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Group hears about the perils of drugs

November 21, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - While many adults may have noticed the trend among adolescents to suck on pacifiers and to have Elmo-related clothing and dolls, few know that these items are tied in with drug use.

A symptom of withdrawal from the drug Ecstasy is the need to chew on something, said Trooper Angel Garcia with the Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg.

"They use pacifiers to relieve them from this," he said. "Parents don't think the pacifier is a big deal and don't question it."

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The Sesame Street character Elmo is used to represent Ecstasy, he added.

"I was ignorant about drug abuse," said Kim Robinson, a registered nurse at Chambersburg Hospital. When she learned what the pacifiers were used for, she went into the local Sheetz and told the management, and the pacifiers were removed from the shelves.

Robinson's niece, 16-year-old Jennifer Robinson, died of a drug overdose last February. The girl's death, the second drug-related death of a teenage girl in two months in the county, spurred the formation of a group called Enough is Enough.

The group strives to promote awareness, education, prevention, support and intervention regarding drug and alcohol use among the young people in our communities.

"We had no idea Jennifer was doing anything," Robinson said. "She was a good kid, she was open with her parents. It was a shock."

Garcia spoke about marijuana and other drugs at Enough is Enough's monthly meeting Thursday. A community service officer for six counties, Garcia provides educational and crime prevention programs.

"Drug usage has increased dramatically," Garcia told the group at the Chambersburg Recreation Center. Three thousand American youth try marijuana for the first time every day, and more kids enter a treatment program for marijuana than for any other drug, including alcohol, according to a video Garcia showed.

Marijuana is addictive, it hurts young bodies and minds, it causes depression and anxiety because of changes in the brain, it impairs driving ability, and it jeopardizes teenagers' futures, he said.

Garcia said much has been learned about marijuana in the past 15 years, but "there is lots we don't know yet about marijuana. THC is the main active component, but there are more than 400 chemicals in it.

"Marijuana is a gateway drug," he said. "Kids believe it causes no harm, and that there's no side effects. It's the most often used illegal drug in the U.S."

He stressed that the percentage of THC varies in different varieties of marijuana, and that the concentration has steadily increased since the 1970s and '80s.

Marijuana can be smoked as a cigarette (a joint or nail); in a pipe or bong; as a blunt (a cigar stuffed with marijuana); mixed in with food; as a primie or woolie (crack mixed with the marijuana) or a love boat (dipped in PCP).

"Kids have no idea what's in the joint," Garcia said. "That's what we're getting the OD's on."

Common household items can be used to smoke marijuana, Garcia said. A soda can with holes in it and a toilet paper roll with aluminum foil can be used as pipes. He passed around various types on marijuana pipes, one of which was made by a student in a high school shop.

He burned incense used to train police cadets, to acquaint attendees with the smell of the drug.

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