Friday, December 7, 2012

GLTHS Freshmen Warned on Dangers of Gateway Drugs

Mom’s tearful story of a daughter lost

Greater Lowell Tech freshmen are warned about dangers of ‘gateway’ drugs

By Sarah Favot

TYNGSBORO — When Amy Caruso was almost the same age as the fresh­men sitting in the auditorium at Greater Lowell Technical High School on Tuesday morning, she tried mari­juana for the first time.

Six years later, she overdosed on a “speedball” — an often lethal combina­tion of heroin and cocaine combined in the same syringe. She died the day after Christmas in 2009 while she was in a rehabilitation facility.

Caruso’s mother, Melissa Weiksnar, a math teacher at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, told her daughter’s tragic story to the audito­rium filled with freshmen, warning them of the effect of decisions they make and the potential of marijuana and alcohol as gateway drugs.

Weiksnar, who wore her daughter’s Notre Dame cross-country sweatpants, favorite necklace, high-school gradua­tion ring and North Face jacket, spoke of her daughter as a beautiful, smart, athletic and popular girl who put oth­ers’ needs before her own, but spiraled into a drug addiction.

Caruso was a nursing student at Boston College when she voluntarily entered treatment the day before Thanksgiving during her junior year. She had a pass day to spend Christmas with her family and was dropped off back at the treatment center Christmas night. Weiksnar believes Caruso snuck the drugs that killed her in her clothes when she went back to treatment.

Weiksnar read heartbreaking pas­sages from Amy’s journal while she was in rehab. The passages tell of a young girl, who was caught in addiction’s white-knuckled grip unable to break herself free.

“I wonder what I can possibly do to break free from its grasp and remem­ber the life I used to love and show up for,” Weiksnar read.

“I want to apologize to the girl I was 10 years ago, for not becoming the girl she dreamed of 10 years from then,” Weiksnar read from the journal.

Weiksnar gave the students advice (choose your friends carefully; if you have an addiction problem in your fam­ily, don’t try drugs or alcohol; don’t date people more than two years older than you; and talk honestly about your feel­ings) and to recognize possible drug abuse in friends and family and don’t be afraid to intervene.

“ She would love to be here talking to you,” Weiksnar said of Amy. “ She’d be dancing around telling jokes, but she can’t do that, so that’s why I’m here doing it.”

David Stacy, of substance-abuse treat­ment facility Lowell House, and Maria Ruggiero, of the Lowell Health Depart­ment, also spoke about what to do if someone has overdosed on drugs, warn­ing signs for drug abuse and resources available for those who need help.

Students asked engaging questions about drug abuse.

State Rep. Tom Golden, of Lowell, led the forum. He has been a champion on Beacon Hill of fighting substance abuse, filing legislation for the state’s prescription drug-abuse program.

“If somebody ever says to you, ‘Hey, try this, it’s not big deal,’ and some of you right now are thinking it’s no big deal. Any time you want, the school knows how to get a hold of me, I will introduce you to people who will tell you, ‘it is a big deal,’ ” Golden said.

Melissa Weiksnar, a math teacher at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, speaks to freshmen at Greater Lowell Technical High School Tuesday about the perils of drugs. Weiksnar's daughter, Amy Caruso, died at a rehab facility in 2009.

© 2012 lowell sun 12/07/2012

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