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Does Someone Have to Die Before?

If I were to tell you that an adult from out of town was actively working to lure our children into substance abuse and failure at school and that some kids had died as a result, we would be shocked and demand that this person be identified and punished. Unfortunately, such is the case in Calaveras County and most of the adults involved aren’t from out of town but live right here in our community and, in some cases, are related to the students and even assist them in choosing this lifestyle.

There are young adults who prey on children as young as middle school and distribute marijuana, alcohol, and prescription medication to children to hook them into becoming frequent users. Why? For money of course and the power that comes with controlling another by providing something they want or need. The question is, why do we tolerate it as a community and not report these child abusers to law enforcement?

Some will dismiss this statement as an over-reaction of an old school administrator. After all, parents often excuse such behavior and tell us, “All kids experiment”, “I did it as a youth and I turned out ok” and “What’s the big deal?” Is cigarette, marijuana, or alcohol abuse all that harmful?

I find it interesting that American’s finally broke the strangle hold of advertising that tobacco companies used for years that led to the high incidence of cancer, heart disease, and lung disorders in Americans. When the Marlboro man died of cancer, that sent a message. The fact is cigarette use remains the gateway to substance abuse. If you doubt this, talk to a drug counselor or probation officer.

Schools have done a great job educating our youth on the health risks associated with smoking and alcohol use. 97% of Calaveras County juniors report they know it is harmful. Ironically, only 78% think marijuana use is harmful even though the smoke is laden with chemicals and carcinogens that are even worse than cigarettes and today’s marijuana is ten times more powerful than what was used in the l960’s! Somehow marijuana use is excused because “it relaxes you”. 35% of Calaveras County 11th graders report using marijuana in the last thirty days – that’s 10% higher than the state average and 15% higher than the national average!

Sadly, we in schools see kids lose interest in their studies, drop off sports teams, lose the ability to focus in class, and rob themselves of the chance to attend top flight colleges or vocational programs as a result. Despite clear school rules, mandatory counseling and, in some cases, in- school drug testing, we are seeing data from confidential student surveys trending upward again after a ten year decline. 50% of high school juniors report using drugs or alcohol in the last 30 days and the majority of those say they have used enough to become sick. Kids developing brains and bodies are not equipped to resist these powerful chemicals and they often lose meaningful years of their lives before they can become productive citizens.

On the prescription pill side, the incident at Toyon Middle School in December exposed the problem as deep and growing. Kids consider it “recreational” and are willing to take multiple pills despite the health risks and a number have been taken to the hospital over the last months as a result.

Are your prescription medicines locked up? Have you disposed of old medications that you no longer need but that your kids will sell or share with their friends? If not, now is the time to do something about it.