Glendale Police Officer and CV Alliance member Joe Allen stopped by the Crescenta Valley High School Career Center on Monday night during a PTSA meeting. He made a presentation on teenage drug use, the current availability of drugs and the ease with which information on obtaining and producing drugs can be had when social media is involved.
Allen, who has worked with the GPD for 25 years, including nine years with Narcotics, informed the parents of some of the more common trends in teen drug abuse, many of which involve legal substances. Allen spoke from his own experiences, as well as trends noted in Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study of drug trends among youth conducted at the University of Michigan.
Alcohol abuse continues to be common, according to Allen.
“There is an ease of accessibility to alcohol and the lack of perception of harm is the big thing,” he said.
Allen noted that “tobacco is continuing to dwindle in popularity” but said that liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes has experienced a reciprocal effect. Though Allen said that liquid nicotine can be useful for curbing nicotine addiction, he also noted that “the problem with liquid nicotine is that it’s completely unregulated,” allowing for a lack of precautions in the making of the substance.
“We’re having a sharp, sharp increase in liquid nicotine poisonings and overdoses,” said Allen, who described nicotine as “the second most addictive substance on Earth, behind opiates.”
Other legal substances which are rising in abuse overall, including among teens, is medication, both over the counter and prescription. Allen said that the legality and availability of these medications along with unlimited content on the Internet concerning effects has led to a large increase in usage.
Allen identified dextromethorphan or DXM as the main ingredient sought after in many of the over-the-counter cough syrups and other medications abused and readily available for low prices at drug stores across the country.
“There are over 120 medications out there that have DXM in it,” said Allen, who said that the allure of using these medications is not only the easy access, but also the lack of detection (no strong odor as opposed to alcohol or marijuana) and glamorization in the media.
Prescription medication has also increased in usage and, unlike many other drugs, can be easily procured in the home by kids via the medicine cabinet.
“The largest growing industry in the United States for the last 10 years has been pharmaceuticals,” said Allen. “You can’t watch five minutes of television without some pharmaceutical commercial giving you some other wonder pill that’s going to solve some issue plaguing your life. And our youth see that every day, coming back from school more stressed out than ever.”
Allen cited pain relievers like Oxycontin and Vicodin as commonly abused medications among youth, along with “study drugs” like Adderall.
Allen suggested the parents not allow those medications to remain so available by disposing of them when they’re no longer needed.
“Some people think they should hang onto those medications for a rainy day. There’s no need to hold onto that excess medication,” he said. “Doctors are always going to overprescribe them. Having that medication around only increases the potential for abuse.”
Inhalants are another easily accessible avenue for abuse, with anything from paint thinner to gasoline to nail polish remover serving as a viable means for getting high. Allen said the short period of euphoria immediately after inhaling leads to repeated abuse, as one huff is rarely enough.
Salvia is another legal substance that, when smoked, leads to vivid, but brief hallucinations. Allen said the lack of control exhibited after smoking salvia can lead to a variety of potential injuries, as shown in one video Allen showcased in which a man jumped out of a window after smoking. This threat is especially palpable without the presence of a nearby sober person.
Though not among the legal substances, Allen said regarding marijuana, “No matter what your stance might be, marijuana is not what it was in the ’70s and ’80s.”
Allen noted a much higher THC content in present day strains of marijuana, from between 7% and 9% THC to between 17% and 22% THC on average today.
As far as medicinal value, Allen said that cannabidiol or CBD contributes to much of the therapeutic value in marijuana, something that is negated the higher the THC content is.
Along with Allen’s presentation, CVHS Principal Dr. Linda Junge said that a survey circulated towards the end of last school year indicated that 60% of the students felt that drugs and alcohol were the biggest problem at Crescenta Valley High.