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August 29, 2015

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‘Pharm parties,’ designer drugs among trends for high schoolers

District police schedule eye-opening forum for parents

Click to enlarge photo

A package of K2, a concoction of dried herbs sprayed with chemicals, is shown in February 2010. Clark County teens are increasingly using chemically treated, smokable leaves, known by names such as "Spice" and "K2," and bath salts that are snorted or smoked as a hallucinogen.

Watch KSNV reporter Marie Mortera’s story about teen drug use and school officers’ efforts to curb it at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. today on Channel 3.

Community forum at Valley High School

IF YOU GO

WHAT: The Clark County School District Police will host a forum tonight for school officials and parents focusing on emerging drug trends among teens.

WHEN: 7 p.m. tonight

WHERE: Valley High School,

2839 Burnham Ave. in Las Vegas

Students’ tricks to conceal drugs have gotten more cunning as their choice of illicit vices continues to widen — trends that have school police reaching out to parents for help.

Marijuana, typically the drug king on campus, remains popular among high school students, but authorities said they’re confiscating an increased amount of prescription drugs and recently banned synthetic substances, such as "spice" and "bath salts."

“It’s a growing issue,” said Lt. Ken Young, spokesman for Clark County School District Police. “Over the last three years, we really started taking notice of students being in possession or under the influence of prescription drugs.”

Since August, there have been 138 cases in district schools involving prescription medications, landing some students in the juvenile detention center for illegal possession of a controlled substance, Young said. Last year, there were 181 cases total, he said.

“We’re probably going to match that number, if not exceed it,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy approved an emergency order to ban spice (a synthetic version of marijuana) and bath salts (which mimic methamphetamines). The two substances have been creeping onto school campuses, CCSD Police Officer Steve Ufford said.

Ufford has created a class to educate school officials and parents about emerging drug trends among teens, which he will present during a community forum tonight at Valley High School. The forum is the second in a series addressing teen issues, with future topics to include gangs and bullying.

“A lot of these (drugs) are new to us as police officers, so you can imagine for school district employees, staff as well as parents, it’s going to be brand new to them and something very unfamiliar,” he said.

School police said the new drugs were turning up at high schools across the district, underscoring the fact that drugs don’t obey jurisdiction borders. In fact, it’s impossible to pinpoint student groups dabbling in these drugs because many defy traditional stereotypes, Young said.

“These are your kids that are your 4.0s,” he said. “These are your scholars — kids who are doing well and excelling academically. You see them using drugs.”

Many users wind up exposing themselves to authorities when symptoms catch them off guard, Young said.

“It’s usually the first- and second-timers we’re finding in school because they don’t recognize what it does to their body,” he said. “They normally report to a nurse or an administrator, ‘I don’t feel too good. I’ve taken something I shouldn’t have.’”

In several cases, students experiencing adverse reactions to the drugs were transported to a hospital, Ufford said.

Outside of school, the growing popularity of “pharm parties” — where teens bring a random assortment of prescription pills, throw them in a bowl and take their pick — worries police, as well.

“The kids really have no idea what they’re taking,” Ufford said. “That’s what makes it so very dangerous.”

Prescription-drug abuse typically starts by students swiping pills from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets, Ufford said. It’s one pill here or there at first, not enough to raise any eyebrows.

When officers nab students for possession in school, authorities said they often own up to how they’re getting the drugs and if they are selling them, Ufford said.

“You’d be surprised with how candid they are with us, saying, ‘Hey, I’m selling it for $5, $10 a pill,” he said. “Of course, we look it up and it’s heart medication or something like that.”

One enforcement issue vexing police is students’ innovative techniques to hide their drug stashes: eyeglass holders or altered soda containers, for instance.

“It’s a normal occurrence to have these types of things,” Young said.

The drug trends at Clark County high schools are not unique, police said. Recent surveys of departments in California and Texas showed police are dealing with similar trends in those areas, Young said.

“We’re doing our best to stay ahead of the trends,” Ufford said.

School police encourage parents to attend the community forum, which begins at 7 p.m. at Valley High School, 2839 Burnham Ave. in Las Vegas. Authorities said it’s an opportunity for adults to learn potential dangers and gain necessary information to spot drug abuse among their children.

Teens recovering from drug abuse will attend to share their stories, and officers will give impaired-vision demonstrations, police said.

“We have to get out to the parents that we need them on the front line,” Young said.

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