding for treatment. The thing not being done is, we have a captive audience, and instead of locking them away, treat them,” he said.
DeLeon, who served 12 years in prison, said his life’s mission now is to educate youth to make the right decisions.
“My mother didn’t raise a drug addict, I became one, but she could have done some things. I want to educate parents on the signs and symptoms of drug use,” he said.
DeLeon said parents have to be aware of the messages kids are picking up from social media and television advocating drug use. He said parents also have to learn about the current trends in drug use, such as BHO, or burnt hash oil, which is a concentrated form of THC, the active element in marijuana. There has been a recent effort to crack down on so-called bath salts, a type of drug sometimes sold and abused with dangerous results. He said they are still being sold, but the chemical make-up has changed.
“It’s all related. Unfortunately, community members and parents need to be aware that if their home or car is burglarized, the chances are someone is feeding their habits,” he said.
DeLeon said people have to be conscious of what is in their medicine cabinets. He said families need to have conversations with elderly family members about keeping track of prescription opiates and not be as trusting with grandchildren when there are prescription pills in the house.
DeLeon said when he comes to Wildwood Catholic in February it will be to educate the public on how bad the problem is and what they can do. He said people also need to contact their elected representatives and find out where they stand on the drug problem.
DeLeon will also talk about Project SAM – Smart Approaches to Marijuana. He said people cam visit LearnAboutSAM.org to get more information. He said a lot of people don’t know that the THC concentrations in marijuana are increasing. He said recent samples or marijuana sold in Colorado were analyzed at the University of Colorado. Concentrations of THC were as high as 70 percent in some samples.
He said boardwalk shops should not be promoting drug use by selling T-shirts with cartoon characters promoting marijuana or “Molly,” a slang term for MDMA or ecstasy, which has more recently been used for other drugs.
DeLeon says he doesn’t see the humor in drug use, having attended 37 funerals from drug overdoses in 2013, and 26 funerals last year.
Contact DeLeon by emailing him at Visit Kidsaredying.com to view segments of his documentary.