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School program tackles synthetic drug issue

Madison Mathews • Mar 14, 2012 at 6:03 PM

With the rise of news regarding synthetic drugs and the dangers they can pose if taken, it’s no surprise that talk of substances like K2 and bath salts has infiltrated everyday conversation among students in the classroom.

“It seems like there’s more and more everyday. It’s just kind of getting common to hear somebody talk about it at least once a day,” David Crockett High School freshman Aaron Ford said Wednesday morning following a program on synthetic drugs.

Students have heard stories about people taking synthetic drugs and the horror stories that follow, but not all students know of the harmful side effects that often follow an episode in which a person has taken such a substance.

That’s why the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has joined forces with the county’s schools in the ongoing battle against the substances that are flying off of the shelves of head shops, like the one a group of students from Daniel Boone High School protested against last month.

For the past several weeks, local law enforcement has been going into schools to teach students about the dangers and effects of taking synthetic drugs.

The educational program aims to show students that there are consequences to taking the drugs — consequences some students never thought about before sitting through the program.

“I knew they were legal, but I didn’t know how bad they were or how much people were affected by it yet,” said Jennifer Brewer, another David Crockett freshman.

From a law enforcement standpoint, the first line of defense against these kind of substances begins in the classroom, according to Sheriff Ed Graybeal.

“The more education we put out there, the more power these students are going to have to make the right decision when they come across this stuff,” he said.

Students like Ford and Brewer don’t know anyone who has taken the drugs, however, both students acknowledged it’s becoming a growing problem people their age are dealing with.

“For most people that maybe do drugs now, it’s harder for them to get them where they are illegal, especially for minors, but where that’s legal for almost anybody to go pick up at any other store, it’s definitely easier for teens to get a hold of it,” Ford said.

Brewer said she’s glad it’s a topic being discussed in school.

“Our teachers sometimes talk about it, actually. They’re trying to make sure we don’t do them and trying to make sure we’re safe with our families and everything,” she said.

While they hadn’t thought of trying something like bath salts or K2, both students said the program made the decision not to try them even more firm.

“They clarified that it wasn’t really a scare tactic, but where the drugs themselves are so scary, just knowing the facts, it definitely scared a lot of people. It scared me off from even thinking about it,” Ford said.

With synthetic drugs being an issue his office deals with two to three times a day, Graybeal said the programs will better equip students and help them become more accountable with one another.

“When you get here in the schools and you get all these young people together ... and can explain to them exactly what’s going on with what they’re facing, I think it makes a huge difference in their life,” he said.

The sheriff’s office has already visited a number of schools in the county and Graybeal said his department plans on visiting more in the coming weeks.

Forums for parents and other community members are also planned.

Officials with Johnson City schools will host a community information meeting on synthetic drugs and other drug-related items on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Science Hill High School auditorium.

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