Cops talk drug trends with parentsParents and teachers drew close to a case filled with drugs Monday, seeing first-hand what heroin, meth, marijuana and other illegal substances look like.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Parents and teachers drew close to a case filled with drugs Monday, seeing first-hand what heroin, meth, marijuana and other illegal substances look like.
The opportunity was part of a “Drug Trends” presentation at Superior Middle School presented by members of the Superior Police Department and Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.
“This year we have seen some increases in some of the drug activity,” said Superior Deputy Chief Nick Alexander. “These drugs are present in the school, too, so we need to be proactive and attempt to address the problems and nip them in the bud.”
In Superior Middle School, four arrests were made in 2013 for possession and distribution of marijuana.
Marijuana and synthetic marijuana are the most commonly used drugs in the area, but they are nothing alike. Superior Police Investigator Jim Olson said the “legal alternatives” like K2, which are illegal in Wisconsin, affect the body more like methamphetamine. Those who smoke it become aggressive and exhibit “crazy” behaviors.
“Think of it as a completely different drug,” said Superior Police Investigator Paul Winterscheidt.
Since there are no tests for the drug, which often is altered chemically to bypass legal restrictions, synthetic marijuana is popular with people on probation who want to pass drug tests, according to the law enforcement officers.
Prescription drug abuse has been a problem at Superior High School. A few years ago, Oxycontin and Lortabs were being passed around school, said Superior Police Liaison Officer Tom Johnson. That was followed by Ritalin and Adderal sharing.
Recently, a young boy at the school overdosed on a generic form of Ambien, an insomnia drug. He ended up in the emergency room and the incident led to four arrests.
“That’s a scary thing,” Johnson said. He encouraged anyone with unused or expired prescription or over-the-counter drugs at home to put them in the city/county drop-off box in the Government Center.
Some audience members shared their own stories of drug use. One woman who attended was raising her five grandchildren because her daughter, a drug user, is in jail. A Superior couple talked about their son’s struggles with synthetic marijuana.
One of the most troubling trends in the local drug scene is the increase in heroin traffic.
“When I started here there was one heroin case,” said Douglas County Sgt. Jim Madden. “All of a sudden, boom, it’s all we do.” It seemed to crop up overnight about two years ago, shortly after area law enforcement officers launched a massive prescription drug sting. Heroin is considered a terminal drug. Once people develop a tolerance for it, the only thing that will increase their high is to take larger doses of the drug.
“There’s no other place to go to from there,” Winterscheidt said. Lately, he said, officers have seen more young drug users on heroin. Unexpectedly pure pockets of the drug have caused overdose deaths in the area.
“We’ve had people die with the needle still in their arm — hits them that fast,” Winterscheidt said.
Although court case and crime lab numbers show the uptick in heroin, that doesn’t mean other drugs like meth have become any less common.
“Methamphetamine hasn’t gone away,” Winterscheidt said. You can buy meth any hour of the day, any day of the week in Superior, he said. “But you’re looking at Superior narcotics officers. We have to prioritize our cases; we have to triage our cases. Are we going to go after heroin or are we going to go after methamphetamine?”
“We’re the police and we’re very good with enforcement and investigations, but that doesn’t solve the whole problem,” Alexander said. A team approach including counselors, teachers, medical staff and other professionals tends to lead to more success.
Parents have a role, too.
“Dealing with kids in the school, I think prevention is probably the most important thing,” Alexander said. “Getting the kids to say no and getting them to be in the groups that don’t encourage that type of activity.”
Be snoopy, law enforcement officers said. Friend your children on Facebook, check their Twitter posts and watch for signs of drug use, which can include mood swings, having too little or too much money, a drop in grades or work performance, poor hygiene and personal care, recklessness and withdrawal from friends, family and activities, extreme weight loss or gain.
“A little snooping can’t hurt,” Alexander said. “If you don’t find anything, don’t snoop so much.”
The entire drug trends PowerPoint presentation is available at www.superiortelegram.com.