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Program helps parents ‘see’ clues indicating children are engaging in risky behaviors

FPS staff report

Risky behaviors
Officer Sarah Shendy shows a safe that mimics a Pringles can during the “Hidden in Plain Sight” presentation.

Do you know the warning signs of drug addiction or abuse?  Eating disorders? Self-mutilation? Would you recognize smoking devices or common household items that can be abused by children?

The Anti-Drug Coalition of Carroll County, members of Bath Township (Twp.) and Copley Police Departments (PD) presented “Hidden in Plain Sight,” Feb. 6 at the Carrollton Senior Friendship Center to help answer those questions.

“Hidden in Plain Sight” is a traveling exhibit awareness program for parents and other adults to help identify warning signs associated with risky behavior. Marcie Mason who works with the juvenile offender diversion, created the program with help from Downing Enterprises in the fall of 2012. Mason, along with other department members, has presented the hands-on program 60 times and have more programs scheduled.

A display depicting a teenager’s bedroom is set-up for adults to see items that may indicate involvement in high-risk behaviors and how the signs are “hidden in plain sight.”

With over 200 items for viewing, the items can help identify substance and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, sexual activity, and other risky behaviors such as self-mutilation and dating violence.

Mason was assisted with the presentation by Paul Webb, a detective and juvenile investigator with Copley Twp. PD, and Patrol Officer Sarah Shendy of Copley Twp. PD. They shared statistics compiled by The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research for 2013 through monitoringthefuture.org and from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, (OJJDP). Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes and values of American secondary school students, college students and young adults. Each year approximately 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th grade students are surveyed.

“I am glad to see parents here,” Mason told approximately 20 people in attendance. “You are the best defense against risky behavior.”

Mason opened the presentation with these alarming trends:

•Marijuana use is big. Addiction differs for teens. Young people with emotional immaturity struggle the most.

•Over the counter (OTC) and prescription drug abuse is common. Accidental overdose is a leading cause of death.

•Heroin is here.

•Technology issues.

According to a recent survey, alcohol is the number one drug for students in the local school district. Research shows 27.8 percent of 8th grade students have consumed alcohol and those who start drinking before age 15 are associated with a 40 percent increased risk for developing alcoholism compared to people who delay drinking until age 20 or later.

But, alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and liquor are not the only drinks parents need to be concerned about. Canned beverages resembling energy drinks may contain alcohol. The group stresses the importance of looking at the packaging and reading the ingredients. A few products which contain alcohol include: hand sanitizer, mouthwash, and liquid cold medicines. “If you see a large number of empty containers which contained these items, maybe it’s time to have a talk with your child.” said Mason. “Kids will also make drunk gummies by soaking gummie candy in alcohol resembling a jello shot. If your child suddenly can’t get enough gummy bears, it may not be for the sugar.”

Water bottles are very popular items. If you see someone sipping on a water bottle and sharing it with a friend, it could contain alcohol.

“Kids will try binge drinking because they want to see what happens,” noted Webb. “They will also try unusual ways to ingest alcohol.”

“Marijuana is big and it’s not just the ‘stoners’ using; it’s the 4.0 students, athletes, it’s all across the board,” stated Mason.

Studies show 78.2 percent of students think it is more dangerous to smoke cigarettes than it is to smoke weed. More high school seniors are smoking marijuana than are smoking cigarettes and one in every 15 of those seniors is a daily or near-daily marijuana user. Police are seeing marijuana being sold in “stamp bags” which contain 1.2 grams and cost about $20. What is alarming, they report, is the THC (chemical make-up) is higher in marijuana today than it was in the past.

Shendy teaches the Dare Program to first, third, fifth and sixth grade students and created her own high school curriculum. She noted kids will be very creative making a smoking device. They can be glass (pipes or bowls), soda cans, beer bottles, pens and markers with the ink cartridge removed, wrench sockets.  One of the most common household items used is aluminum foil.

Many items can be purchased on the Internet to hide marijuana or to use as a smoking device; chap sticks, lipstick tubes, jewelry, and almost any container. Stores sell “safes” for people to hide money or valuables in that resemble ordinary everyday household items or products, such as peanut butter jars or cans of hair spray. 
Marijuana can also be made into suckers, which contain a higher level of THC or a joint may be dipped in embalming fluid or formaldehyde or mixed with PCP.

Parents should also be on the look out for cutters, scales, and grinders. Shendy held up an ordinary looking computer mouse that, when the top is removed, is a digital scale, and in the age of technology, there is an app for that.

Items used to attempt to camouflage marijuana use can include red eyes, Visine use or “if your child comes home smelling better than they left” items such as body spray over use.

The good news, the trio announced, is that we are winning the war on cigarettes. Smoking among teens is down from 62.5 percent 10 years ago to 38.1 percent.

“Any medication can be abused,” Mason stated. “Kids will take Tylenol to see what happens, they will use Robitussin for robo-tripping. When you exceed the recommended maximum dosage, Dextromethorphan (found in many cough and cold medicines) can act as a hallucinogen.”

Again, the trio urged parents to look for excess empty containers of regular items, such as cough syrup, acetaminophen, antihistamines, and ibuprofen. However, they warn with pill medication, most drug abusers don’t swallow the pill, they crush and snort them.

Research shows:
•With the Ohio Automated RX Reporting System in place making availability of narcotics harder, many abusers have begun using heroin.

•Increase in the misuse of stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin and synthetic drugs. Synthetic marijuana is considered a lot worse than regular marijuana and bath salts often have stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines.

•Younger children tend to misuse inhalants more often than older ones. This can include huffing model glue, compressed air computer cleaner and whipped topping cans.

•Erowid.com is an online library for psychoactive plants and chemicals. It provides information on legal and illegal substances and their desired and adverse effects.

•You can overdose on caffeine. Large doses could cause mania, depression, disorientation, delusions, hallucinations and psychosis. A 12-ounce can of Coca Cola has 35 milligrams of caffeine compared to a Monster Energy Drink which has 160 milligrams.

Alcohol and drug abuse are not the only risky behaviors parents should be aware of.

•Teens will participate in the choking game to intentionally cut off oxygen to induce temporary loss of consciousness or euphoria.  They may try the cinnamon challenge, baking soda and vinegar challenge or salt and ice challenge, which can cause serious burns.

•According to a study published by the National Institute of Mental Health about three percent of US adolescents are affected by an eating disorder. The three most common eating disorders are: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge-eating. Parents should watch for overuse of laxatives, caffeine pills, and diet pills and supplements.

•Self-mutilation is the intentional injury to one’s own body. Parents should watch for small, linear cuts carved into the forearm, upper arm and sometimes legs or unexplained cuts and scratches.

•According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds, after accidents and homicide.

•Nearly 10 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend.

•The US is rated fifth in the world for school shootings with 30 occurring in 2013. There have been eight during 2014.

“Snoop,” the trio said. “It’s your house. Check glove boxes in teen’s vehicles, computers, and cell phones.”

Parents need to educate themselves about drugs, alcohol and addiction. Children are less at risk when parents communicate their expectations, listen and spend time with their children.

“Start a conversation,” said Mason. 

More information can be found by visiting the following websites:

www.drugfree.org; www.urbandictionary.com; www.samhsa.gov.

Local information can be obtained by calling the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board at 330-364-6488 or visit http://adamhtc.org.

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