Cocaine, Inhalant Use on Rise; Beaches Youth Top Area in Illegal Drug Abuse

By Brandenburg, Susan D. | The Florida Times Union, November 12, 2005 | Go to article overview

Cocaine, Inhalant Use on Rise; Beaches Youth Top Area in Illegal Drug Abuse


Brandenburg, Susan D., The Florida Times Union


Byline: Susan D. Brandenburg

Drug prevention counselor Kathleen Cobb, who has watched trends in adolescent drug use for about 30 years in Jacksonville schools, is reporting a dramatic increase in the use of inhalants and cocaine among students.

Beaches area schools had among the heaviest concentrations of illegal drug abuse in the area, she said.

Although marijuana and alcohol are still the main drugs of choice for students, cocaine is on the rise, said Cobb, a counselor with the Zeroing In on Prevention (ZIP) program, and a facilitator for the Duval County school system's Night-time Substance Use Intervention Program, which meets at Sandalwood High School.

"Cocaine is at most parties," said Cobb. "In fact, drugs of all varieties are everywhere the kids go -- the mall, the beach, the school, the bathrooms -- and, unfortunately, there are many homes where everybody in the house smokes pot. Kids usually don't take just one drug. They use pills and alcohol simultaneously and it's a deadly mix. They get high and their friends let them sleep it off. Some never wake up."

While research shows some reductions in teen drug abuse due to government sponsored awareness programs, there has been a dramatic increase in use of inhalants, particularly by eighth graders, Cobb said at a recent Huff, Puff & Sniff-How Kids Are Getting High mentor training program at the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. office on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville.

The concentration of drug abuse at the Beaches and on the Southside "was a shocker for me," said Southside resident Jode Ballard, who attended the training. "I'm a Big Brother to a 12 1/2-year-old student at Fletcher Middle School. He's hitting that stage where everything is boring and nothing is cool anymore. I'm definitely going to talk with him about what we learned tonight."

Heather Dyer of the Westside has volunteered five months with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida. When she first heard about the advanced mentor training focused on adolescent drug abuse, she didn't plan to attend.

"My little sister is only 10 years old, so I knew that kind of training had nothing to do with us," Dyer said. "I was wrong."

Dyer was one of 18 mentors at the Huff, Puff & Sniff program sponsored by Kesler Mentoring Connection and JCCI.

"I was shocked to learn that kids as young as 10 are being introduced to drugs," she said. "I had no clue what huffing was, and whoever thought of air freshener as a drug?"

Displaying a can of Glade air freshener, drug assessment counselor Rita Hailey of Gateway Community Services said that huffing, or inhaling through the nose or mouth using a chemically soaked rag, spraying substances into a plastic or paper bag or sniffing directly from containers is becoming more prevalent among elementary and middle school children.

Hailey pointed to a new warning and Web site (www.inhalant.org) listed on the back of the can of air freshener.

"Kids think it's a cheap high," she said. "They don't know that their first huff could be fatal."

Calling Interstate 95 "the carotid artery of dope," Rick Parker, commanding officer of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office narcotics and vice squad, shared some information. …

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