Upper Marboro: (Reform Sasscer) – Ever since Prince George’s County Public schools (PGCPS) reopened earlier this year, teachers, substance abuse counselors and other staff members have seen a rise in youth drugs and alcohol use across the entire district.
In many cases, local youths travel to Baltimore to purchase heroin and weed, Jenkins said. They typically purchase enough for their own use and enough to sell small quantities to their friends, he said.
The state has reported heroin-related overdoses and others are on the raise.
Marijuana is the most popular drug, Wise High senior Tom said, but more students are also using LSD.
The total number of students using drugs are increasing these days since schools reopened and more students and people are experimenting with more serious drugs than in the past, said a Moses, who serves as a counselor for at risk youth.
Jenna said Wise’s weed addicts use the drugs before and after school. However, teachers and staff say, the students are using it during school hours constantly!!!!
Getting drugs is all about who you know but tends not to happen at school sometimes, Jenna said.
Finding drugs, she said, is “so easy it’s a joke.”
Tommy Hill with UR Medicine Strong Recovery’s Adolescent and Young Adult Clinic, said drug abuse in youth and younger adults declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. She explained that the shutdown forced kids to stay home, which limited their access to dealers.
She said she fears that the return of in-person learning has made drugs more accessible.
“Fortunately, we all get to kind of get back to real life, but the movement of substances is also coming back to life,” Hill said. “Some of the younger kids are moving substances through the school.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 60% of students have reported trying alcohol by 12th grade and about 50% of high schoolers have reported ever having used marijuana. About 20% of 12th graders have reported using prescription medicine that wasn’t theirs.
“It’s the nature of that dynamic and the culture,” Hill said. “It’s not unusual for teens.”
She said parents need to pay attention to changes in their kids’ behavior if they suspect drugs or alcohol usage. These changes may include poor academic performance, increased secrecy, and a change in friendships.
“Active substance use in a family, it ripples out, and affects everyone around the individual. The more beautiful piece of that, though, is that so does recovery,” Hill said.
In PGCPS, the use of drugs and alcohol among the student population is on the rise from middle school through all High schools in the District and has left many staff members powerless and in need of critical support.
Marijuana legalization is a growing trend among American state governments. Advocates of marijuana legalization argue that the drug is a good alternative for pain relief. Additionally, marijuana tax revenue can add to state economies. For instance, Colorado raised $247 million and Washington raised $319 million from taxes and fees related to marijuana in 2017.
Opponents of marijuana legalization often cite the “gateway drug” theory. First popularized in the 1980s, the gateway drug theory proposes that use of “soft” drugs like marijuana increases the risk of using more harmful substances, such as cocaine and opioids.
However, most educators are ready for retirement due to lackluster support from the PGCPS administration over the years concerning this issue of drugs and alcohol abuse within the system. Something needs to be done to reverse the trend and save the staff from unruly youth.
Below are some of the comments as observed recently.
- I just stood and watched about 20 students standing in the hall, talking, laughing, playing, cursing, surprised they weren’t drinking and smoking. This was during class time. I didn’t say anything, just stood there observing. Retirement, I’m ready.
- Sadly I think this is becoming a norm. They run the schools.
- Ooohh, don’t forget about the football game on the field during 4th.
- Students & parents run the schools…PGCPS/Board.
- Listen…if the admin and security are ok with it, SO AM I! We have to learn to manage what we can…our classrooms. 🤷🏾♂️
- We are forbidden from saying anything even if they do.
- We now have one set of bathrooms open per floor because they keep smoking in groups so large you can smell it outside the building. Security is stationed right there to keep them in check.
- Something definitely needs to be done. These things causes blood pressure on many teachers and staff to go up.
- they vape in the lunch room. They were caught and got detention.
- like detention means something to them.
- yep and selling it in the bathrooms in middle school!!!
- To them it is normal, HELL some parents do it in front of them or with them.
- This is everyday at my school too smh… mind you it’s a middle school at that
- comforting to know it is not just at our middle school…and sad.
- I will never forget the year I worked in a school and a kid walked passed me mid class period. I asked, “where are you supposed to be.” His response was to spit on the floor and cuss. Happy to say things went up from there as we got to know one another better.
- I hear you. Bus duty and subbing for specials is the same way. I still try my best to keep them safe but I also know how futile it is.
- Me too Retirement! Retirement is on its way! ….. soooo done
- It’s an all day, every day thing. It’s so sad. They have no idea what kind of life they’re setting up for themselves and the school system leadership is complicit in the demise of public education. We need to get rid of a watered down discipline policy and set some standards.
- This is a result of the student code of conduct being so watered down that there are no consequences for this type of behavior!
- Truth. We are put in abusive situations and told to not say or do anything or we as teachers are punished.
- This is the new norm…..when that child finishes acting out, they will be right back in the class….I feel sorry for the kids that are trying to learn.
According to CDC, although most youth are in good health, some youth are at an increased risk for behaviors that can lead to poor health outcomes, such as high-risk substance use. The majority of adults who meet the criteria for having a substance use disorder started using substances during their teen and young adult years. Youth with substance use disorders also experience higher rates of physical and mental illnesses, diminished overall health and well-being, and potential progression to addiction.
Brooks-Russell advocates for “parental monitoring,” and says parents should always work to improve communication with their kids. Setting clear family expectations and knowing a child’s friend circle helps parents stay aware of what environment their kids are in outside of the house, she says.
“Parents need to have a conversation and make it clear what their expectations are,” she says. “It’s important to help their kids avoid situations that might cause drug use, such as not knowing who their kids hang out with or leaving their kids home alone. Parent involvement is really crucial,” she said. “All children are going to be at a crossroads at some point … if parents have the right tools, they can help guide them on the right path to make decisions.”
“Educating yourself is important. It helps you, and also helps your kids in the long run. It is the only way for prevention and prevention is the only way to stop this horrible epidemic,” another professor Schmidt said.
Although there might be reports on drug use within PGCPS on substance abuse of school-age youth presented elsewhere in the past, in a corrupt administration with a culture of cover ups, they will always indicate there are no issues sometimes showing school-related alcohol and drug infractions had declined among middle and high schools students between certain years which is not the case in many ways. Sometimes, as the violence escalates, those numbers don’t reflect the reality of the situation.
“I think we need to not be naive about it,” Schmidt said. “They are using — it’s just not on school property in many cases.”
“Things may feel horrible now but there’s so much more time and so much more room to grow … to find the happiness you want,” she said. “Using a substance is definitely just going to make it worse … It may feel good now, but it will do nothing good for you.”