In recent months, leaders of this community have targeted a specific evil enemy in hopes of saving many of our young people from the devastation it causes. This enemy is known as methamphetamine. We as citizens of this great community responded quite swiftly, as we should with any threat that has the capability to harm our youth or any citizen. The fight persists and likely will for some time to come.
As the use of methamphetamine appears to be on the decline in this community, the use of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and heroin (opiates) are on the rise. While attempting to put one evil nemesis to rest, we in fact woke other opportunistic creatures waiting to wreak havoc on our young people.
I can tell you as the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Carson City, we drug test many of our probationers for several illicit and illegal substances. We have seen a significant reduction in the use of methamphetamine and a dramatic increase in the use of heroin (opiates). The reduction in methamphetamine reveals the cold and true fact that our youth are cleverly and dangerously making the switch to other substances that are not necessarily on the radar screen right now.
What can be learned from this experience is that those individuals who use substances that are dangerous will adapt their usage to what is available to them in the ever-changing climate of substance abuse and use.
Parents need to understand that the threats are real and come in several forms and have several names. While shopping for a car, it is obvious that all cars are not the same color and the same brand name. These choices are often dependent upon supply and demand. Our children who are at risk will likely choose the substances that are available to them. Methamphetamine is just one of them. Kids in our community have discovered that meth is not as easy to obtain as it was just a few months ago. For that reason, the use of heroin has been on a significant increase.
I believe the tactic of singling out one drug or substance to fight might have its downfalls. As adults and parents, it is essential that we don't get so caught up in singling out one monster, that we open the door for several others to sneak in and harm those we love and care about. It is much easier to go to battle if you know who the enemy is.
I have always believed that the best way to defend your children from the evil enemies of drugs is to be involved with the many aspects of your child's life.
You should always know who your child's peers are and engage with those peers when the situation presents itself. Look for changes in your child that are out of the ordinary. These changes include, but are not limited to, poor grades, different dress, coming home late at night, sneaking out of the house, different peers, reduction in weight, weight gain, different and unusual taste in music, people coming and leaving your house and a change in behavior toward parents and adults. Our children do go through changes as they grow up and I know that teenage years can be difficult. But don't always assume that they are going through a phase that will dissipate over time. In fact, time is of the essence and your intervention may be the best defense for your child.
It is important to understand that the physical signs of drug use vary depending on the substance. In recent months we have all been trained to look for loss of weight, skin sores, loss of teeth, hyper or agitated demeanor and other signs of meth use. However, the substance heroin (opiates) sometimes doesn't reveal obvious signs. The method of use for heroin (opiates) seems to be smoking with a pipe, straw or similar device, but that does not mean it can't be used with needles. Currently, the kids use the name "point" to describe a small amount of heroine that is not much bigger than a dot and can be shared by as many as 20 to 25 people. Also used is "balloon, which is a bigger dot that can be shared by as many as 30-35 people. These are terms that parents should listen for in their child's vocabulary.
Parenting is never an easy task and with all this discussion about all the substances that are available to our children, it can be very intimidating. But I also know that parents who are involved in their children's lives, significantly reduce the risks.
Parents must also demonstrate a healthy and clean lifestyle themselves. The old adage, "do what I say, not what I do" holds very little weight and only confuses children more.
I would encourage parents to look up the substances mentioned in this letter on any search engine on your home computer or go to the library. Become familiar with the symptoms and familiar with what the substances look like. You can also contact the Community Council on Youth at 841-4730 for information on any controlled substances.
• John Simms is a Juvenile Probation Office for Carson City/Storey County and a father of four children.