David Keele at the Nabnasset Country Club on Monday, May 19, 2014

Drug Use On The Rise in Westford, Say Experts

David Keele at the Nabnasset Country Club on Monday, May 19, 2014

David Keele at the Nabnasset Country Club on Monday, May 19, 2014

Despite the suburban nature of Westford, drugs and drug abuse are becoming more and more common in town. On that note, the Westford Against Substance Abuse (WASA) group hosted a panel of experts on Monday evening to help provide updates on a variety of Westford drug issues.

The event, now in its second year, included information from School Committee chairman David Keele, Westford Police sergeant William Luppold, State Representative Jim Arciero and Jeff Stewart of Trinity Ambulance.

Due to a School Committee meeting beginning shortly after the start of the event, Keele initiated the panel discussion with information on what is known as the “Social Host Law.”

A lawyer in Chelmsford, Keele provided legal details on the law that emerged in the 1990s after a teenager died in a drunk driving accident after becoming intoxicated at a party. That party was hosted by a parent, leading to a new law making hosts of parties on private property responsible to prevent underaged drinking.

Keele said told the audience that due to the law and subsequent updates to it, any adult hosting a party where an underaged person drinks and then gets injured is liable for civil penalties as well as criminal penalties of up to $2,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

“It is real, and that is my point to you today,” said Keele. “When you say it can’t happen to me or when you say I feel more comfortable having them here, what I would say as an attorney is to be a parent and not a pal and not let them drink on your property.”

After Keele’s departure, the other three panelists provided information on increasing use of opioids narcotics in Westford, particularly heroin, which they said can be purchased for as little as $8 in nearby Lowell.

Arciero told the audience about efforts by the legislature to obtain more beds for drug rehabilitation, a problem Stewart pointed out when providing several sets of data indicating that Massachusetts had some of the highest levels of opioid use in the country.

According to Luppold, while the use of some drugs such as mushrooms and steroids have declined in recent years, use of marijuana and prescription pills have risen, acting as a first step to eventual heroin use by younger users looking to experiment with another high.

At that point, noted Luppold, the drug users often become involved in theft to fuel their habit, often leading to multiple breakins over short periods in certain neighborhoods of town.

“The great thing about living in Westford is that it’s a great community, we have great everything,” said Luppold. “The bad thing is that all those great things bring bad people who want to take those great things.”

On May 27, WASA aims to continue its educational series on local drugs use with “Behind Closed Doors,” an interactive presentation providing information on abuse of everyday items by children such as prescription drugs, eating disorders and more.

That discussion will be held at the Stony Brook School at 6:30 p.m.