PTOS -- Parents who filled the Aptos High School theater on Thursday for a town hall meeting with law enforcement officers got the raw truth when it comes to drug and alcohol use by teens.
"It's out there, it's in the schools," sheriff's deputy Nick Baldrige told the crowd of more than 100. "Too many parents say 'that can't be my kid'."
Baldrige, a narcotics expert with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, led a discussion designed to alert parents about the latest trends surrounding marijuana, alcohol and prescription drug use among young people.
Baldrige showed the audience pictures of drug paraphernalia and candy and soda products containing marijuana, such as "Stoney Ranchers." He detailed the ill effects of marijuana use, despite popularity statewide as a so-called medicine.
"They have problems focusing, their grades drop, they have memory problems. They can't retain any information given in school," Baldrige said. "We see it with marijuana use, not necessarily just the hard street drugs. These things have a direct link to marijuana use."
Baldrige also focused on the rising use of prescription drugs by teens, particularly teens from affluent communities. Specifically, the painkiller Oxycontin has seen widespread abuse, he said.
A video was played that included first-hand accounts of Oxycontin abuse from Jay, a teen in San Diego County, who said the drug was used by all sorts, including jocks and student government officers. officers.
Jay was in and out of rehabs and prison for crimes related to stealing to feed his addiction. He was found dead in Tijuana.
"He's the kid of a cop," Baldrige said, letting the message sink in with parents.
Migdalia DeNike, a mother of two high school students, said she's heard plenty of stories from her kids about students drinking and smoking pot on campus. She said she's even smelled pot herself while visiting the high school last year.
"Marijuana is basically an accepted thing," DeNike said. "That's the norm. Being absent from those things is abnormal."
Aptos High junior Hannah Holm, 17, said it's common to hear about her peers drinking or trying drugs.
However, for Holm, a member of the school dance team, staying away is easy.
"It all depends on who you're friends with," she said. "You can choose not to by hanging out with the right people."
Dominique Barnes, 16, agreed that not trying drugs was an easy choice for her.
"Just seeing the road that doing drugs can take you down, it's not a pretty road," Barnes said. "I don't like the possible outcome."
Representatives from Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, a nonprofit that partners with South County schools to provide drug and alcohol counseling for students, spoke about services available to teens struggling with addiction.
Aptos High Principal Casey O'Brien told parents about the efforts under way at the school to deal with the ongoing issues of experimentation and abuse.
He cited counseling, referrals to outside services, a hotline to report problems, having a sheriff's deputy on campus and a discipline policy that involves suspension on the first offense.
"We can do more," O'Brien said. "We need more staff training on how to spot a student under the influence and more parent opportunities like tonight."