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State drug officer reveals ways youths access illegal drugs

By Roger Pugh

That bag of potpourri in your child’s room or backpack might be more than just something to freshen the air, Mark Woodward, Public Information/Education Officer with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, told the Piedmont Chamber of Commerce last week.

Woodward said most middle school age students have fairly easy access to a wide array of synthetic drugs, including synthetic marijuana that has been flooding the market.

“Every town has a “gas station” that openly sells this as such things as potpourri, or they can get it in the back room.” Woodward told the audience. He said the synthetic marijuana is often sold as a bag or jar of potpourri.

Woodward explained that as these products crop up in the marketplace, an effort is made to outlaw that particular chemical component. However, as soon as that specific component is banned, the makers simply change a single component, and for the time being, that new mixture is legal.

He said the synthetic marijuana is becoming popular because it is stronger than the plant version. He said as the user’s marijuana tolerance increases, they move on to something stronger.

“Kids are becoming bored with traditional marijuana and want something stronger so they are turning to this,” Woodward explained.

He also said they think the synthetic products are safe because they are sold in the store.

Woodward noted that manufacturers even try to give it the appearance of being a safe and innocuous product by putting icons such as Scooby-Doo on the packaging.  He said a lot of the stores carrying these products will not sell it to adults, only to their youthful patrons.

The veteran drug enforcement officer also expressed concern for the recent legalization of medical marijuana in several states.

He said drug cartels are very pleased with the legalization because the cartel is paying some of those who have been issued a medical grow card so the cartel can grow their own on the cardholder’s land.

Woodward said there has been a 125 percent increase in the past two years in the number of hospital visits for drug related illness.

He said many drug users are getting the money for their drug of choice by stealing prescription drugs from the medicine cabinets in their own homes or from the homes of friends or relatives.

“They will take anything to school and sell it as Percocet, Woodward remarked.

A Hydrocodone pill can sell for $20 on the street, while a Percocet pill can go for as much as $60.

“That’s how they buy a $37 to $43 bag or jar of synthetic marijuana,” said Woodward. “They can trade one pill for a bag of grass.”

He noted the pill thefts from the medicine cabinet usually go undetected because the user only steals a small number of pills.

“If you have a prescription bottle of 30 and have most of them left, you probably are not going to notice one, two, or three missing,” said Woodward.

He said Oklahoma is ranked number one in the nation in the use of painkillers, and number nine in the use of prescription drugs. He also said surveys show that 61 percent of parents would not be upset if they were to find out their child had smoked marijuana.

Woodward urged parents to check their youngster’s bedroom, check what they are looking at on the internet, look over their backpacks, and even pay attention to what is in their trash cans.

“It’s your kid, and it’s your bedroom,” he said to ease the concern of those reluctant to tread on the privacy of their child.

He also urged parents to pay attention to how their children are dressing, what music they are listening to, and what they are drawing in their notebooks.

He suggested this could give them some insight into what interest their children might have in the drug culture.

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