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Parents learn to identify drugs, paraphernalia

 

Christopher Andersson

Local Chris Bartness searches through the bedroom stage at Arlington Drug Awareness Coalition's Jan. 19 "Not In My House" event to look for drug paraphernalia and hiding places.

The Arlington Drug Awareness Coalition premiered a new event, "Not In My House," to help local parents identify and search for drugs and drug paraphernalia last week.

Parents at Weston High School and Lakewood High School heard from local police about current drug trends and what drug equipment looks like on Jan. 19.

Snohomish County officers discussed the recent heroin epidemic which they said began about five years ago when prescription pain opioids were popular and accessible in the area.

After government regulations changed the formula and made those pills harder to abuse, heroin became the drug of choice, they said.

Currently, the major concern is over fentanyl, a synthetic pain opioid which is a particularly dangerous drug and is becoming more popular to the north in Canada, they said.

Because of the opioid epidemic local officers and community members hoped the event would help parents understand what to look for.

Scott Stich, a deputy sheriff with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office and Lakewood School District's Resource Officer, said there can be many warning signs to look for if you have a child who is using drugs.

He said to look for teenagers who avoid family or long-term friends, have aggressive behavior, lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, challenge authority, engage in risky situations or begin to have physical changes like becoming more gaunt.

Stich also recognizes that it can be tricky to differentiate between common warning signs and a child going through a bad phase.

"It can be hard to decipher having a teenager mood or a teenager just trying to hide something," said Stich.

"Just because someone quits basketball or starts having an attitude, we're not saying 'hey, that's drug use,'" said David Chitwood, a police officer who serves on Snohomish County's Regional Drug Task Force.

The ADAC organizers helped set up a bedroom on the stage at Lakewood High School where parents and community members could look through to find common hiding spots and see what drug paraphernalia looks like.

"There's lots of different paraphernalia out there and if someone doesn't even know what a marijuana pipe looks like, they need to see that and that's what this activity is going to be," said Chitwood.

Marli Bartness, a school counselor at Lakewood Middle School, helped to set up the stage and it helped her realize just how many hiding spots there are.

"When I was going through my two teenage sons' bedrooms to gather the stuff for the scene in front of you tonight, it made me realize how many places they could be hiding things," she said.

"And as I'm looking through these big toy bins and junk drawers I'm thinking 'what if I find something, I've never looked through this little pouch,'" she said. She didn't find anything but learned that there are many places that a resourceful person could use to hide drugs.

The Arlington Drug Awareness Coalition was formed several years ago in an effort to raise support for parents and community members who want to help fight the drug epidemic in the community, said Andrea Conley, who works with the coalition.

"Many years ago we had our Arlington Police Department talk to the staff at Arlington High School about what they were seeing on the street, and with our students in terms of drug use," she said.

"The staff felt like it was such a big issue this really needed to be community-wide," she said.

The coalition has held several events in Arlington and started more student education events at the end of last year.

"Not In My House" was the first event in Lakewood.

"Turnout was very good for the size of the district here, and I felt like people were really engaged and excited," said Conley.

Bartness, who works with ADAC, was excited about bringing one of their programs to her district.

"I've been impressed by the work that they've done in Arlington and have been trying to get them to bring something over her," she said.

 

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