Throughout my years as a police officer, I have dealt with numerous parents who have wondered if their child was using or experimenting with drugs, but were not knowledgeable enough to see the symptoms and find the truth. Many times, I have arrested juveniles for being under the influence, contacted their parents and were immediately faced with the statement, “I had no idea.”
I hope that after reading this article, you feel a little bit more informed about the symptoms of being under the influence, and the possible behavior changes your child may be going through if they are using drugs.
First, let’s start by discussing the illegal drugs most commonly abused in the Oakdale area and how to detect them. Marijuana is and probably always will be the number one drug of choice. Marijuana is a green leafy substance, which has a skunk-like odor. Marijuana can also come in what is referred to as “bud” form. The bud of the marijuana plant is the most desirable part, and looks like a clump of wadded up leaves, which may have several small fibrous hairs on it.
The other most common illegal drug in our area is methamphetamine, or more commonly referred to as “meth.” Meth is most often found in either powder, or crystalline form, and can range in color from light brown to white depending on what elements are used during the manufacturing process. Crystal meth is further refined to the point that it looks like sugar or rock candy.
Now let’s discuss how you can determine if your children are under the influence of these drugs or medications: When it comes to marijuana, look at your child’s behavior. Many people who are under the influence of marijuana, seem sluggish and lethargic in appearance. Sometimes they have reddish colored eyes, and a thick white or possibly green colored coating on the tongue. A good test to conduct on your child, if you suspect marijuana use, is to place your finger about six inches in front of their nose, and have them follow your finger with their eyes while you move it towards the bridge of their nose. The objective is to make their eyes focus on a point while they are crossing. Someone who is under the influence of marijuana will have one of his or her eyes bounce back while the other continues to move inward. This is called non-convergence, and it is something that the user can’t control. Marijuana users will usually have an elevated pulse rate, meaning greater than 60-90 beats per minute, or have dilated pupils, meaning larger than normal.
Methamphetamine, and other stimulants, will have different symptoms. People under the influence of methamphetamine, are usually fidgety, have trouble staying still, have rapid speech, and have dilated pupils, or they may profusely sweat during cooler temperatures. Due to the drug speeding up the users system, they usually have a high pulse rate, and a distorted perception of time. A good test to conduct is to indirectly shine light into your child’s eye, using a small flashlight, and look at the reaction it has on their pupils. When the light is applied to the eyes of someone who is under the influence of a stimulant, their pupils will naturally constrict, but because of the effect of the drug, the pupils dilate, quickly return to their original size, this is called rebound dilation.
The symptoms of prescription medication abuse vary depending on how it is produced. Opiate-based medication will cause the user’s system to slow down, reducing their pulse rate and causing their pupils constrict. Amphetamine based medications will speed up the system and cause symptoms similar to methamphetamine use. That being said, the easy way to determine what kind of prescription medication your child is abusing is to look inside your own medicine cabinet. Often, children steal their parents’ and grandparents’ medication, since the medication is readily available and rarely does the user realize the pills are missing.
Another way to figure out if your child is using illegal drugs is to look for common items used to ingest the drug, or packaging. Marijuana and methamphetamine is commonly packaged in small plastic bags ranging in size from that of a sandwich bag to one no larger than a square inch. Methamphetamine can also be packaged in small torn off pieces of plastic. Look for smoking pipes, rolled up pieces of tin foil, or Zig-Zag brand cigarette rolling papers because these are common ways to smoke marijuana. Look for small glass smoking pipes, small straws, broken pens with the ink cartridge taken out, or maybe even hypodermic needles because these are common ways of ingesting methamphetamine.
Also a good tool for any parent is a urine test stick. This product can be purchased at most any pharmacies or drug stores. You need only dip it in the child’s urine and will indicate if any type of drug is present.
I hope this article has been informative. In the end, talk to your children, be concerned with their lives and talk to an officer if further help is needed.
Cop Corner is a monthly column provided by officers of the Oakdale Police Department, offering a variety of information and safety tips.