By Melanie Black
Drug Free Collier
When it comes to teen substance abuse, parents often find themselves playing catch-up and learning about current drug trends long after their teenagers have heard about the new drug or possibly even tried it.
Drug Free Collier recognizes that drug trends change and strongly believes that parents’ knowledge of drugs should change too.
To help busy parents learn more about emerging drug trends, Drug Free Collier offers a brief overview of some alarming risks that may be unfamiliar to members of our community.
While we celebrate the fact that overall drug use among teens in Collier County has declined since 2004, we are concerned that marijuana use among young adolescents is on the rise. In fact, marijuana use is now more prevalent than tobacco use among teens according to the 2012 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.
The FYSAS is administered every two years to more than 1,200 Collier County students in grades 6 through 12. FYSAS is a collaborative study conducted by the Florida departments of Health, Education, Children and Families, Juvenile Justice and the Governor’s Office of Drug Control. It provides a valuable source of information and useful measures to help reduce and prevent substance abuse.
This is the first time since the survey began in 2002 that marijuana use has surpassed tobacco use in our community.
This disturbing trend focuses our attention on some important misperceptions that contribute to this harmful increase. Marijuana is not a benign substance, especially in the hands of young, developing teenagers. It’s not the same drug of decades past and it’s not always used in the same way by youth.
Parents may be surprised to learn that butane canisters, blow torches and “oil rigs” are among today’s drug paraphernalia. These items are being used to smoke marijuana concentrates known as “dabs.” These are extremely potent and made from oil extracted from the cannabis plant using solvents such as butane. A blow torch is used to heat the “dab” to smoke or inhale the drug. This concoction also known as BHO (butane hash oil) is a recipe for disaster, to say the least. Fires and explosions caused from the manufacture of these concentrates have been reported in communities across the country.
This particular drug trend has already been identified in Collier County.
In addition to the significant threat of combustion associated with “dabbing,” there’s a real concern over the THC levels of marijuana concentrates. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive substance in the marijuana plant. While the THC level of marijuana topped 10 percent in 2009, according to a study by the University of Mississippi, concentrates can have THC levels as high as 75 percent to 90 percent.
This intense “high” creates a dangerous risk for anyone, especially our youth.
Other teen drug trends include e-cigarettes. With the growing supply of electronic cigarettes on the market, parents should be aware that some devices may also be used as vaporizers to hide the scent of marijuana. Since e-cigarettes are not officially regulated, they could be sold to anyone.
E-cigarettes are also a concern because of their potential for harm and appeal to youth and young adults. In fact, the Poison Control Centers of Florida report that over half of their calls regarding nicotine poisonings are a result of electronic cigarettes.
Most cases involve young children opening up the vials and ingesting the liquid nicotine that comes in a variety of flavors such as apple, blueberry, or chocolate. One lick of some e-cigarette refills can be a toxic dose, according to the Poison Control Center.
As advocates for prevention, Drug Free Collier works with key community partners to develop local solutions. Last year, the coalition approached local leaders and spoke to them about synthetic drugs such as Spice and K2 that were being sold in certain convenience stores to our youth. As a result, the Board of Collier County Commissioners approved a local ordinance banning the sale, possession and distribution of these synthetic drugs in our community. Anyone aware of local businesses that are still selling these harmful drugs should contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
Staying informed is vital to parenting. For many years, parents were encouraged to keep track of their teens’ Facebook account; however, as trends change, fewer teens are relying only on Facebook. There’s Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Vine. Following these sites can provide parents with valuable information.
As a coalition of concerned citizens, the mission of Drug Free Collier is to be Collier County’s primary resource for information and tools to prevent juvenile alcohol and substance abuse. Increasing community awareness is an essential part of prevention.