Van Beek: Summer, kids and drugs
With summer upon us, there are more opportunities for kids to get into mischief, with fewer sources of accountability. Sometimes, it goes beyond misdeeds and into dangerous territory.
Drugs can be one of those avenues pursued to relieve boredom or to provide the next level of excitement. However, because the effects of drugs are so unpredictable, you may end up on a landscape that you find impossible to navigate. Children can get completely lost in that territory, and some may never make it back.
While any drugs taken illegally, whether prescription or street brands, can trigger unanticipated reactions, including addiction, we must be aware that the results could become permanent.
Many people think that trying it just once causes no damage. For some people, that may be true. For others, it can be fatal, or at the very least, addicting.
The concern is that you won’t know which person you are … until it’s too late. You may be one of those whose body triggers a negative reaction to something as innocent as an edible, and rather than enjoying a relaxing evening, you find yourself struggling for life in an emergency room.
The effects of drugs on a young life can be even more critical. The effects are both physical and psychological, with potentially long-term aftereffects. A child does not have the maturity to understand the subtle distinctions occurring in their body, which may create a permanent disability, or the behavior it may trigger from imaginary visions.
With I-70 running right through Eagle County, we are in the heart of a prime drug trade route, spanning from one side of the country to the other. Recently, we made a drug bust on a couple driving through that included 32.76 pounds of methamphetamine and 1.49 pounds of fentanyl pills.
As adults, we must safeguard our use of medications and avoid the temptation of illegal drug use, as we attempt to manage pain or handle stress. Our children, however, need additional supervision, as they navigate unprecedented circumstances, resulting from the restrictions of the past year. We must be aware of the signals of distress in children that might easily be missed or rationalized.
While some of these “signs” of drug use or addiction may be the result of other issues, like stress or simply having a bad day, a sustained presence, especially if multiple symptoms are present, should be a red flag that something may be seriously wrong, which may include alcohol abuse, drug use, or mental health issues.
According to the Betty Ford Foundation and Stanford University, there are several consistent markers of alcohol and drug use in youth. Keep in mind that many of the signs and symptoms of chemical use are also indicators of mental health issues.
- Sleep cycle is disrupted; either too much or too little
- Eating patterns are irregular (too much or too little) causing unanticipated weight fluctuations
- Regular nausea or vomiting
- Eyes are red or watery, with pupils dilated or constricted
- A dazed look or being easily distracted
- Continual sniffing and nose irritation
- Frequent sore throat
- Cold or sweaty palms and/or shaky or trembling hands
- Extreme hyperactivity
- Excessive and disjointed thoughts
- A deterioration in appearance, including hygiene
- Change in clothing, either style or cleanliness
- Increase in body odor from lack of bathing
- Heavy use of perfume or breath mints, to disguise alcohol or marijuana use
- Frequent mood swings
- Signs of paranoia, exhibited in being overly secretive or staying behind locked doors
- Isolating from family and home activities
- Lack of motivation, energy, or self-esteem
- Moodiness, irritability, or nervousness
- Habitual dishonesty
- Dangerously impulsive
- Personality change, from cheerful and outgoing, to sullen and withdrawn
- Signs of depression or suicidal thoughts
- Academic stress can tempt students to use “uppers” to stay awake longer or “downers” to sleep afterward
- Sudden changes in attitude, mood, or focus
- Dizziness and memory problems
School or work
- Attendance issues and tardiness
- Decline in grades or job performance
- Withdrawal from academic or social groups, activities, sports, or special interest clubs
- Change in friends, gradually replacing old ones with a new crowd who dress or act radically different
- Very secretive about who they are, where they go, and what they do
- Code words in chats among friends, often relating to drug use or illegal activity
- Excessively protective of the mobile phone, with messages being ultra-secret
- Staying out much later than normal and lying about their whereabouts
- Hiding or locking up things in their room, either due to paranoia or possessing things they should not have
- Drug paraphernalia, including vaping devices, which are often made to look like decorative objects
- Drug users often become drug dealers
- Be aware of unexplained money in possession and excuses like, “I’m just holding this for a friend”
- Notice missing items like game stations, jewelry, mobile devices, etc.
- Sudden excuses for missing money, such as, “I lost the money you gave me”
- Unexplained debit card transactions and money withdrawals
- Monitor prescriptions, particularly stimulants, like ADD meds, or pain killers
- Be cautious about medication quantities at home, including those of relatives, friends, or even at babysitting jobs
- Become savvy about common household goods that can be combined to create “homemade” drugs
Please remain safe, as this past year has caused increased anxiety, new behavior patterns, and additional methods of handling stress, and your children are not exempt.
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at email@example.com.