Couple Shares Reality of Youth Drug Use with Students, Parents

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

That Pez candy dispenser in your child's backpack might contain more than candy.

That bottle of water a friend gave your child on the basketball court might contain more than water.

And that snazzy party notice your child brought home on which the word party ended with an E rather than a Y? That might not be an unintentional misspelling.

Listen up, parents.

The Pez container might have pills mixed in with the candy.

The water bottle might have been spiked with drugs.

And that party invitation? The party might actually be a "rave," a large all-night dance party at which drugs are used. And the letter E is slang to get the word out that the drug Ecstasy will be available.

"They get very creative," said Debbie Alumbaugh, a veritable walking encyclopedia on the tricks and lingo of the drug trade for young people.

She and her husband, Brad, are spreading the word about drugs and raves to prevent other families from experiencing a misfortune like theirs. They launched Michael's Message, a drug awareness program, after their 15-year-old son died after taking the so-called date rape drug, given to him by one of his best friends.

The Alumbaughs spoke at assemblies at Clay County high schools over the past two weeks and at a parents meeting Tuesday.

At the assemblies, students listened so intently "you could hear a pin drop," Debbie Alumbaugh said. And unlike the typical school assembly, no student had to be removed for unruly behavior, school officials said.

At the parents meeting, only a half-dozen people attended, frustrating organizers who send fliers home with students across the school district and placed notices in area newspapers. But the Alumbaughs said they always insist on giving their full, hour-long presentation, regardless of attendance.

"It doesn't matter to us. You get the same message," Debbie Alumbaugh said. "If one parent comes, that parent needs to hear it."

Their message for parents was urgent -- get educated on the language, the nicknames for drugs, the drug-related logos on clothing, the signs that the drug culture has invaded a child's life.

"All families and all communities are vulnerable to drugs," she said.

Some tips:

Don't assume Pez containers and Tootsie Roll candies are harmless -- pills are being hidden in Pez containers, drugs are being inserted in the soft middle of Tootsie Rolls and the candy rewrapped.

Investigate the sudden appearance of face masks, inhalers and menthol medications -- used to "intensify the high," she said.

Notice increasing usage of certain symbols, on clothing or in language -- butterfly wings, or E or X can refer to Ecstasy. …