Prescription Pills: The New Drug of Choice for Teens
By Annemarie Conte
Prescription pills are cheap, easy to explain, and even easier to score. But kids don't even realize how deadly their new drugs of choice can be.
It was just after dawn on one of those hot, sticky July days when the sun doesn't rise so much as slide up slowly like an egg poached by the humidity. Minutes earlier, a small platoon of police officers had eased their cruisers onto the side streets of Whippany, a prim New Jersey suburb. They drove past rows of vinyl-sided McMansions with fake-brick facades and matching Palladian windows, past Sports Authority basketball hoops and sleeping Audis and SUVs. Then, just like their cohorts from several other nearby towns, they parked and waited, the sweat trickling down under their Kevlar vests. More than 200 officers, each linked by radio to the task force headquarters, stopped at all-but-identical houses across three counties, pumped with the kind of adrenaline rush that comes from being part of a major takedown.
Less than an hour later, more than 50 kids and young adults with bed head, in T-shirts and flip-flops — many just roused by their shocked parents telling them that the police were at the door — stumbled into the central command unit to be processed. Among their number were recent graduates, star athletes, an actress in a school play, their wrists secured behind their backs with plastic handcuffs, just like they'd seen on Law & Order reruns.
At the center of it all was a baby-faced 18-year-old with gelled-back hair who was one class shy of graduation at Whippany Park High School. One of Evan Rokoszak's friends describes him as "sweet, goofy, and fun to be around." But for months leading up to that sweaty day in 2006, the police (later joined by the prosecutor's office in Operation Painkiller) had been investigating Rokoszak along with the students and recent grads involved in the drug ring he ran, which distributed and sold more than $50,000 of the prescription painkiller oxycodoneeach month — mostly to other students and alumni.