By Caroline Ingold & Eric Alcott
editor-in-chief & managing opinion
Since Pam Kastl’s first year as principal in 2009, the DHS administration has cracked down on the possession of illegal drugs on campus. With the institution of security measures such as video cameras, drug dogs and the school resource officer, the school saw a 25 percent drop in the number of students suspended for possession of illegal drugs, and a 55 percent drop the next year.
“Midland Public Schools, the Midland Police Department and Mrs. Kastl have worked really hard towards creating a drug-free environment,” assistant principal Ted Davis said.
He attributes some of this decline to students’ increased knowledge on the effects of drugs.
“Kids are more educated on the consequences, which has helped contribute to a decrease in drug use,” Davis said.
However, school resource officer Jai Mahabir feels that some students still fail to understand the severity of being caught with illegal substances on school grounds.
“It’s a felony offense,” Mahabir said. “People think, ‘I’ll just get my hand slapped.’ No, it never leaves your record.”
Only two students have been suspended so far in the 2011-2012 school year for possession, yet this number of suspensions does not seem to be reflective of overall drug use in high school students.
Rather, Mahabir believes that the types of drugs students are abusing are shifting, becoming harder to identify and prosecute.
“Synthetics are the number one change I have seen since I’ve seen in my time here as police officer,” Mahabir said. “But alcohol and marijuana are still huge.”
Synthetic drugs such as K2, Spice, and products known as Bath Salts contain varying chemicals whose effects imitate those of marijuana. After law enforcement discovered the growing use of synthetics, legislation was passed to ban the chemicals used to make these drugs. However, the issue persists as manufacturers alter the illegal chemicals slightly to continue producing synthetics legally.
Although synthetics are one of the newest forms of drug abuse among teens, a new problem has become apparent in high school over the past years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the abuse of prescription drugs, including anything from painkillers to stimulants, saw a 400 percent increase in 15 years. The insitute also reports that seven of the top 14 abused drugs by high school seniors are prescriptions or over-the-counter medication. This rising trend is believed to be the result of ability to obtain prescriptions online and over the phone, as well as from parents or siblings.
“There’s been a huge increase in prescription drugs because they are easy to get,” Mahabir said. “Kids will hold onto their drugs and skip a few days of taking their medicine and take a few on one day.”
Also, some believe prescription drugs are less dangerous than drugs bought off the street, however the National Health Institute estimates that nearly 43 percent of the emergency room admissions in 2000 were related to prescription drug abuse.
While the presence of prescription drugs and synthetics at DHS might be a surprise to some, it doesn’t end there.
“Besides marijuana I have done hash, psychedelic mushrooms, LSD,
Adderall, Vicodin, Oxycodone, and muscle relaxers,” DHS student *David said.
Those with an inside view of the drug scene have seen a significant shift in teenage drug use over the past years.
“It’s crazy, a few years ago no one did anything harder than weed,” *Ben, a local drug supplier, said. “Now I have high school students asking me things like Oxycodone, Vicodin, ecstasy. It’s really messed up. You see this kind of stuff in college, but it is scary to see it starting to affect people as young as high school.”
However, this shift to harder drugs is not just happening in the high schools, but to the entire community.
“I’ve heard that drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth are starting to become big in Midland and the other tri-cities, but I personally refuse to deal with hard stuff like that,” Ben said.
Although many consider Midland to be free of such types of drugs, Mahabir dismisses this myth.
“This town is a huge attractant to dealers,” he said. “We don’t have the big dealers actually located here, but this is a place where drug mules do come and sell to our kids. In the tri-city area we do see a lot of outside people coming to the area to sell drugs from heroin to cocaine.”
Mahabir said that the surplus of money available to teens has led to experimentation with harder, more expensive drugs.
“Teenagers will always do drugs in cities like Midland because kids will always have money,” he said. “With that extra money kids will always be able to afford more expensive drugs rather than cheap stuff like weed.”
Ben agrees with this reasoning, explaining that dealers come to Midland largely because of the financial prosperity present in relation to surrounding areas.
“I feel like other cities may have more kids that do drugs, but Midland has teens with the money necessary to be able support the drug industry that currently existed here,” Ben said.
From there, some begin dealing in order to finance further purchases. David, who claims to always have “extra money,” has gotten up to $300 for selling marijuana.
“It started with using extra money I had gotten from my parents,” David said. “Then I began buying and selling weed and used the profit to buy other drugs. Then people would use other drugs as payments.”
While both the Midland Police Department and the DHS administration have remained dedicated to preventing substance abuse in the high schools, Mahabir says it becomes harder and harder to distinguish drug abusers from typical teens.
“A drug user or dealer can be anyone, from a National Honor Society member to someone impoverished,” Mahabir said. “It doesn’t discriminate.”
Mahabir realizes his limitations, while continuing to be vigilant both in DHS and in the community.
“We can’t stop everything,” Mahabir said. “But we are being proactive and doing our best at stopping the influx of drugs in the community.”
*names have been changed