PORT WASHINGTON, NY (WCBS 880) – Drugs and teens – the struggles and challenges are constantly evolving. Keeping them away from each other is the goal.

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“Whether it’s from the distribution methods, the marketing methods used, the quantity, quality of the narcotic,” said Jim Murphy, who, along with his partner Mike Zotto, have brought their stories from the streets to schools all across Long Island with the Strategic Protection Group. “Word of mouth has brought us to 30-something districts now across Long Island.”

Both Murphy and Zotto are retired NYPD narcotics detectives who saw it all on the streets.

“You start out with something like pot lollipops being sold in Albany and then synthetic marijuana being sold in gas stations,” said Zotto, who was talking about salvia and K2 spice.

Statistics show pot use is on the rise with young people for the fourth straight year.

Murphy says the other growing scourge is prescription painkillers or what he calls “legal heroin.”

“Think about it. Every home has a medicine cabinet. People are over-prescribed medications. They don’t count what they have. They don’t lock up and secure what they have. They don’t dispose of what they have when they don’t need it anymore,” said Murphy.

Murphy and Zotto don’t lecture, they speak sincerely with concern.

Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

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During a session with high school students in Port Washington, eyes lit up when 23-year-old recovering addict Michael Spinelli spoke.

“I went from smoking pot [at 12-years-old] to popping pills and then going from popping pills to trying cocaine, cocaine to heroin,” said Spinelli.

One day, while popping pills with friends, a buddy dropped dead on the basketball court.

“Next thing we knew, he just grabbed his chest and hit the floor and none of us knew what he was doing. We were like ‘Get up! Get up!’,” said Spinelli. “I was 18 when I pulled myself out. But I only pulled myself out because I saw myself living on the streets and everything else and resorting to sticking a needle in my arm and not having any friends. No loved ones. No family. Nobody.”

LINK: Strategic Protection Group

“That type of experiential presentation really has a strong impact on kids because they look at him and he’s clean cut and he’s intelligent. He’s articulate. He’s them and he’s been in jail and he’s been homeless and his life had been destroyed,” said assistant high school principal David Miller. “When you see people do an assembly or meet with kids that have relevance, that connect with kids, you see the eyes light up.”

Zotto says they give it to the kids straight, but they keep the message positive.

“You can stand up. You can be your own person. Just as you saw today, just with some of these kids. They are empowered already. Some of the kids said ‘This is great because we’ve never had a program like this to really teach us what to do, how to do it,'” said Zotto.

What do you think can be done to keep kids away from drugs? Sound off in the comments section below!

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