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Germantown program for parents addresses drug use by kids

March 15, 2013

Germantown - What do a book, an iPhone and a CD case have in common? They are all new places teenagers hide marijuana and paraphernalia from unsuspecting parents.

To put a stop to drug use by Germantown juveniles, Youth Futures sponsored a "Parents in the Know" program Wednesday at Germantown High School to teach the warning signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse, as well as tricks teens are using these days to conceal drugs. The tricks includes using soda cans with false bottoms, and the signs may include T-shirts that have secretive marijuana logos.

The program also briefly addressed the alarming epidemic of prescription medication use, which can act as a "gateway" drug to heroin use, a growing threat in Washington County.

"One of the main things I wanted to talk about and have parents walk away with is just some knowledge," said Germantown Police Officer Toni Olson, who serves as the school resource officer and is a drug recognition specialist. "Our kids are really smart, and they are smart with getting away with things. They are good with lies."

Look for the little things

Addressing a crowd of about 100 parents, Olson said marijuana use in juveniles is as common as drinking was for their parents when they were in school. Aside from keeping an eye out for dilated pupils and red eyes, or zip-locked bags and air fresheners, she said to watch for little things that seem suspicious, such as toilet paper rolls and dryer sheets - ways to hide the smell of marijuana when it is smoked.

Cutting a hole in the pages of a book or using an old iPhone that opens in half to conceal drugs were surprising new methods to Monica Kurszewski, parent of a seventh-grade student at Kennedy Middle School. Though she had learned about many methods of concealment during a DARE program students participate in during fifth grade, the elaborate ways to hide drugs came as a surprise.

The DARE program focuses on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.

"I don't want sound to naive, but (my daughter) has gone through this DARE program in fifth grade, and at this age she is really aware of how bad things can be, much more than when I was in school," Kurszewski said. "I like how they are educating kids at a young age."

Kelly Schuyler, who has a 10th-grader and seventh-grader, agreed that educating the children about the dangers of substance abuse has been positive for her children. Still, she was surprised at how prevalent marijuana use has become in Washington County.

Logos represent drugs

The symptoms and concealment methods of drug use did not surprise parent Denise Seegert, who has a ninth-grade student at Germantown High School. But the clothing and logos that symbolize drug use did surprise her.

One, for example, is "DGK," which stands for "Dirty Ghetto Kids," a skateboarding brand associated with drug use, Olson said.

Olson displayed a picture of a black T-shirt with the white outline of a diamond on the front. When looked at more closely, the bottom half of the diamond resembles a pot leaf, which came as a shock to some parents in the room who have seen students wear the logo.

Seegert had never seen the diamond before.

Germantown High School Assistant Principal Marc Lehnerer said they see it all the time.

"This doesn't mean that every kid that wears this knows what it means - some kids are just following trends," he said. "If you do a little digging though, you'll find they sell this kind of stuff that is clearly related to marijuana."

If children are wearing such logos, Lehnerer said, parents should ask the children questions and become engaged with what their children are doing.

"If you know your kid is spending the night somewhere, call the parent. Don't be afraid to embarrass your kids. That's your job, because the consequences on the back end are terrible," he said.

Heroin use on the rise

In the last four years, heroin use has greatly increased in Washington County, said Nathan Peshki from the Washington County Sheriff's Office and Drug Task Force.

In 2008, the Sheriff's Office began tracking heroin because the impact of the drug had started to be felt. In 2008, there were 19 overdose deaths in the county.

In 2010, there were 44 overdoses, meaning officers were sent to a home, though that does not mean that person died as a result; hospitals now have a drug that can counteract heroin.

In 2012, there were 18 overdoses that resulted in six deaths.

"The progression is, you start with prescription pills, they become too expensive, so you switch to heroin," Peshki said. "Prescription drugs are the gateway drugs. Kids are prescribed this young, it's readily available (and) it's easier to get than alcohol and marijuana because it's in everyone's medicine cabinet."

These statistics came as a big surprise to Kurszewski, who was unaware of how big a problem heroin has become in Washington County.

Keeping an eye out for juveniles who have prescriptions drugs is key, as the street value for prescription drugs is high and they are easy to sell. Percocet, for example, is a recent fad, and one pill will sell for $10 to $15 on the street.

"It's common for us to buy drugs from 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids. That's selling - so how long have they been using?" Peshki said. "Prescription pills are easier to get than marijuana, alcohol, et cetera, and they get addicted, so it's only up the food chain from there."

The first step in combating prescription drug abuse is to dispose of the pills properly. The Germantown Police Department is hosting a drug drop-off day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27 at the police department, W16877 Mequon Road.

It will be drive-thru fashion. Prescription drugs should not be flushed down the toilet.

WHAT'S NEXT?

WHAT: Prescription drug drop-off day

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27

WHERE: Germantown Police Department, W16877 Mequon Road

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