By: Pamela Knudson
Parents and adults here are in denial about drug abuse by their kids, a former federal drug enforcement agent told members of the Grand Forks Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition recently.
“Most parents have no clue. They’d be totally shocked” at the level of teenage drug abuse, said Robert Stutman, who met with high school students earlier this month during a visit to Grand Forks.
He also said there’s an unusual amount of the drug hydrocodone, or Vicodin, being abused here.
“I have a strong suspicion that some doctors in this town are writing a high number of prescriptions for hydrocodone.”
In other communities he’s visited, he said, it’s more common to see oxycodone, or Oxycontin, rather than Vicodin being used. Oxycontin — kids told him here — is “a luxury.”
Stutman spoke at evening sessions for the public Dec. 4 and 5 in East Grand Forks and Grand Forks. After a career as a special agent for the U.S. Department of Drug Enforcement, he’s spent the past 25 years working with kids and communities on drug abuse prevention.
During a presentation to the public, local pharmacist Carmen Loff said she is surprised by the number of prescriptions she’s filling for narcotics.
Loff, who’s originally from Devils Lake and graduated from NDSU, returned to the area last summer after working a few years in Washington State.
“It’s amazing, for the size of the town, how much (drug use) there is… What can we do as health care professionals? It’s hard to know if someone is a user or not.”
Stutman said he was moved by students he talked with, in groups and individually; some were “crying their eyeballs out.”
‘No idea what’s going on’
A few said their parents know about the drug problem but don’t do anything about it, he said. “Most said parents have no idea what’s going on.”
In East Grand Forks, “I had more kids come up and want to talk with me after my presentation than parents who attended the evening session,” he said. “That tells me there’s a level of denial in this community.”
At Grand Forks Central, a high school student tearfully told Stutman that her sibling and mother were using drugs together.
“They had started with marijuana and had moved on to methamphetamine,” he said. “She asked me, ‘What can I do about it?’”
Another student, “an obviously very bright, attractive, popular girl told me she is so (messed) up with drugs, she can’t see straight, she doesn’t know what to do.”
He told members of the prevention abuse coalition at a Dec. 6 meeting that they enlist a trained clinical substance abuse counselor who is not a school employee and could work with kids “under different rules.”
In some schools, students who report having a problem with drugs are immediately suspended and their parents are informed.
“If that’s what happens when they come in, why would they ever come in again?” he said.
“You gotta give kids a haven to go to, where they’re safe.”
In Grand Forks, Stutman said, “I haven’t met nicer kids. They were bright, articulate, polite…
“Help them. They’re asking for your help.”