Concerned parents look at drug abuse
About 60 parents got an eye-opening education Tuesday on what their kids might be doing when their backs are turned.
Ken Krygel, a former Detroit police officer and a drug and alcohol recognition expert, spoke to parents at Western High School for about two hours on ecstasy and other drugs, rave parties, and the tell-tale signs of drug use in children.
He also clued them in on where they might be hiding their drugs.
Several tables were laden with drugs - illegal, prescription and over-the counter - drug paraphernalia, and all the trinkets used by "ravers," or those who attend rave parties where the drug ecstasy is frequently used.
Glass tubes for smoking crack cocaine; bongs, one-hitters and blow-tubes for smoking pot; and soda cans, water bottles, lip balms and even a make-up brush that all have secret compartments for hiding drugs had some moms and dads dropping their jaws.
"I learned so much," said Stan Thomas of Saginaw. "I'm just totally amazed. I'm appalled."
"I'm shocked," said Becky Evans of Auburn. "There's so much more going on than I was aware of."
Krygel said his life changed when he was hit by a drunken teen-ager who told him he forgot he was driving.
He had spent 25 years busting people for selling and using drugs and driving drunk before making the career change.
"Now here I am on the other end trying to get them help," he said.
Hiding drugs and denying the use of them is common in teen-agers, he said, even when drugs are found in their book bags or even their pockets.
"Kids are always going to tell you it belongs to someone else no matter where you find it," he said.
Ann Cusick, a sixth- and seventh-grade skills teacher at Western Middle School, met Krygel at an educational conference she attended two years ago.
"To me, it was so important to learn as much as I could because this is what I teach," Cusick said. "But as a teacher, I don't want to give the kids ideas. That's why kids are not allowed."
Cusick said Tuesday's presentation was given to make parents and others aware of what is out there, because there is just too much to learn about the drug culture in a two-hour session.
"I'm worried about kids, but before that there needs to be adult intervention - before there's substance abuse," she said.
A three-hour session for teachers, medical personnel and those in law enforcement was given at Western earlier in the day.
Donald Clark, assistant principal at Western, said he learned a lot at the afternoon session.
"Some of the information was new to me, particularly in regard to the raves and the use of ecstasy," Clark said. "That's scary.
"My reaction was, 'Oh my God, every high school student is involved in this.' But, we have to remind ourselves that this is a subculture."
Clark said his experience with students has shown a rise in marijuana use more than other drugs.
Krygel spent much of Tuesday's evening session talking about ecstasy, known as a 'soft' drug, which reduces inhibitions and makes its user have an outpouring of good feelings by releasing stores of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.
It can also cause permanent brain damage, Krygel said.
"There's no such things as soft, OK?" he said.
Ecstasy, also called "E," "X," XTC, X-Love Drug, and Hug Drug, also makes a person have unexpendable energy and enjoy being touched, two of the reasons it is so popular at rave parties or clubs, where kids can dance the night away.
There are no clubs in Bay City that hold raves, but one club in Midland does, according to Krygel.
Bay City police say there have been a few "field" rave parties in this area, or those held in someone's home, mostly given by college students.
Signs a person has used ecstasy include jittery behavior, dilated pupils, a constant chewing motion of the jaws, muscle rigidity, sweating and a high temperature - often as high as 102 degrees.
The drug costs $25 to $50 per dose and ravers take one to five doses per night, Krygel said. Each dose lasts from four to six hours.
Eric Bridenbaugh of Bay City, who attended the session, said he went through police academy training five years ago, although he is not working as a police officer.
"It's amazing how much new stuff is out there, just since that time," he said.
Marie McFarland, Bay City school board member, has three young children and may have summed up how everyone felt.
"This is the best two hours I've spent in a long time."