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MILLERSBURG -- It is designed to teach parents and provide examples of the "desperate measures kids will resort to" to use and abuse drugs and alcohol, as well as engaging in otherwise legal, although risky, behavior.
The "Hidden in Plain Sight" curriculum, presented Wednesday, March 29, at West Holmes High School by members of the Bath and Copley Township police departments, first encourages participants to walk through the bedroom of a teen, picking up and examining some 100 props -- drugs, paraphernalia, hiding spots -- which organizers have obtained from local head shops, convenience stores, online, parents, teens and criminals.
Marcie Mason, youth services worker for both police departments, told the story of 18-year-old Buchtel graduate Ashley, who died from alcohol poisoning after walking away from friends partying at a local hotel.
"You live in a pretty rural area, and something like that can easily happen in Holmes County," said Copley officer Joel Marmet, who also is a West Holmes graduate.
They also discussed common ways in which teens attempt to cover up their drug use.
Marijuana, "smells like a skunk and these kids will use anything to cover up the smell," said Marmet, adding they also will use eye drops to rid themselves of bloodshot eyes, also indicative of marijuana use.
"If they come home smelling better than they left, you should be suspicious," said Lisa Baker, a midnight dispatcher for the Bath Police Department.
They discussed terminology indicative of drug use and, while it's constantly evolving, Mason suggests parents familiarize themselves with the Urban Dictionary, where they can find words and phrases, unfamiliar to them, which may be used by teens to discuss otherwise prohibited behavior.
Because more than half of all illegal drug users start with marijuana, the group focused on the drug, which is now being marketed in a variety of forms, including not only the traditional leaf and bud, but in capsules, oils and a whole host of edibles, the market for which continues to grow as states across the nation legalize use of marijuana.
Ohio's medical marijuana law, which was passed in September, has yet to be fully outlined and "it will be 2018 before they get everything in place," said Mason, who said current projects include a limited list of 24 qualified medical conditions, advanced training for doctors who will be permitted to "recommend" it and establishment of 40-60 dispensaries across the state.
The law will limit the consumption of marijuana to edibles and vaporizers. It will remain illegal to smoke it and grow it, and employers may still ban its use by workers through drug-free policies.
And, while it may be legal, "The places where it is legal, the social impact is insane," said Marmet, adding, "It has created a lot of problems in communities."
Second to marijuana, the drugs teens most often abuse are pills, likely a consequence of the societal concept that "everybody wants that quick fix. That's why the abuse of prescription medications (not just among teens) is skyrocketing," said Copley officer Tom Ballinger, adding most teens and preteens know where to find prescription drugs at home.
"If you have (prescription) drugs, keep them locked up," said Baker, noting teens will take pills without even knowing what they are, what they will do to them and how they may interact with other drugs they've taken.
And, while it's not high on the list of drugs abused by teens, the group addressed the national epidemic of overdose deaths associated with opiates, heroin, fentanyl and carfentanyl.
"It's causing a lot of overdoses," Marmet said, referring specifically to carfentanyl, a large-animal tranquilizer that's often mixed with heroin.
The drug is so potent, he said, it puts even first responders at risk.
"If we inhale something the size of a grain of sand, we can overdose," he said, adding, it's an issue that has the potential of affecting far more than those directly involved.
Noting many overdose deaths occur in hotels and motels, he presented a scenario where a family with children is staying next to a room where dangerous drugs and needles have helped to widen the circle of exposure to a whole new group of innocent victims.
While Narcan has been helpful in keeping users alive -- "It's like bringing somebody back from the dead," said Marmet -- the doses are becoming less and less effective with the introduction of fentanyl and carfentanyl, users of which often require several doses to be revived.
And, because it's now available at drug stores, Ballinger said, users often will team up with a buddy, ready and waiting to administer the drug, allowing them to push the limit of what they consume.
It's not a guarantee, but has saved many lives, and Marmet said anyone with an addicted family member should equip themselves. "It can save their life," he said.
Returning to the scene is meth, said Ballinger, who said he has used the "Faces of Meth" visual to educate his own children about the dangers of using the drug. "If you hit meth one time, you're addicted for life," he said.
"Hidden in Plain Sight" is a traveling program, with presentations made weekly throughout the region. For more information on the program and upcoming dates, visit http://www.copley.oh.us/police/hidden-in-plain-site.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.