Kids, Drugs and Senate Bill 1014
In the first week of March, you may have read about several students from River Community Alternative Program who were suspended after bringing cookies containing marijuana to school. An investigation started at the school after the students showed signs of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
During the first week of March, we also investigated an incident in which a 10-year-old brought marijuana to an elementary school. The student found the marijuana while playing in a local neighborhood, and brought the marijuana to school in an attempt to impress other students.
In October of last year, a 16-year-old Ukiah High student gave two 15-year-old Ukiah High students cookies containing marijuana. By the middle of the first period, one of the 15-year-old students was beginning to feel “weird.”
He said he was thirsty, had difficulty breathing, felt anxious, and was very sick to his stomach. Eventually, the student was transported by ambulance to Ukiah Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Room and treated for marijuana ingestion.
Our department later arrested the 16-year-old who gave out the cookies and charged him with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, Possession of Marijuana on School Property, and Unlawfully Giving Away Marijuana–all misdemeanor crimes.
The University of Columbia, one of our nation’s most highly ranked universities, published a blog about eating marijuana a few years ago. Although a person who eats marijuana is not exposed to the marijuana smoke, eating it increases the risk of unpleasant side effects. It is common, the blog says, to feel nauseated or physically uncomfortable after ingesting marijuana, and the risk of overdosing is greater.
Because the stomach doesn’t absorb marijuana evenly, people don’t immediately feel the effects of the marijuana they’ve eaten, and it is harder for them to estimate how much more they need to eat to feel intoxicated. Because eating marijuana delays the effects (compared to smoking it), many people believe they haven’t eaten enough to get the desired effect, and they consume more and more, which often leads to an overdose.
Symptoms of marijuana overdose include disorientation and feeling feverish. People can become paranoid, hallucinate, or even have panic attacks–which can make them harmful to themselves or others. Even though an overdose of marijuana might feel like the end, the Columbia University blog says, the good news is that marijuana itself is not lethal.
The blog explains that when eating marijuana, people cannot escape the unwanted side effects until the drug breaks down within their bodies. Those side effects include a dry mouth, blood-shot eyes, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure.
The University cautions that marijuana has a stronger, more prolonged effect on the body when it’s eaten, and that makes activities that require concentration such as schoolwork–or driving a car–much more problematic and dangerous.
The availability of drugs and their abuse have become an all too common problem with kids, and they are not reserved to incidents with marijuana. The abuse of prescription drugs is also increasing, because access to prescription drugs is often easy to get.
In a 2012 survey, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that 50 percent of high school seniors reported that Vicodin and other opioid drugs were very easy to get. The easiest way to get these prescription drugs, seniors said, was to steal from friends’ and relatives’ medicine cabinets without their knowledge.
The NIDA says that many teenagers believe abusing prescription drugs is safer than abusing illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin, because the manufacturing of prescription drugs is regulated or because they are prescribed by doctors.
These circumstances don't mean the drugs are safe for someone for whom they were not prescribed or when they are taken in ways other than prescribed.
Like illicit drugs, prescription drugs can have powerful effects on the brain and body. Opioid painkillers act on the same parts of the brain as heroin; prescription stimulants have effects in common with cocaine. And when teenagers crush pills to snort or inject them, the drugs become even more dangerous.
Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs pose increased risks when combined with other prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, illicit drugs, or alcohol. When combined with opioids, prescription and over-the-counter drugs can intensify breathing problems and lead to death.
Helping to reduce prescription drug use is easy. First, don’t allow easy access to your medications; keep them in a secure location. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations, and when done with your medications, dispose of them in a responsible manner.
If, in reading this, you realize you need to dispose of some drugs, please don’t throw them down the toilet or in the garbage. Those disposal methods pollute local water. Instead, bring your unused medications to the Ukiah Police Department, other law enforcement agencies in Mendocino County, or the Ukiah Senior Center.
These locations have specific disposal bins for medications in each lobby. Prescription medications can be taken to one of these disposal sites during regular business hours, or the HazMobile Program at 3200 Taylor Drive in Ukiah on Tuesdays and Wednesday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm.
To help encourage proper disposal of prescription medications, new legislation (SB1014) was recently introduced in the California State Senate. This bill would ask pharmaceutical makers to create and manage collection systems for California consumers to safely dispose of expired and unwanted medications. The Ukiah City Council and the Russian River Water Association recently endorsed this bill.
Why do kids use drugs or alcohol in the first place?
There are lots of reasons. Maybe they don’t know how dangerous drugs are, or maybe they feel bad about themselves or don’t know how to handle their problems. Maybe they don’t have someone to talk to about drugs.
Although we might not understand all the reasons why young people want to use alcohol or drugs, we can help them find reasons not to. Reducing the availability of drugs is a good first step.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.