While drugs and alcohol aren't currently a big problem in Juneau's middle schools, officer Blain Hatch said parents should be aware of the dangers and pressures students may be exposed to in coming years.
"It might be a year or two, but your kids will be exposed to it eventually," Hatch told a group of about three dozen parents, teachers and students who gathered in the Floyd Dryden Middle School library Monday evening.
Hatch, a Juneau Police Department school resource officer, met with the group to discuss the latest drug trends, Principal Tom Milliron said. While there has been no alcohol or illegal drug activity reported at the middle school recently, Milliron said students may be tempted to experiment.
"I'm not naïve enough to think that our age group of students, that some do not experiment; I mean, this is the experimental age," he said.
Middle school students may be exposed to drugs or alcohol by their older siblings, Milliron said.
Hatch said most of the teenage drug issues that Juneau police deal with stem from freshmen and older high school students, but there have been some unconfirmed reports of eighth-graders using prescription opiates.
"In the last three years we have not seen marijuana, alcohol or that type of drug at all," Milliron said of Floyd Dryden.
The main type of drug abuse Juneau parents should be aware of are opiate prescription drugs such as OxyContin or drugs containing oxycodone.
"The big problem we're having right now is opiates," Hatch said. "It's really, really, really devastating to this community."
The high demand of opiates in Juneau has pushed the street value of OxyContin to between $1 and $3 per milligram, with the most common dose being 80-milligram pills, Hatch said. Teenagers have been crushing the pain-release pill and snorting, smoking or shooting it intravenously, he said.
Parents should be vigilant if they see their children with aluminum foil packages or foil with burn marks on it, which are common signs of drug abuse, Hatch said. They also should be aware of cut straws, broken pens or other instruments used to snort drugs, paying close attention to whether there is crystal or powder residue inside them, he said.
Hatch said it generally takes about a month to become addicted to prescription opiates. He said he recently talked with an emergency room doctor who said some teenagers in town have a habit that can cost $500 to $1,000 a day.
"It's really sad because they're tearing their families apart," Hatch said.
If a teenager seems lethargic, it could be a sign of opiate abuse, Hatch said. Opiates also are the only drugs that will constrict pupils, he said.
Another drug that has become particularly popular in Juneau in recent years is methamphetamine, Hatch said.
"It's a huge, huge deal," he said. "It's cheap and it is around."
Meth is a particularly dangerous drug that often is manufactured with household chemicals and has an addiction rate of about 95 percent, Hatch said.
People on the drug will often exhibit bizarre behavior, he said, and will show signs of paranoia, hostility, anxiety and restlessness.
"It's sad how much it's gripped this community," Hatch said.
Generally people using meth in Juneau are in their 20s or older, Hatch said, adding that are no confirmed reports of middle school students using the drug.
"Don't think the sky is falling with this age group," he said.
A drug group that has become an increasing problem with teenagers in Juneau is inhalants, Hatch said. He said parents might not be aware of their children sniffing glue or other inhalants because people under the influence display many of the same characteristics of those under the influence of alcohol.
Another drug that seems to be back on the scene is ecstasy, Hatch said.
"We did get word that a shipment of 'X' did come through about two or three weeks ago," he said, saying it was rumored to be in pill form with a unicorn stamp on it.
As for some good news, teenage marijuana use is reported to be down by about 4 percent, Hatch said.
For parents concerned that their children may be using drugs, the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence-Juneau is a good resource and can point parents in the right direction, Hatch said. If parents find a substance that they think may be drugs, they can bring unknown substances to the Juneau Police Department where drug testing kits can identify whether it is a narcotic.
"Be a parent, I guess is the bottom line," he said. "If you see red flags, please don't dismiss them."