ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BRENDA CONYERS
Drug use in Marion County is gaining the attention of parents, students and county law officers.
According to Marion County Sheriff Deputy Dean Keyes, the state of Kansas has been upgraded from the third highest to the second highest state in the production and seizure of methamphetamines.
Narcotics officer Keyes said he considers “meth” as the second most commonly drug used in Marion County, with marijuana as the most common and cocaine third.
And, he pointed out, not all drug use is limited to pre-teens or teenagers.
“I see marijuana used in both the younger and older groups, meth in the older crowd-although that crowd is getting younger-and cocaine in a fair mix of young and old alike,” Keyes said.
Keyes also said in spite of an incident a couple of months ago in Marion involving mushrooms, “shrooms” have not been a big problem in the county.
“We have had a couple of incidences with it,” Keyes said, “but we haven’t seen a whole lot of it around here.”
The drug psilocybin, which is chemically related to LSD, is found in the psilocybe mushrooms and alters the user’s mood and perception.
The mushrooms can be grown and users can eat different parts and amounts of the mushroom for desired effects. The street price can range between $300 to $1,600 per pound.
Psilocybin is addictive, and strong doses can cause paranoia and panic.
According to information provided by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, paranoid users may hurt themselves or others.
One of the difficulties in the on-going battle against marijuana is a relaxed attitude about the drug.
“We hear it said, ‘It is just one or two joints,”’ said Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker. “But that is one or two joints too many.”
Becker explained that the potency of the marijuana grown today is much stronger than in past years.
“There are people out there who have grown it for years, and they know what they are doing,” Becker said.
The plant’s potency depends on several variables, including the parts of the plant used, the type and the way it is grown.
Marijuana that naturally grows wild is considered “inferior” to users because it has lower doses of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-THC-the main ingredient that gives users the desired “buzz” or “high” effect.
Cultivated marijuana contains at least 10 times the amount of THC as the wild-grown plant.
The use of marijuana became popular in the ’60s and ’70s and it was thought side effects were minimal and the drug was not addictive.
Studies today indicate more serious problems, physically and psychologically, than first thought. The drug affects the central nervous system and the user’s mental state. It also affects moods, coordination, memory and self-perception.
“If you see a change in your child’s eating habits,” Keyes said, “it might be an indication of drug use.”
He said the use of marijuana often leaves users with the “munchies,” and they eat a lot of snack foods.
“Other drugs will decrease the appetite,” he said. “So either way, (changes in eating habits) can be a sign of trouble.”
Keyes said in addition to the drugs mentioned, there are other drugs used in the area.
“We have just recently heard of some heroin use in the county,” he said.
Becker said there are other drugs becoming more evident in central Kansas, some specially targeted to the college-age crowd.
Gamma hydroxy butyrate-GHB-is a clear liquid easily added to drinks at parties and nightclubs.
It was first created to be an anesthetic for use in surgery 30 years ago, but was discontinued by the medical community due to the side effects.
“I would encourage kids to watch their drinks when in a group,” Becker said. “GHB is very dangerous.”
Parents need to be aware of and warn their children of other drug-related activities such as Rave clubs and parties.
Becker said these clubs and/or parties feature all-night dancing, hard-pounding and loud high-tech music and flashing lights with a variety of drugs available.
“They will sometimes even sell water in bottles with a drug like GHB in it for $5,” he said.
Those who purchase the drinks do not always know the potency or the drug used, Becker said.
While some of the street lingo and terms are unfamiliar to adults, area students from pre-teen age to teenagers and older in several parts of the county are familiar with the terms.
Rave-club flyers announcing the time and place of the party are reported to be found in several nearby college communities, and are a term familiar to area students.
When several youths from Marion County were asked how quickly they could acquire the top three drugs identified by Keyes, the answer given for marijuana and meth was “in a matter of minutes,” while cocaine could be found in “just a little while, and that didn’t mean hours-just a little while.”
When asked about alcohol use, and the potential legal consequences, students were not overly concerned.
“We’ll just get our hands slapped,” was one answer.
Becker and Keyes urge parents to be aware of what their children are doing.
“Look for attitude changes and a pungent odor on clothing, in cars or the house,” Keyes said.
“Be aware of unusual activities of people around you,” he added. “This is the growing season for marijuana.
“If you see someone coming out of an area where they shouldn’t be, get tag numbers. Don’t confront people yourself. Contact us.”
“Drug use erodes the family unit,” Becker said, “and the problem isn’t going to be solved by one group or another. This has to be a team effort.”
Keyes and Becker recently attended a seminar to learn how to form an area Drug Task Force that could possibly bring in federal money.
The sheriff’s department will be contacting city police departments in the near future about the process of forming the task force.
“We hope to bring in money that will allow us to put more officers out in the field,” Becker said. “Right now our officers have to do ‘daily chores’ such as serving civil process papers, patrolling, working accidents, thefts and things like that in addition to drug work.
“Money brought in could allow us to put officers full time into drug efforts.”
Asked whether the county could ever rid itself of drugs, Becker said: “No, it won’t happen. But we want to get a handle on it and stop what we can.”