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Drugs readily available in SCV schools

Ease of obtaining drugs online, via Mexico and from dealers creates problems for districts

Posted: July 26, 2008 12:37 a.m.
Updated: September 26, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 

This is the first part of a two-part series.

Have your kids been taking some Vitamin R and Triple C with Herb and Al?

If so, you should be worried.

Ritalin (called Vitamin R) is a prescription drug used to treat attention deficit disorder, but it is also used to get high by kids who don't have ADD. Coricidin Cough and Cold (Triple C) is an over-the-counter cold medication, but kids take more than the recommended dosage to get a buzz. Herb and Al are slang terms for marijuana and alcohol.

These and other drugs are readily available in the Santa Clarita Valley, even in our local schools.

"I think drugs are in all schools everywhere, especially here in Santa Clarita because it's an affluent area," said Cary Quashen, founding director of ACTION, a local nonprofit organization that provides substance abuse and crisis counseling programs for parents and teens. "I'm in the schools - I know what's going on in this community, and we have a drug problem."

At a recent ACTION support group meeting, held 7 p.m. Tuesdays at Saugus High School, teens in attendance were asked if drugs were available in local schools. It took a while for everyone in the room to stop laughing at the question.

Taylor, 15, said that not only did she take drugs to Hart High School on a regular basis when she was using, but she has abused drugs while at school.

"I used to just pop pills during class," she said.

Taylor, who has been clean for six months, said she took Ecstasy, Vicodin, Oxycontin and other drugs to school and never got caught. Taylor's mother said her daughter also used to smoke marijuana at school.

"Taylor told me that she has gone out to the perimeter - but still on school grounds - to smoke pot," she said. Her mother is glad that Taylor is now getting help. "This is a great program. My daughter actually told me about ACTION, because she realized she had a problem."

Even if they don't bring drugs to school themselves, teens looking to get high can almost always find drugs on campus.

"You can find (drugs) at any school - no community is immune," Quashen said. "Every school has their middle men who deal drugs."

Doug Thurlow was going through his son's backpack and discovered that, during the school day, his son had acquired an over-the-counter medication that kids often abuse.

"My son came home from Hart (High School) with 147 Benedryl tablets in his backpack, and he got them at school," Thurlow said.

Kevin, 16, who has attended both Sequoia Charter School and West Ranch High School, said he has taken drugs to school and also purchased drugs at school.

"I used to have drugs at school a couple of times a week," said Kevin, who has been clean for more than nine months. "And I purchased drugs at West Ranch. I did it, like, twice."

Teens can also purchase prescription drugs off the Internet or by crossing the border into Mexico, but the main place teens find prescription drugs to abuse is a little closer to home.

"The main place kids are getting prescription drugs is from their parents' medicine cabinets," Quashen said.

Alcohol, considered by experts to be the drug most often abused by teens in the Santa Clarita Valley, is also available in area schools.

"I know for a fact that there's also alcohol on campus," said Louella Youngbauer, who has a daughter at Saugus High School. "I picked my daughter up from school, and she was drunk, and she was not drunk when I dropped her off."

None of this comes as any surprise to William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board Member Steve Sturgeon, a long-time advocate of strict enforcement of drug and alcohol violations in district schools and a proponent of mandatory drug testing for students in extracurricular activities.

"The use of drugs is commonplace in our schools, whether it's the Hart district or LAUSD or anywhere else in the state," Sturgeon said. "It's the nature of adolescence to want to try things."

Sturgeon said alcohol is the drug most abused by local teens, and he even suspects he knows how students are getting it into schools. "Kids come in with water bottles that really contain vodka. Or now, with the flavored vitamin drinks, no one knows what's in those bottles," Sturgeon said.

The partying only increases over the summer when school is out and most parents are at work all day.

Working parents don't always realize the mischief their kids are getting into while left home alone, Quashen said.

"The second week of school, our support groups just explode with new members, because the kids can't function in school after partying all summer," he said.

While it is impossible to completely eliminate student drug use, there are things schools, parents and the community can do to decrease it.

"Kids are always going to be kids, and they'll find ways and means to beat the system," Quashen said. "The trick is to find ways and means to deter them."

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