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Alcohol

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You’re not alone and help is available

By Jeffrey L. Reynolds

Jeffrey L. Reynolds

As COVID hit and stay-at-home orders began, alcohol sales and consumption skyrocketed.  Nielsen reported a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for the week ending March 21, 2020, compared with the year prior; online sales increased 262% from 2019. In several national surveys, more than half of adult respondents said that they were drinking more frequently — often daily — and many said that they were having more drinks at each sitting, with about a third engaging in potentially dangerous binge drinking. 

The jump in alcohol use was largest among women and not surprisingly, people of all ages cited increased stress, anxiety and grief coupled with increased alcohol availability and boredom as contributing factors.  

As the world returns to “normal” and day drinking memes on social media begin to fade, some of those who have become accustomed to a 3 p.m. drink or who have increased the number of glasses of wine or beer they consume with dinner will have a hard time going back.  

How do you know if you’re drinking too much? 

According to the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. This definition refers to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days. The Dietary Guidelines, however, also say that people who don’t usually drink alcohol shouldn’t take that as a green light to start.

The Dietary Guidelines define a one alcoholic drink equivalent as containing 14 g (0.6 fl oz) of pure alcohol, which includes 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol).

In comparison to moderate alcohol consumption, high-risk drinking is the consumption of four or more drinks on any day or eight or more drinks per week for women and five or more drinks on any day or 15 or more drinks per week for men. Binge drinking is the consumption within about two hours of four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men.

Excessive alcohol consumption, which includes binge drinking, high-risk drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or those under 21 years of age comes with significant risks. Excessive drinking increases the risk of many chronic diseases and violence and, over time, can impair short- and long-term cognitive function. Binge drinking is associated with a wide range of health and social problems, including sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, accidental injuries, and violent crime.

As scary as all that can be, there’s a ton of help available both in our local communities and online, where trained professionals can help you assess your drinking and if need be, help you come up with strategies to cut-back or quit. At FCA, we operate two state licensed outpatient treatment centers, two recovery centers and recovery coaching (Call 516-746-0350 or visit FCALI.org). LICADD runs a 24-hour assessment and referral hotline at 631-979-1700 as does Response at 631-751-7500 and Project Hope at 1-844-863-9314.

There are also a number of free or low-cost addiction recovery smartphone apps that give consumers 24/7 access to self-help and tracking tools, 12-step programs, motivational tools, and reminders. Sober Grid, SoberTool, Nomo, WEconnect, rTribe, and 24 Hours a Day are just a few of the popular resources. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs have meetings online, along with a host of other online sobriety support groups. Of these, Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART), Loosid, LifeRing, Club Soda, Women for Sobriety, and Tempest are among the top-rated. 

Emerging from COVID and returning to normal is going to look different for everyone. If it’s proving to be challenging for you or someone you love, pick up the phone, fire up your computer and reach out for help today. You are not alone.

Dr. Reynolds is the President/CEO of Family and Children’s Association (FCA), one of Long Island’s oldest and largest nonprofits providing addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services. 

Moderation is the key. Photo from Pexels
Modest alcohol consumption may decrease stroke risk in women

By David Dunaief

Dr. David Dunaief

Alcohol is one of the most widely used over-the-counter drugs, and there is much confusion over whether it is beneficial or detrimental to your health. The short answer: it depends on your circumstances, including your family history and consideration of diseases you are at high risk of developing. 

Several studies have been published – some touting alcohol’s health benefits, with others warning of its risks. The diseases addressed by these studies include breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Remember, context is the determining factor for alcohol intake.

Breast Cancer Impact

In a meta-analysis of 113 studies, there was an increased risk of breast cancer with daily consumption of alcohol (1). The increase was a modest, but statistically significant, four percent, and the effect was seen at one drink or less a day. The authors warned that women who are at high risk of breast cancer should not drink alcohol or should drink it only occasionally.

It was also shown in the Nurses’ Health Study that drinking three to six glasses a week increases the risk of breast cancer modestly over a 28-year period (2). This study involved over 100,000 women. Even a half-glass of alcohol was associated with a 15 percent elevated risk of invasive breast cancer. The risk was dose-dependent, with one to two drinks per day increasing risk to 22 percent, while those having three or more drinks per day had a 51 percent increased risk.

Alcohol’s impact on breast cancer risk is being actively studied, considering types of alcohol, as well as other mitigating factors that may increase or decrease risk. We still have much to learn.

Based on what we think we know, if you are going to drink, a drink several times a week may have the least impact on breast cancer. According to an accompanying editorial, alcohol may work by increasing the levels of sex hormones, including estrogen, and we don’t know if stopping diminishes the effect, although it might (3).

Stroke Effects

On the positive side, the Nurses’ Health Study demonstrated a decrease in the risk of both ischemic (caused by clots) and hemorrhagic (caused by bleeding) strokes with low to moderate amounts of alcohol (4). This analysis involved over 83,000 women. Those who drank less than a half-glass of alcohol daily were 17 percent less likely than nondrinkers to experience a stroke. Those who consumed one-half to one-and-a-half glasses a day had a 23 percent decreased risk of stroke, compared to nondrinkers. 

However, women who consumed more experienced a decline in benefit, and drinking three or more glasses daily resulted in a non-significant increased risk of stroke. The reasons for alcohol’s benefits in stroke have been postulated to involve an anti-platelet effect (preventing clots) and increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Patients shouldn’t drink alcohol solely to get stroke protection benefits. 

Moderation is the key.
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Heart effects

In the Health Professionals follow-up study, there was a substantial decrease in the risk of death after a heart attack from any cause, including heart disease, in men who drank moderate amounts of alcohol compared to those who drank more or were non-drinkers (5). Those who drank less than one glass daily experienced a 22 percent risk reduction, while those who drank one-to-two glasses saw a 34 percent risk reduction. The authors mention that binge drinking negates any benefits. This study has a high durability spanning 20 years.

Citrus benefits rival alcohol benefits for stroke risk

An analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study recently showed that those who consumed more citrus fruits had approximately a 19 percent reduction in stroke risk (6). These results were similar to the reduction seen in the Nurses’ Health Study with modest amounts of alcohol.

The citrus fruits used most often in this study were oranges and grapefruits. Of note, grapefruit may interfere with medications such as Plavix (clopidogrel), a commonly used antiplatelet medication used to prevent strokes (7). Grapefruit inhibits the CYP3A4 system in the liver, thus increasing the levels of certain medications.

Alcohol in Moderation

Moderation is the key. It is very important to remember that alcohol is a drug that does have side effects, including insomnia. The American Heart Association recommends that women drink up to one glass a day of alcohol. I would say that less is more. To get the stroke benefits and avoid the increased breast cancer risk, half a glass of alcohol per day may be the ideal amount for women. Moderate amounts of alcohol for men are up to two glasses daily, though one glass showed significant benefits. 

Remember, there are other ways of reducing your risk of these maladies that don’t require alcohol. However, if you enjoy alcohol, moderate amounts may reap some health benefits.

References:

(1) Alc and Alcoholism. 2012;47(3)3:204–212. (2) JAMA. 2011;306:1884-1890. (3) JAMA. 2011;306(17):1920-1921. (4) Stroke. 2012;43:939–945. (5) Eur Heart J. Published online March 28, 2012. (6) Stroke. 2012;43:946–951. (7) Medscape.com.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com. 

Treatment centers often recommend that reformed users preserve their identity in the press. Their stories are more important than ever and one young woman wants people to know that, yes, it is possible to recover from opioid and alcohol addiction. Photo by Anonymous

I’m writing today to share some hope. In November, I will miraculously have been six years sober. I say it is a miracle because for the longest time I believed I was hopeless, and I thought I would never find any peace until I was dead. It sounds very harsh but that’s exactly where my addiction lead me. 

I come from a small town in Suffolk County. Growing up there was a lot of chaos to say the least. I always felt out of place, like something was missing, or that I just didn’t belong here. I was filled with so much fear, pain and anxiety that I could physically feel this emptiness inside of me. Like a pit in my stomach that never went away. I was left to my own devices and with no way to cope at 13 years old I found drugs and alcohol worked well for me. The second I put a substance in my body things changed. I was OK, I could breathe, I could go to school, I could have a conversation, I could do all the things my anxiety stopped me from doing. Most of all I felt peace, something that was foreign to me, but of course I wanted more. 

More, more, more. There were never enough drugs for me, I was like a bottomless pit. I would drink until I was throwing up and then drink some more. I wasn’t one of those dainty girls you would see holding a cute mixed drink, I was the one sniffing lines in the bathroom and chasing it with a bottle. It was always very clear to me that I partied harder than my friends. Getting high was my only real goal and nothing else mattered. At 15 I stumbled upon Vicodin. My friend had a prescription after getting her tooth extracted and shared it with me. From that moment on I didn’t want anything else, just that feeling one more time. 

After two days, between the both of us, the script was gone. Painkillers were my hero. No waiting for alcohol to kick in, no getting sloppy and not being able to walk or speak. No smell. I had finally found what I had been looking for, a way to conceal the fact that I was high all the time. From then on, I found a drug dealer with OC 80s [OxyContin 80 mg] and my happiness relied on him answering the phone.

One day before school — I think ninth grade — I could not get out of bed. My entire body ached, I was sweating, had the chills and I was throwing up. I had no idea what was going on. I called my friend. She asked if I was coming out and I said, “What?! I am so sick I can’t even move.” She replied, “You’re dope sick.” No one told me about this. So, I went outside, sniffed an OC 80 and, voilà, in two minutes I was fine. I had only been taking the pills for about one week before I became physically dependent. Now, I was not only emotionally and mentally dependent, but now my body relied on the pills physically. 

People think that using drugs and alcohol is a choice, and it may have been a choice the first time I used them, but after that I had no choice in the matter. Drugs were like oxygen. It wasn’t a want, it was a need. The truth is that this was the case for me even when I wasn’t sick. After a couple of attempts at getting sober, I found that even when my body wasn’t screaming at me for more, my mind was. I went to my first inpatient rehab at 15. Wanting to do the right thing wasn’t enough. My mother would beg and plead. My brother would cry, my sister would try to fight me physically every time I walked out the door. My boyfriend would break up with me. Nothing mattered. Nothing could stop me. I stopped going to school, I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t be in any relationship. My life completely evolved around getting high. 

Pills were expensive and at 16 it’s hard to make enough money to support a drug habit, especially when you’re dope sick half of the time. I learned that heroin was cheaper. What’s funny to me is when you say the word heroin, and everyone goes “O-o-h,” the same people that drink until they can’t walk and sniff lines in dirty bathrooms look at you crazy when you mention the word heroin. I wasn’t afraid of it. Not even for a second. I had my friend teach me how to mix it, filter it and shoot it. Less money and a quicker delivery. My life was already spiraling at a rapid rate so I thought, “How bad can this be?” 

I was not allowed in or near my family’s house, dropped out of school and my old friends wanted nothing to do with me. My life was a cycle of get money, get high, get sick, repeat. 

From ages 15 to 20, I had been to 10 inpatient facilities and had a couple of stays in the psych ward. Some inpatient stays were 21 days long; some were two months, some were three. The longest stay was six months. 

On my 18th birthday, I got on the methadone clinic program, thinking it would solve all my problems and it did for a little bit. My dad allowed me to live with him, I got my GED certificate, I got a job. But the thing is they wanted me to stop using other drugs in combination with the methadone and I wasn’t capable of that. Back to rehab I went — it was the worst detox ever. 

My life was out of control. I was a mess internally and externally. The drugs stopped working. I was restless, irritable and discontent with and without them. For two years, I lived my life thinking I was better off dead. I was done. There are no other words than “done.” I figured since I didn’t want to live anymore and I knew other people had gotten sober, I would go to rehab one last time. So off I went. The funny thing about me: Once I’m detoxed and feeling better, I think I don’t need to take anyone’s suggestions and that I know what’s best for me. I guess I like to learn things the hard way. So, I ignored the suggestion of going to a sober house, went home with the best intentions of being a good person of society and before I knew it, I was calling the drug dealer. 

Coming to … I was constantly coming to. “How in the world did I get here?” I would think over and over. That’s where the powerlessness comes in. I didn’t want to do what I was doing, but I didn’t know how not to. If it was as easy as “just stop” using my “willpower” I would have stopped a long time ago. No one wants to break the hearts of everyone who loves them. No one wants to steal, and lie, and manipulate. It’s like being in survival mode. So, I learned the hard way for about a year, ignoring suggestions and thinking, “I know what’s best,” and falling on my face over and over. 

It was November of 2013. Everything I owned, including my cat, was in the car of someone I was using with. Talk about wanting to die. So, for the 100th time, I was done. This time wasn’t really any different than any other time. I said I was done. I didn’t really think this time would be different. I just remember I prayed. Something really honest. Every rehab I called was full, no beds. For six days, I prayed to get a bed. I couldn’t go on. I prayed for God to help. I prayed to forget everything I thought I knew, I prayed for relief from this obsession, I prayed to be guided, I prayed to be really done this time, I prayed and said if this doesn’t work, please just let me die. On the sixth day, the rehab called me back and told me that they had a detox bed. When I went to the rehab, I was done thinking I knew what was best for me. I made it very clear numerous times that I obviously had no idea. I was listening to someone in recovery speak one day and she said, “I’m here to give you a message of hope and a promise of freedom.”

If you could see inside my head, you would see the light bulb. It finally hit me. I needed to listen to other recovered people and rely on their guidance. 

Today I pray to live, I am thankful I get to live this life. Today I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother, an employee. Today I show up when life is good and when life is bad. Today I get to be present. Today life is a gift. I’m writing this article on my son’s fourth birthday. I’m getting it to the editor the day before the due date because even though I’m sober, I’m not perfect and I do procrastinate. But it just so happened that the day I finally got it done is my son’s birthday and I’m reminded again that every day is a gift. 

I am grateful that I took the suggestions that were given to me at the rehab: I went to the sober house, I went to the meetings, I listened to the people who came before me that have maintained their sobriety, and I prayed.

Every day I get to work with people like myself and today my life is about helping other people and giving back what was freely given to me. I’m writing today to tell you that we do recover, and there is hope. No one is hopeless. If you are struggling, please reach out for help because help is available, and miracles are real! 

Sincerely,

Someone who believes in you

 

Addiction recovery resources

Narcotics Anonymous Hotline

 631-689-6262

St. Charles Hospital Chemical Dependency Program

631-474-6233

Long Island Center for Recovery

 631-728-3100

Phoenix House

888-671-9392

Addiction Campuses

 631-461-1807

Nassau University Medical Center

516-572-0123

Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

 631-979-1700

Eastern Long Island Hospital:

631-477-1000

Villa Veritas Foundation

845-626-3555

St Christopher’s Inn

845-335-1000

Seafield

800-448-4808

Hope House Ministries

631-928-2377

Family Service League

631-656-1020

Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services

516-396-2778

Talbot House

631-589-4144

Alcoholics Anonymous helpline

631-669-1124

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

800-273-8255

Local Link Wellness

631-909-4300

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Suffolk County police arrested six people March 30 for selling alcohol to minors at businesses located within Brookhaven Town in the 6th Precinct.

Police said they conducted several stings in response to community complaints, and 6th Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of alcohol to minors during which 17 businesses were checked for compliance with the law.

The following people were arrested and charged with unlawfully dealing with a minor:

  • German Estevez-Rodriguez, 40, of East Setauket, employed at Upper Main Street Deli, located at 1600 Main Street in Port Jefferson
  • Joseph Ragan, 18, of Coram, employed at Speedway Gas Station, located at 1445 Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station
  • Isaiah Tyler, 19, of Coram, employed at Speedway Gas Station located at 1956 Route 112 in Coram
  • Nurettin Keski, 45, of Brentwood, employed by Valero Gas Station,located at 1274 Middle Country Road in Selden
  • Buenaventura Benitez, 45, of Smithtown, employed at NY Food & Drinks, Inc. located at 2505 Middle Country Road in Centereach
  • Ervin Rhames, 21, of East Patchogue, employed at Speedway Gas Station, located at 501 Route 112, Port Jefferson Station

Eleven establishments within the 6th Precinct complied and refused to sell alcohol to minors.

All six people arrested were issued field appearance tickets and are scheduled to appear at first district court in Central Islip May 28.

A free alcohol testing kit comes with one urination cup and test strip. Photo from Suffolk County Sheriff's Office

A new Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department program is looking to keep kids safe this prom and graduation season, while creating a way for parents to more easily open a dialogue with kids about underage drinking and drugs.

“We just want everyone to be prepared,” Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. said. “It’s a celebratory moment for people graduating high school and moving on, and they feel a little empowered.”

On May 22 the sheriff’s office announced it is passing out free alcohol and drug testing kits.

“This is not supposed to be a punishment, and I don’t believe that was ever the purpose. It’s important to show kids that they can have fun without being high or drinking.”

— Janene Gentile

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for people in the United States between the ages of 15 and 24 is motor vehicle crashes. In Suffolk County, the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes are driving while ability impaired by alcohol or dugs and reckless or distracted driving.

The test kits include standard urine test that contains a single cup and stick that changes color depending on the presence of alcohol.

“We want parents to ask tough questions and [have] tough discussions early on so that they don’t get the knock on the door by a police officer telling them that their child is in the hospital or telling them that their child was driving while intoxicated,” Toulon said. “We would rather let them take care of their children so that law enforcement does not [have to] get involved.”

The North Shore Youth Council already offers these kits. Executive Director Janene Gentile said she doesn’t see the kits as a punitive measure, but as a way for parents to more easily talk about the topic with their children.

“Drinking is cultural in our society, but it’s an adult choice and not a young person’s choice,” she said.
“This is not supposed to be a punishment, and I don’t believe that was ever the purpose. It’s important to show kids that they can have fun without being high or drinking.”

Local schools have long tried to curb drug and alcohol use at prom while still trying to ensure graduating classes celebrate the final days before graduation.

Frank Pugliese said in his first year as principal of Shoreham-Wading River High School, he hopes his students can enjoy prom while staying safe.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but please be responsible in your actions so you do not harm yourself or anyone else.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

“We strongly advise all students to always make appropriate decisions,” Pugliese said in an email. “With that being said, we have great students. The vast majority make smart choices regardless of the policies in place, and we trust that they will continue to do so on prom night.”

Smithtown High School West participates in the county District Attorney’s Office new Choices and Consequences program that shows the dangers of reckless and drunk driving. Members of the DA’s office will be in the high school June 18.

In a letter to students, Smithtown West High School Principal John Coady said anyone caught drinking during prom will be suspended and kicked out. Prom tickets will not be refunded, and the student may be barred from the graduation ceremony.

Fifty alcohol and 25 drug testing kits were sent out to numerous schools to kick off the program. The kits are also available free at each Suffolk County legislator’s office and will remain offered through the North Shore Youth Council.

Each alcohol testing kit costs .74 cents while drug testing kits are $1.50. The $5,000 program is being paid for with asset forfeiture funds.

“I would like for all of them to enjoy the moment,” Toulon said of seniors attending prom and graduation. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but please be responsible in your actions so you do not harm yourself or anyone else.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police have arrested five people after conducting inspections within the 4th Precinct April 14.

In response to recent complaints throughout the 4th Precinct, Crime Section officers conducted investigations into the sale of e-liquid nicotine and alcohol to minors at 17 businesses, utilizing underage agents.

The following individuals were arrested and issued Field Appearance Tickets:

  • Shah Asif, 44, of Bay Shore, at Shell gas station at 642 Motor Parkway in Brentwood was charged with one count of second-degree unlawfully dealing.
  • James Flone, 54, of Smithtown, at The Smoke Shop at 403 Smithtown Blvd. in Nesconset was charged with one count of second-degree unlawfully dealing and one count of first-degree unlawfully dealing.
  • Mohammes Khan, of Flushing, Queens, 58 , at Aroma Smoke Shop at 6 East Main Street in Smithtown, was charged with two counts of second-degree unlawfully dealing.
  • Wenwen Liu, 33, of East Meadow, at Smithtown Wines and Spirits at 67 Route 111 in Smithtown, was charged with two counts of first-degree unlawfully dealing.
  • Giovanni Galeano, 26, of Central Islip, at Krypton Smoke Shop at 260 Smithtown Blvd. in Nesconset was charged with two counts of second-degree unlawfully dealing.

The following businesses complied and refused the sale of e-liquid nicotine and/or alcohol to minors:

  • 7-Eleven at 2045 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • 7-Eleven at 362 Veterans Highway in Commerce
  • BP gas station at 2840 Pond Road in Ronkonkoma
  • BP gas station at 402 Rosevale Ave. in Ronkonkoma
  • Bullseye Wholesale Beverage at 395A Middle Country Road in Smithtown
  • Citgo Mini Mart at 440 Hawkins Ave. in Ronkonkoma
  • Cloud Vape and Smoke at 55 NY-111 in Smithtown
  • One Stop Deli Inc. at 408 Rosevale Ave. in Ronkonkoma
  • Exxon at 323 Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown
  • Shell gas station at 444 Commack Road in Commack
  • Shell gas station at 560 Middle Country Road in Smithtown
  • Suffolk Vape & Smoke at 165A Terry Road in Nesconset

All defendants are scheduled for arraignment June 18 at First District Court in Central Islip.

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Suffolk County Police have arrested two people as a result of a month long investigation at businesses located within the 4th Precinct. Fourth Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of alcohol to minors during which nine businesses were checked for compliance with the law in Commack, Smithtown, Kings Park and East Northport, according to police.

The following clerks were arrested and charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a minor after they sold alcohol to a minor.

  • Thomas Watson, 22, of Northport, employed at Speedway gas station, located at 152 East Northport Road, Kings Park
  • A 16 year-old male juvenile, employed at BP gas station located at 94 Pulaski Road, Kings Park.

The following establishments were in compliance:

  • Shell gas station, located at 700 Commack Road, Commack
  • BP gas station, located at 621 Commack Road, Commack
  • Citgo gas station, located at 100 Crooked Hill Road, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 2104 Jericho Turnpike, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 38 Indian Head Road, Kings Park
  • Mobil gas station, located at 819 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown
  • BP gas station, located at 1007 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown

Watson and the juvenile were issued Field Appearance Tickets and are scheduled to appear in First District Court in Central Islip Jan. 2, 2018. The State Liquor Authority is conducting a follow up investigation.

File photo.

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs after he was rescued from his burning vehicle in Rocky Point April 12.

Corey Tierney was driving a 2003 Hyundai Sonata northbound on County Road 21, about one mile south of Route 25A, when he lost control of his vehicle, which crashed into a wooded area and caught fire. Passing motorists, Claudio Gil and Margaret Ward, pulled an unconscious Tierney from the vehicle.

Rocky Point Fire Department Rescue responded and administered Narcan to Tierney, 21, of Mount Sinai, who regained consciousness and was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries and charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs.

Gil, 30, of Mount Sinai, and Ward, 51, of Rocky Point, were not injured.

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Suffolk County Police arrested two people Saturday, Feb. 25 during New York State Liquor Authority inspections at Town of Huntington businesses.

Officers from the 2nd Precinct Crime Section, Community Support Unit, and Gang Team conducted an underage alcohol and tobacco check at nine businesses in Huntington. Some of the businesses were chosen in response to community complaints and others were randomly selected.

Yousef Macer, 22, employed by Superstar Beverage, located on Walt Whitman Road in Melville, was charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child and New York State Alcoholic Beverage Control Law 65.1-sale of alcohol to a person under 21.

Hakan Ekren, 48, employed by Sunoco Gas, located on Broad Hollow Road in Melville, was charged with second-degree unlawfully dealing with a child for selling a tobacco product to a minor.

The above subjects were issued field appearance tickets and are scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip at a later date.

The following businesses complied with the New York State law and refused the sale of alcohol/tobacco to a minor:

  • 110 Convenience Store, located at 213 Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station
  • BP Gas Station, located at 231 Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station
  • Citgo Gas Station, located at 475 Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station
  • Gulf Gas Station, located at 743 Walt Whitman Road in Melville
  • P and P Deli, located at 139 West Hills Road in Huntington Station
  • Citgo Gas Station, located at 1811 New York Ave. in Huntington Station
  • Valencia Tavern, located at 236 Wall St. in Huntington

Young members of the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force smile with their flag as they prepare to walk in a parade. Photo from Anthony Ferrandino

By Victoria Espinoza

The Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force received more than half a million dollars in a grant from the federal government to help further educate the youth in the community about the dangers of substance and alcohol abuse.

Anthony Ferrandino, co-chair of the task force, said the group has had their eyes on the Drug Free Communities grant for five years, and applied last year, so he was “ecstatic” to finally receive it.

The grant is part of the Drug Free Communities Support Program, a White House project that works to reduce youth substance use by promoting communitywide participation and evidence-based practices.

“The prescription drug abuse crisis on Long Island is symptomatic of the larger opioid epidemic that New York State and the entire country is facing, and we need to fight back now.” — Chuck Schumer

Ferrandino said the federal grant is extremely competitive, which makes him even prouder the task force was selected to receive it.

“I was so happy,” he said in a phone interview. “This is something I know Northport will benefit from.”

The task force worked with the Central Nassau Guidance & Counseling Services, a not-for-profit behavioral health safetynet organization, to help apply for, win and administer the funds. The task force will receive $125,000 per year for the next five years.

The not-for-profit will provide both administrative oversight in the future, as well as clinical and subject matter expertise on substance-use prevention and treatment.

Jeffrey Friedman, CEO of Central Nassau, and a Northport resident, said the grant helps ensure students will have a plethora of resources to help them deal with the increase in substance abuse throughout Suffolk County.

“This funding from the federal government infuses urgently needed financial resources to one of the strongest grassroots movements on Long Island — to save the lives of youth who are using drugs and alcohol, starting at very young ages,” he said in an email. “Even as heroin and prescription opioids are destroying L.I. families at unprecedented rates, this community-focused grant provides a new opportunity to break the cycle of abuse and ‘business as usual’ — and to spark community-level change.”

The federal grant enables the hiring of a full-time task force coalition leader, and supports a range of coordinated practices and evidence-supported activities aimed at prevention. The programs include parent-education, social media initiatives, pharmacist/youth collaboration and stricter law enforcement practices.

Ferrandino said the task force is currently interviewing candidates for the coalition leader position, and they want someone who can communicate and educate the community, run multiple subcommittees and manage the emotional aspects of the growing drug problem.

The co-chair said that when applying for the grant, the task force wanted to use the money to focus on two specific problems; underage drinking and prescription drug abuse.

New York legislators are proud of the progress the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force has made.

“The prescription drug abuse crisis on Long Island is symptomatic of the larger opioid epidemic that New York State and the entire country is facing, and we need to fight back now,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) said in a statement. “These grant recipients have been on the front lines of combatting the disturbing drug abuse uptick among our Long Island youth and this investment will provide them with the resources they need to continue their lifesaving work.”

The task force was first created in 2006, and has designed programs to reach out to students in the Northport/East Northport community, including sponsoring a film premiere this year about drug abuse recovery, organizing Narcan training sessions, and more.

Suffolk County has statistically been one of the greatest areas of concern in New York for heroin and opioid deaths in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the county has had more than 100 opioid-related overdoses for several consecutive years.

The issue is not just in New York. According to the CDC, from 2005 to 2014, drug overdose deaths have risen by 144 percent to 2,300 deaths in New York, and 58 percent to 47,055 deaths in the nation.