Long Island health care workers, local leaders and those affected by the drug epidemic speak out about a recent study on increasing drug use among the young.


Thomas Burke, 24, Port Jefferson. A recovering drug addict who said he started smoking marijuana at 13 with his father to cope with the death of his mother.

"That [marijuana] was my first drug. It's more damaging than people realize. ... Because it's so downplayed, smoking pot is now acceptable. You see it in the movies, TV shows, music. This is just part of our society. ... I always felt the best offense is a good defense. Prevention and education."


John Venza, vice president of adolescent services at Outreach in Queens and Long Island.

"It's been high for awhile. I'm not surprised that it's gone up even more. Most kids coming in with a drug history. ... the majority, if not all of them, began with and used marijuana chronically. ... What's also important to consider is not just that use is reaching new highs, but that it's the most potent marijuana we have seen in 30 years."


Suffolk Legis. Lynne Nowick (R-St. James), a member of the heroin task force for the county.

"The statistics are right. As a legislator, we are in the position to stand up to fight this epidemic. From what I've been studying, it starts with alcohol and then marijuana. ... The kids say, 'It's nothing, everyone does it,' but after a while, it's not enough. Then it's opiates. ... and then heroin. Maybe sometimes we do overgovern. ... but as legislators, we have to whatever we can to deter [drug use]."

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Mary Silberstein, Quality Consortium of Suffolk County.

"It's a mindset among our youth and some parents that marijuana is not an issue. They don't recognize the effect it has on the body and mind. ... We have kids that come because of prescription drugs, and they won't give up the pot. Unfortunately, we are living in a world where the impact of the '60s continues to affect us. People feel that marijuana is OK, but that is so far from the truth."