JERSEY SHORE – Drug addiction is determined by the choices one makes in life but ultimately begins when a person decides whether to use or not to use.

Law enforcement officials drove that point across to a handful of people attending Wednesday night’s Lycoming County Heroin Task Force public meeting at the Wheeland Center.

They talked about the growing heroin problem, both locally and elsewhere, and they noted the rising use of prescription drugs, bath salts and other substances smoked, ingested or injected to feed addictions.

Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Officer Marlin Angelo noted that heroin has been a problem in Jersey Shore for a number of years.

“A lot of heroin (use) starts with pain pills,” he said.

Heroin turns even good people into thieves who need to money to feed their addictions, according to Angelo. He recalled an arrest he made of a man who so craved heroin, that he injected the drug while driving home from work and even after being pursued by police.

He also noted how his own son got mixed up with drugs.

“I was one of those parents in denial,” he said.

Angelo said his son is in state prison but doing well.

“This is the best thing that ever happened to him,” he said.

Many people who get arrested for drug-related offenses end up in rehabilitation if not jail. Unfortunately, rehabilitation doesn’t always work.

“People have to change the way they think,” said Erika Dominick, education and outreach specialist with the state Office of Attorney General.

Drug addiction, she said, has no boundaries. It destroys lives and families across all socio-economic lines.

“It boils down to the decisions we make,” Dominick said.

Janene M. Holter, senior supervisory special agent with the state Office of Attorney General, noted the rise in prescription drugs among youth. Some of the more commonly abused drugs are Oxycontin, Demerol and Vicodin.

She advised parents to keep their medicine cabinets locked.

Holter said teenagers have been known to steal drugs from their own homes and meet with other youths to hold “pharming” parties. At such gatherings, drugs are thrown into a bowl and youths randomly select ones to use.

There also has been a surge, she said, of alcohol use in schools and many youths have adopted unconventional ways of alcohol use including ingesting alcohol-laden candy.

“We see it can affect anybody,” Dominick said.

Law enforcement officials advised people to contact police if they observe suspicious activity such as frequent gatherings of people at a residence at different hours of the day.

Anonymous tips of drug activity can be made by calling the state attorney general’s office at 1-800-442-8006.