THE BUZZ 2: The Party’s Over

By on March 21, 2017

Massive drug bust highlights rising trend of drug use in Teton County.

Sheldon Bo and Doina Berglund (Photo: Teton County Sheriff’s Office)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Teton County Sheriff’s Department arrested two Jackson residents last week after seizing approximately $80,000 worth of narcotics in their apartment.

Twenty-three-year-old Sheldon Bo Berglund, originally from Salt Lake City, and his wife 28-year-old Doina Seicuc-Berglund, who moved to the valley from Moldova, face numerous felony charges for possession of multiple controlled substances, intent to distribute, and conspiracy to commit crime.

Officers responded to a tip from a citizen and obtained a warrant to search the couple’s apartment. They needed a second warrant to account for all they found: more than 215 syringes filled with cannabis oil, 46 grams of THC wax, 196 grams of LDS-infused gummy candy, 4.6 grams of liquid LSD, 223 doses of MDMA, 398 grams of MDMA, and 388 grams of MDMA ecstasy tablets.

“This is the largest seizure of ecstasy we’ve ever had, at least in my 12 years [at the sheriff’s department],” Stanyon said.

Stanyon is used to seizing marijuana, and occasionally methamphetamines and heroin. But while he says the amount of so-called “party drugs” in last week’s seizure is surprising, the drugs’ presence in the valley is not. Jackson is a “party town,” he said, and such an environment lends easily to drug use

Curran-Seeley Foundation executive director Trudy Funk isn’t shocked either. “Sitting where I sit, working with the clients I work with, it’s not surprising,” she said.

The obvious danger is overuse and abuse. Stanyon said that the potency of the drugs he finds is increasing, and thereby the danger. Some of the tablets he found last week contained three times the concentration of MDMA he’s used to seeing.

Jackson’s party culture is not unique. Resort towns culturally normalize substance abuse, Funk said. But drug use in the valley is on the rise, and the demographics of who uses those drugs are expanding. Last week’s seizure is indicative of a concerning trend. Where there was once a more obvious divide in who had access to certain substances, Funk said that line is blurring. “I see people coming in for treatment from all over, using the same types of drugs,” she said.

According to a report by the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming, 6 percent of arrests in Teton County are drug related. Last year, approximately 17 percent of drug-related arrests were for “controlled substances” stronger than marijuana.

Among adolescents, the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming found that 52 percent of 10th graders and 43 percent of 12th graders in Teton County reported use of drugs by their peers. Both of those rates are the highest in the state.

The Curran-Seeley Foundation provides drug and alcohol counseling, treatment and prevention to people at any stage in recovery. Each client requires their own unique evaluation, and each substance a different treatment. But the culture of drug and alcohol use make addressing abuse of any substance, to any degree, difficult. Often, treatment and prevention only happen at the hands of law enforcement.

Such was the case for 33-year-old Danielle Jackson. Until just three years ago, substance abuse was all she knew. “I was raised in a drug culture,” she said. “I was raised to believe that all there was was using, even thought it was making me completely miserable.”

Jackson, a valley native, smoked her first cigarette when she was seven years old, and “had a regular habit” by the time she was 10. She smoked marijuana by the time she was 12, and “quickly moved into methamphetamines.”

She only began the road to recovery when she was arrested on Teton Pass in December of 2013. Instead of a prison sentence, Jackson was placed into Teton County’s Drug Court recovery program. She completed an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program (IOTP) through Curran-Seeley, and thanks to the tight direction of the drug court team, has been able to get on her feet and stay sober. “Being held accountable, that’s what made it easy for me,” she said.

That’s not to say recovery is a straight and narrow road. In order to succeed, Jackson attends four to five Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week, and has cut out everyone in her life who isn’t sober. She can’t go out in town, or even work in most restaurants because so many serve alcohol. “It’s hard to do that kind of work and stay sober,” she said. For her, staying as involved in recovery groups as possible is “probably the only way” to stay on track.

But until her arrest, Jackson said she didn’t understand that recovery was an option. “I had no idea that recovery is possible,” she said.

Since her arrest, she has lost her father and her sister to drug overdoses. She has seen firsthand how destructive substance abuse can be. A big part of her recovery, and now her life’s work, is to share her story so that it becomes less common. She was a smart kid, she said, but she never realized her full potential. She doesn’t want to see younger generations sell themselves short as she did. “They have so much potential, and drugs are gonna hold them back,” she said. “The only [outcome] is jail, institutions or death … I just want them … not to settle for less.”

Jackson shares her story as an advocate for high school students and as a peer specialist for Curran-Seeley. “It’s absolutely amazing to be the person that people can lean on,” she said. “I didn’t really have a support group other than people that used. Being able to be the person, just being there is probably the most important job that I have.”

Jackson’s story is a hopeful testament to treatment programs, even legally mandated ones. As far as prevention goes, however, stories like hers are perhaps the most effective, and only, tool. Prevention specialist Matt Stech says that the less legal something is, “the harder it is for us to do intervention.”

“You can institute policies with alcohol,” Stech explained. Stricter sales regulations and mandatory responsible beverage server training are among the policies Stech has proposed to mitigate alcohol abuse. But drugs are already illegal, so he can’t legally impose prevention policies. The most he can do, he said, is educate.

But that’s where different agencies become useful. “If we only go at it from one angle, we’re not gonna solve the problem,” Stanyon said.   Instead, prevention agencies, law enforcement, and medical professionals must maintain constant communication with each other to ensure people are partying safely, and legally.

For her part, Jackson will return to school in the fall to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor. In the next 10 years, she plans to build a sober living home outside of home to “get people off the streets and into recovery.”

“I’m trying to build my life and do something,” Jackson said. “There is a better way to live.” PJH

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