October 30, 2014
Story by: Michael Goot
Featured in: The Post-Star
Link to article can be found here: http://poststar.com/news/local/a-dose-of-reality-south-high-panel-talks-about-prevalence/article_6da880f6-607c-11e4-96c7-976bda4eac09.html
MOREAU — South Glens Falls High School students are smoking marijuana at sporting events, behind the elementary school after hours and even during lunch, say a panel of their peers.
Senior Teyler Nassivera said some students have put marijuana into e-cigarettes and taken a video of themselves smoking in the lunch line that they post on the social media site Snapchat.
“I know people who have snuck it to school. I know people who are using it for stress-relievers,” she said Wednesday at a Parent University Forum titled “Marijuana, What’s the Big Deal?” held at the high school.
About 40 people attended the event organized by the Community Coalition for Family Wellness, which is a group working to reduce youth substance abuse and risky behaviors and provide necessary resources to families. The forum featured students and representatives from the law enforcement and substance abuse treatment communities.
One in four South High juniors and seniors admitted smoking marijuana within the past 30 days, according to a survey of about 1,150 seventh-grade through 12th-grade students administered this past spring.
Jenn Wood, coalition coordinator, said school officials are concerned about the large numbers, particularly at the eighth-grade level where the percentage who admitted smoking within the past month went from 5 percent in the 2011 survey to 8 percent in 2014.
Wood said although the survey did not show a lot of cocaine or heroin use among students, there is a relationship between marijuana and harder drugs, according to the data.
“Those who end up using cocaine or heroin have a much greater chance of having starting with something like alcohol, marijuana or tobacco,” she said.
Teens have various hangouts where they can smoke pot, according to Nassivera.
“A lot of people go over to Tanglewood (Elementary) and smoke on the property late at night,” she said.
Nassivera said she has been pressured in the past by friends and teammates, but has resisted.
“They always used to try to coax me into doing it. ‘Come on, it doesn’t really matter.’ After a while, they realize I’m not into that,” she said.
Nassivera said she doesn’t want to get mixed up with illegal substances because she wants to achieve her goals and set a good example for her younger sibling.
Nassivera has heard that some parents have allowed supervised parties where youths are allowed to drink and smoke pot.
Freshman Brianna Harrington said some parents think marijuana is no big deal.
“If the parents aren’t being serious at home, the child isn’t going to take it seriously,” she said.
Junior Brittany Kenny said even if law enforcement were to crack down on teen drug use, students would find another place to do it.
She urged parents and students to watch out for warning signs that students may be using drugs, including being more closed off than before.
“They don’t want to talk to you as much as they would have. They’re keeping more of their emotions to themselves because they’re dealing with it,” she said.
Kenny said the transitions from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school seem to be the times when students are most susceptible to peer pressure. They may drop their old friends and start hanging out with a new group.
Junior Jake Kerr said students who are doing drugs may start acting and dressing differently.
“They go from dressing all preppy to wearing Bob Marley ‘stay trippin’ shirts,” he said.
Alcohol is also used frequently by some students, according to Kerr.
“A lot of people just drink all the time and think nothing of it,” he said. “Just every weekend, get wasted, whatever.”
Effect on brain
Bill Bean, program manager for St. Peter’s Recovery Center, said around the age of 12 and 13 seems to be the time when addicts say they first smoked marijuana.
Bean said young people’s brains are still developing during the high school years, so there is a risk with introducing marijuana. The drug collects in the fatty tissue between nerves in the body and it is difficult to gauge the effect on that.
Saratoga County Assistant District County John Leggett said there is the perception that marijuana is not treated as seriously as other drug offenses. While that is true to some extent, marijuana is still illegal in New York and Leggett said people are convicted of felonies quite frequently.
Law enforcement punishes a seller more harshly, according to Leggett.
“We view them as a person who looks to take advantage of other people, looks to profit from their habit or addiction,” he said. “We hope to seal off that supply and make it harder for people to obtain those drugs.”
Police and the district attorney’s office are more interested in seeking rehabilitation for people caught with marijuana, according to Leggett. However, they are concerned that marijuana use could contribute to other crimes.
“There could be a nexus, or connection, between marijuana use and a person’s propensity to commit property crimes in order to obtain funds to purchase drugs to feed their habit or addiction,” he said.
The county sees a lot of cases of driving under the influence of drugs, according to Leggett.
Saratoga County Sheriff’s Deputy Nic Denno said the most common marijuana-related offense that people are charged with is a violation of unlawful possession.
Most studies show that marijuana slows reaction time and impairs coordination as much as if someone were under the influence of alcohol.
School officials said it is important to stress to students that not everyone is doing drugs.
Students said there are positive activities to get involved with at the school. One school club called Sources of Strength stresses positive friends, family support, spirituality, generosity, mental health, medical access, mentors and physical activity.
Wood said it is important that students be as informed as possible.
“We’re not looking to tell people what to do and what not to do. We’re really looking to share information,” she said.
Kenny encouraged parents to talk to their children.
“We may not like the answer because we’re hard-headed and invincible and think nothing bad can happen,” he said.