New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
DEA: Ignore Metherall at your peril
Shoreline parents schooled on realities of drug abuse at film premiere of ‘Finding Hope’
Let’s talk about Adderall. On the street, it’s known as Metherall, short for methamphetamine and Adderall.
If you’re a parent on the Shoreline or, for that matter, anywhere, ignore Metherall at your peril, according to Jon DeLena, Drug Enforcement Agency associate special agent in charge, New England Field Division.
DeLena was among a panel of experts at Madison’s Polson Middle School at a recent event featuring the premiere of “Finding Hope,” a 17-minute film dramatizing the dangers of fentanyl and the realities of drug use among youth in an affluent New England town.
“Finding Hope,” produced by Jill Nesi and DemandZERO’s Lisa Deane, stars Hand high school alumnae Alexis LaRiviere and Reese Gaudelli, and includes appearances by Leonard Jahad of the Connecticut Violence Intervention Program and street outreach worker William “Juneboy” Outlaw III.
“We’ve done a good job in this country, at least over the past five years, of cracking down on the over-prescribing of opiates,” DeLena told the audience of 125.
“So the Mexican drug cartels said, ‘fine, we’ll just manufacture the pills ourselves, pack them with methamphetamine and fentanyl, and design them to look exactly like pharmaceutical-grade pills.”
According to public health agencies, both methamphetamine and fentanyl are cheap and highly addictive. Both can be deadly. Both are often mixed into illegal narcotics to cut costs and increase profits.
“All of a sudden, meth has exploded,” DeLena said. “The cartels are telling people suffering from substance abuse issues that this will help when you’re in the lows of your fentanyl or Oxycontin or Xanax use, and you need something to help get you up off the ground, and here’s a free sample, and then if you can’t get to sleep at night, go back to the oxy and fentanyl.”
It’s all part of the cartels’ game plan “to attract as many people as possible,” DeLena said. Not just cartels. Local traffickers are getting in on the action.
“We’re seizing press machines all the time locally because people have figured out how to do it themselves,” he said. “They can massproduce these pills to look identical to something you would get in a pharmacy.”
“They’re putting these pills everywhere, but they’re specifically targeting our children.”
That’s where Adderall comes in.
“It’s young people who are prescribed Adderall in middle school, high school and college, and there’s a legitimate purpose for it, which is to treat ADHD,” he said.
That said, “I can tell you the cartels know these pills are being passed around,” he said. “Division I scholarship athletes think it enhances their performances. Students think it makes them smarter. It doesn’t.
“The reason it’s so dangerous is there’s no quality control,” he said. “Kids see a pill and assume it is what it is because it’s regulated by the FDA. It isn’t. It’s mixed in 30 different blenders on a broken table in some lab so no one even knows where the deadly dose ends up. It becomes a game of Russian roulette.”
It’s not just outside the home. “Young people are experimenting with what they find in the medicine cabinet,” DeLena said.
“A lot of prescription medication is not completely used during treatment and people hold onto it for years, whether because they don’t know how to properly dispose of it, or they don’t think it poses a threat to their children,” he said. “They’re not taking inventory of what bottles are in there, so they have no idea if their children took the pills.
“There’s a prescription drug abuse problem, particularly among teenagers, and availability has been among the primary factors,” he said.
Among the possible solutions are prescription lockboxes to store potentially dangerous and addictive medications. (A limited number are available at Madison Youth & Family Services.)
There are also prescription take-back days, when people can have their prescription
drugs collected, as well as a growing number of permanent take-back locations, to allow safe disposal of prescription medications.
“It’s all about education and access,” said Catherine Barden of Madison Youth and Family Services, “and the hardest thing to control in terms of access is social media.”
Barden said apps like TikTok are a main culprit in promoting teen drug use.
“You type into the search bar what you want, and get into the website with one click of a button, ‘yes, I’m 18,’ and it opens up a whole world of things you can purchase.”
As an experiment, she used TikTok to order a vape. “It was sent to me in a Cracker Jack box,” she said. “I didn’t have to find a drug dealer. I didn’t even have to leave my house. This is what companies are doing to break that barrier and make things easily accessible to our kids.”
Education, Barden said, is crucial. “We need to educate young people about how dangerous these drugs are but we need to educate parents too.
“It takes a village,” she said. “We can’t just rely on the schools for that education. We need to make sure those conversations are happening with coaches, faith-based practitioners, wherever people are coming together.”
Most of all, “we need to make sure those conversations are happening at home and starting early,” she said.
“This is an ongoing process of education,” said panelist Charles Grady, public affairs specialist for the FBI. “It shouldn’t be just a one and done. You have to check in on your kids periodically as they mature.”
“We live in a bubble here in Madison,” an audience member said near the end. “But what I’m hearing today is it can happen here. It is happening here.”
“Finding Hope” is available to schools and organizations. Contact demandZERO through Facebook or Stand Up and Speak Out at SUSOsings@gmail.com.
Trailer for “Finding
Hope” at https://vimeo.com/601619207