Drug dogs (newspaper)

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Drug dogs (newspaper)

  1. 1. Drug use a dailyevent in our schoolsBut bringing in dogs won’t keep drugs out of our kidsIf we are to believe a recent headline, drug-sniffingdogs are effectively keeping drugs out of Haltonschools. What’s more, “high school drug activity hasnever been a huge problem in Halton.”This is probably very reassuring news to a lot ofparents. Unfortunately, it perpetuates themisconception about teens and drugs that if you don’tsee it, it doesn’t exist. Drugs may not be a hugeproblem in Halton, but they are a firmly entrenchedproblem and one that affects nearly every teen at onetime or another.According to the Centre for Addiction and MentalHealth (CAMH), our children are exposcd to drugs atleast as early as Grade 7. The Centre’s OntarioStudent Drug Use Survey tells us that nearly 4 percent of Grade 7s have tried marijuana. An alarming6.8 per cent have tried glue sniffing and 12.1 per centhave tried other solvents—a dangerous practice. Andas always, alcohol tops the list with nearly 40 per centof Grade 7s having tried it at least once. It’s inter-esting to note that most of these kids had beenthrough the DARE drug awareness program less thana year earlier. It looks like the message is not gettingthrough.This 1999 survey shows us that things only getworse in high school. More than 36 per centof Grade 10s have tried marijuana. This increases tonearly 40 per cent by Grade 12 and more than 43 percent by Grade 13/OAC. Alcohol use continues to rise,from 74.9 per cent in Grade 10 to 84.6 per cent inGrade 12. Thankfully glue and inhalant use drops offto nearly zero. The only bit of good news here is thatmarijuana and alcohol cannot damage a child the wayinhalants can.Enforcement measures such as drug searches do notgive us the complete story. Lack of physical evidenceand rare arrests for possession only show that we arefailing to detect the problem. It’s because drugs are sopervasive that they aren’t more noticeable. Our kidsare good at procuring, carrying, concealing anddistributing. Today’s teens are familiar andcomfortable with a range of substances. These kidsalso know how to mask the effects of drugs and howto manage the behaviour of the kids who can’t handledrugs. We know there is a large problem withdrugs. The CAMH statistics assure us of this.And if we doubt those, we have the results of ourown Halton Drug Survey that parallel thePenny Smith and Ray Pidzamecky-------------------------------------------------provincial results.The drug our kids use most often—alcohol— cannotbe detected by dogs. Nor can dogs detect other signs ofdrug use: overdoses, suspicious young adults hangingaround schools, secretive groups of teens. It’s a verylong list. Our school administrators are right in tryingto eliminate drugs and drug activities from the schoolsand dog sweeps may he the easiest, cheapest way toaccomplish this. But it’s too easy for the drugs to moveunderground. Face it: the kids are on to us. They knowabout the drug sweeps. In some situations, they’veeven had a written warning. So they simply relocatetheir activities until the threat has passed.Our kids are selling drugs to each other. They’re atthe bottom of the merchant ladder, selling smallamounts and keeping enough for their own use. Theyare more mobile than inner city kids. They find friendswho can drive them to make a deal. Parents areconveniently away. Some kids take near-toxic amountsof drugs, yet don’t go to hospital for treatment for fearof reprisal. Many adolescent children, sometimes asyoung as 14, attend raves and are vulnerable to thepressure to take drugs in a culture of experienced olderadolescents.School boards should be congratulated for having thedogs in. It’s a clear message to parents and teens thatthere are consequences for bringing drugs into school.But in our culture, drug use is a normal dailyoccurrence. We may be able to keep drugs out of ourschools, but that won’t keep drugs out of our kids.-------------------------------------------------------------------Hamilton Spectator Saturday April 22, 2000

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