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Knowledge of trends, slang is key to drug abuse prevention

April 30, 2012
KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Salem News

LISBON - Preventing drug abuse among young adults is about being alert and knowledgeable of changing trends and slang.

With new drugs or different combinations of already existing drugs being used by a younger population, parents need to know what their kids are really talking about if they say they want "candy" or even name brand peanut butter, Dan Downard, Columbiana County Drug Task Force director said Wednesday.

Downard was one of three featured speakers at an event hosted by Adapt Coalition, the county's alcohol drug abuse prevent team.

He told parents, local law enforcement and members of other organizations that prescription Adderall is making its way among school districts.

He said the drug's users and dealers are all under 17 years old.

"They had their own operation going," he said.

Adderall is used to control symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and when abused can cause serious heart problems or death.

Downard said street names for the drug are "beans" and "Christmas trees."

He said the drug is being used mostly in the capsule form and that kids are also abusing Ritalin, which they call "Skippy," "Jiff," or "Diet Coke."

The slang words make it difficult for people to know when kids are discussing drugs since they are common words used in every day situations.

"Listen to what kids are saying, even if it sounds goofy," he said.

Other drugs with everyday street names include an over the counter medication known as "DXM," which is a cough suppressant and known among users as "Skittles," "Vitamin D," or "candy."

"Kids are drinking up to two bottles to get high," he said.

Dr. Keith Meredith, director of pharmacy at Salem Community Hospital, said more discussion is taking place openly about prescription drug abuse.

He said kids look up to celebrities like Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, Brittany Murphy and Anna Nicole Smith, who all died from prescription drug abuse, whether intentional or accidental.

The problem isn't confined to celebrities, however.

He said Salem hospital deals with prescription drug overdose cases on a daily basis.

Downard said 30 to 40 percent of cases handled by the drug task force are related to prescription drugs.

Meredith noted that it's becoming a "common practice" for users to combine several drugs to achieve various highs. The prescription drug abused most around the world is now Vicoden.

He called the mixtures "drug cocktails" and said they are a "nightmare" for hospital employees since it's extremely difficult to treat these kind of overdoses.

"We can always reverse (treat) narcotics but not drug cocktails," he said.

Adapt Coordinator Brenda Foor said parents should always keep prescription medication stored in a locked place out of sight, monitor how many pills are in a bottle at all times, pay attention to what Internet sites their children are visiting, and take advantage of local drug take-back events.

Downard said take-backs have been scheduled in locations throughout the county and that last year 520 pounds of drugs were properly disposed of through the events.

He also said that contrary to popular belief, flushing drugs down the toilet isn't safe. It can potentially contaminate drinking water and pose a health hazard to fish and plants.

Parents and guardians should also take note of how many times their children's "friends" are stopping by for a quick hello-especially if it's only for a few minutes, as that's typically how fast a drug deal takes place.

Other red flags are change in behavior, change in friends and a change in grades.

Foor presented the results of a February 2011 survey among county youth in seventh and 10th grades. Alcohol was most used among students during a period of 30 days, compared to tobacco and marijuana, and 10th grade students were using the drugs more than those in seventh grade, according to the survey.

The survey also indicated students had a higher perception of risk of tobacco and marijuana use over alcohol, and 38 percent of 10th graders and 12 percent of seventh graders admitted to drinking during the 30 day period.

A survey administered to more than 800 parents with students in county schools in 2009 and 2011 indicated they believed a majority (84.8 percent) of youth were getting alcohol from home without adult supervision. Adults purchasing alcohol for them was the second highest source for alcohol use, parents indicated.

The survey also indicated (at more than 80 percent in each category) parents believed illegal drug use and drinking among youth and even illegal drug use among adults is a problem.

Adapt Coalition is comprised of community leaders, health professionals, community members, parents and youth whose goal is to raise awareness of the serious health problems caused by underage drinking and other drug trends. It is funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

The coalition has seven leadership teams around the county and several events are scheduled this summer. For more information visit or call 330-424-0531.



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