Cape May County takes heroin fight to schools

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WCHS the first to hear drug presentation from prosecutor’s office

Ed Shim, assistant prosecutor, gave a presentation on heroin addiction to Wildwood Catholic students last week. Ed Shim, assistant prosecutor, gave a presentation on heroin addiction to Wildwood Catholic students last week. NORTH WILDWOOD—In a response to the spike in heroin overdoses this year, the county prosecutor’s office kicked off a series of presentations about prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction at Wildwood Catholic High School Thursday, Dec. 12.

“Drug addiction is like losing a child for most parents,” Ed Shim, the assistant prosecutor who gave the presentation, told students. “You don’t know how to handle it, but the best thing we can do is prevent it.”

Officials plan to offer the presentation at schools, church groups, community outreach organizations and other groups. Wildwood Catholic High School was the first.

In Cape May County, there have been more than 100 heroin overdoses since January, a huge increase in comparison to previous years, the prosecutor’s office said. Of those, 24 were fatal.

During the presentation, heroin was defined as the “the leading drug of choice on the streets” and one of the deadliest.

Shim said that the heroin is making its way into the county from nearby cities like Philadelphia and Atlantic City, and primarily from Camden.

He also said that gang activity in Cape May County is partially responsible for distributing the drug, which is sometimes known as “dope,” “H” or “diesel.” Bags confiscated by the prosecutor’s office were stamped with various names, like “Get High or Die Tryin’”- a morbid play on rapper 50-Cent’s debut album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”

Shim said he believed prescription drug abuse to be adding to the problem for high school students because most are obtained legally for someone a prescription drug abuser knows, such as a parent or grandparent.

“Prescription drug use results in a higher number of addictions beginning at a much younger age,” Shim told the students. Many prescription drugs can also mirror the effects of heroin.

While marijuana is usually considered to be the gateway drug to narcotics like heroin, popping pills has become a close second, according to the prosecutor’s office. Shim said that there have been cases of children as young as 12 getting addicted.

He described “pharm parties,” where teens gather different prescription pills from their medicine cabinets, then gather together with their friends and dump them all into a bowl.

“They take a handful just to see what effect it will have,” Shim said.

Kevin Quinn, director of development at Wildwood Catholic, said that the school was interested in hosting the prosecutor’s office first presentation on the subject because of the local concern regarding heroin. He said that crimes involving heroin were frequently appearing in local and regional newspapers, and parents were beginning to get concerned.

“It’s so much more prevalent now than it ever has been,” Quinn said.

Quinn said students also had the chance to ask questions of Shim and the prosecutor’s office anonymously, by submitting questions in writing before the presentation.

Questions ranged from “What is heroin?” to “I know someone who is using heroin and want to get them help, is there a way to without getting them in trouble?”

A student asked if there was a way to get help without parents finding out.

“There isn’t,” said Shim. He suggested getting parents involved might be the best thing for someone developing a drug problem.

However, a teacher also pointed out that there are several Narcotics Anonymous meetings that take place around the county. A listing of local meetings can be found at

Shim said the prosecutor’s office would look into NA’s policies for those under age.

Shim, who is assigned to prosecute in Cape May County’s drug court, said as a Wildwood Catholic alumnus, he wanted students to know the dangers of the drug and that there was help available to them. “I want no student from Wildwood Catholic to be in that drug court,” Shim said. “Yes, there is an epidemic, and I wish Wildwood Catholic was protected, but it’s not.”

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