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Tonight's meeting in Hampstead highlighting trends in drug abuse provides a good opportunity for parents to learn about emerging trends as the new school year is set to begin.

Hampstead Police Chief Ken Meekins said one of the things the meeting will focus on will be the growing use of prescription opioid pain medications as a gateway to heroin use. Heroin-related deaths have been on the increase statewide, and officials across Maryland are working together to try and find ways to turn that trend around.

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"We really want to get to people in the community that have children that will be vulnerable to this trend of prescription pills and heroin and … alert parents of what steps they can take to intervene, Meekins told the Times.

Included on the meeting agenda will be a number of speakers talking about substance abuse and prevention. Meekins said he hopes that parents will attend the meeting to learn some of the simple things they can do to help ensure that their children remain drug free.

"What we want to do is target parents who have children that haven't yet entered high school … so that they know what the trend is and they can maybe intervene before their children are affected by the peer pressures of high school," Meekins said.

In order to be effective, drug prevention efforts must be ongoing, and a lot of the same information has to be presented year after year because there is always a new crop of students growing up and a new crop of parents seeking information.

Carroll has gone through times in the past when drug use – especially heroin – was on the rise, and community efforts to increase awareness helping turn the problem around. Parents who are actively engaged in seeking out information, and who talk to their children about the dangers of drug abuse, are key to making that happen.

Tonight's meeting provides a perfect opportunity for parents to learn about drug issues in Carroll, and to find ways that they can help their children avoid the pitfalls, recognize warning signs or get help if it is needed.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. today at Hampstead Town Hall, 1034 S. Carroll St., Hampstead.

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