Drugs: Citizens Can Take A Stand
Courier Special Series: The Truth About Drugs In Valley County
This is Part 5 of a series of articles focusing on educating the community about drug use in Valley County.
An African proverb states that it takes a village to raise a child. More than just the parents participate in the growth of the child, and an entire community will keep after their young. You could say that the entire village is vigilant when it comes to the raising of a child.
That philosophy is something to keep in mind when tackling problems that can become much bigger. With drugs in the community, Mexican cartel presence increasing, and the legalization of marijuana in other states nearby, it could be very easy to lose control of a situation. Anyone who has raised children will understand that trying to control them can be like nailing jelly to a wall.
Dianne Cochran works for the Montana Board of Crime Control. Her position was created to to help prosecuting attorneys in Eastern Montana. She's the drug prosecution coordinator, and she is helping to create a drug prosecution manual, modeled after the DUI manual, and is establishing a library of briefs in drug cases for reference. A grant was obtained to cover the 17 counties on the eastern side and she plans on making that information accessible to anyone in the state.
Her position has given her a unique look on drugs in this part of the state. She's able to see a range of drug issues in the area and help prosecutors research and find references on how to deal with cases that arise. Vigilance and education are what Cochran will help law enforcement curb the situation.
When talking about different trends in local drugs, Cochran pointed out that prescription drugs are often over looked by the public. She explained that these drugs are killing more people in our state than meth overdoses. She said that one of the ways to solve trending drugs is to be aware.
"People can be careful with their prescriptions; they need to be locking them up and be vigilant if people are snooping in your medicine cabinet," Cochran said. "No one wants to accuse anyone of stealing prescriptions but we need to keep tabs on them."
Other prescription drugs that might be expired or no longer have a use, especially pain killers, need to be disposed. Valley County has a box in the county courthouse available to drop prescriptions that are no longer in use. These prescriptions can be safely disposed, which can help keep them from getting into the wrong hands. Valley County Sheriff Meiers explained that they have already collected hundreds of pounds in the bin. It has been a successful tool to help stop the abuse of prescription drugs.
Another issue that has become a problem is the amount of drivers on prescription medication, or other drugs. Cochran said that family and friends also need to be vigilant when it comes to keeping someone under the influence from getting behind the wheel. She explained that the public perception about drugs, such as marijuana, has been twisted. The perception is that weed isn't a real threat or danger, but the truth is the potency has increased.
Cochran explained that studies show a problem with adolescent use of marijuana. It can take off up to eight IQ points from regular use, both by smoking or ingesting. The drug also interferes with neuropathways that are developing, which can mean poor decisions later down the road, along with memory loss.
"There's unfortunately not a lot of hard data yet on the concentration of the drug," Cochran said.
But with the drug legalized in two states, more studies will soon surface to show the full effects of the drug. The perception that the drug is not a danger has led a lot of people to get behind the wheel. In the state of Montana, the number of DUIs (driving under the influence cases) involving drugs has more than doubled.
In 2007, 325 DUIs involving drugs were recorded. Marijuana being the most common drug found in the state might lead one to believe that it probably has a decent percentage of those numbers. In 2012, 525 blood samples proved drugs were a part of the problem in DUI charges. Out of those cases, 125 were meth. The total number of DUI cases statewide in 2012 adds up to over 3,000.
"Even if you have a prescription for medical marijuana, you can't drive while impaired," Cochran said. "Some think it's not a big deal, but it's still a big deal to drive and do pot."
Parents, families and friends need to make sure if they suspect someone is on the influence of any substance that they keep their loved ones from getting behind the wheel and endangering others. Inhalants, bath salts and other drugs can change a persons behavior and personality. Paying attention and being aware of your surrounding can make a huge difference in preventing severe substance abuse.
Cochran said taking the time to learn the facts about drugs and talking to your children about drugs are essential to prevent substance abuse.
Student Resource Officer Robert Weber explained that while teachers are talking to kids about drug education, parents need to be talking to their kids as well. He said the Glasgow Police Department is starting to work on a parent education class. The hope is that the class can help teach parents how to talk to kids about drugs, and what to look for.
Knowing when to talk to your kids can be a shock to some parents. Weber said that people in the area need to not be in denial with what's happening in our community. Even though no one might want to see the reality, the truth is that drugs are here and they are in the schools. Middle school kids, starting as early as fifth grade might see or start experimenting drugs like marijuana. It's also the age that kids start asking questions.
Mesman added that education is a huge part with helping to prevent substance abuse before it starts.
"It's not just the schools but the parents that need to know what to look for and who to tell about it," Mesman said.
Tips to local law enforcement can also help them crack down on problem areas. Mesman also said vigilance is a big part of the citizens' duty. Keeping an eye on strange traffic stopping at a house, unusual occurrences and strange people, then reporting it to the local law enforcement or to the local Crimestoppers, can help stop potential substance abusers.
"Parents are also welcome to call law enforcement about any issues or questions they might have," Mesman said. "Information we get from people could be vital to fight drugs in the local community and the crime that's a result of them."
Local law enforcement is gearing up for more training as a new drug task force comes together. That drug task force will help train school and community in the future.
Another solution to the problem is creating a community drug coalition. These coalitions exist all over the nation and help change the way people respond to drugs and alcohol abuse. Coalitions are run by students, parents, law enforcement and other concerned community members. Healthcare providers, teachers and business leaders have also been known to become involved in these coalitions.
These groups address all the local problems in the area and help create strategies, such as parenting classes and peer monitoring, to help stop substance abuse before it becomes a problem. They focus on education and creating events that are drug and alcohol free for students. The collaboration between several community members can help get the word out on what's trending in the area and help people connect with important resources.
Whatever the local solution might be the focus is certainly on being vigilant and being educated on drugs, and knowing what drugs you might be seeing in the area.
Drugs That Are Trending
This information comes from Glasgow and Valley County law enforcement and the Eastern Montana drug prosecution coordinator's office.
Meth: An increase of the drug is being seen statewide. Labs are being found again, but they are smaller and mostly used for users own personal habit. These labs are very dangerous. A lot of the drugs are being trafficked through the local Indian reservations. Local law enforcement and the FBI have been continuing investigations.
Prescription drugs: More people are dying in the state from prescription drugs. There is possibly more abuse on doctor prescribed medications than the courts are seeing. They are legally prescribed and sometimes more easily accessible. Montana is seeing a rise in the theft and illegal sales of prescription drugs. Methadone and Suboxone are leading prescription drugs causing problems. Fetanyl patches are also popular for addicts. This drug is trending a little in the local schools.
Marijuana: Evidence points to the main source of Montana marijuana comes from indoor growers. With higher potency of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical that creates the high or euphoria in marijuana, chances of overdose aren't impossible. Valley County Chief Deputy Reed Mesman said that they are seeing some of the drug coming from the west, from Canada and from Mexico. This drug is trending at the schools locally, starting around middle school.
Dabs: "A little dab will do ya." This is a more potent form of weed. Butane oil is used to strip the THC out of the plant and it makes an oil. A metal piece is heated up and a dab of the oil placed on it makes it vaporizing. People inhale the vapor. Law enforcement explained that this form of marijuana can cause an overdose of the drug.
Inhalants: This is a problem that isn't often found in the courts. People "huffing" or sniffing products, such as Dust Off or paints, often pass out from the fast high. The chemicals often leave the body quickly and are difficult to detect in blood samples.
Bath salts: While Montana has tried to curb the use of bath salts, chemists are still changing the chemicals to stay one step ahead of blood samples. Legislation recently passed to ban all such substances. This drug is now a felony to possess, even the residue will bring a felony charge.