Pubdate: Sun, 04 Feb 2007
Source: East Valley Tribune (AZ)
Copyright: 2007 East Valley Tribune.
Author: Andrea Falkenhagen, Tribune
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Youth)


She earned straight-A's and never broke her curfew. Yet for the same 
price as a mocha latte and a muffin, the Gilbert High School junior 
was feeding a dangerous drug habit that could kill her. Like other 
teens, she bought heroin at school and smoked it between classes in 
the school bathrooms.

Last semester, a heroin problem at Gilbert High prompted the 
principal to send home a newsletter warning parents and asking for 
their help. Last week, parents decided to create a volunteer corps to 
patrol the campus.

Gilbert teens are the latest victims of Mexican black tar heroin, a 
drug that is becoming more prevalent in Arizona high schools.

"In the past nine months or six months, it seems that a lot of what 
was going on in Scottsdale seemed to kind of move to Gilbert," said 
Sean Walsh, an addiction specialist at Banner Behavioral Health in 
Scottsdale, referring to a two-year investigation by the Maricopa 
County Sheriff's Office that exposed a heroin ring targeting 
Scottsdale teenagers.

Ric Borom, principal of Tempe's Pinnacle Charter School and a former 
Gilbert school resource officer, said that heroin has been in Gilbert 
for quite a while, but, "it's definitely on the upswing." Gilbert 
High principal Charlie Santa Cruz openly warned parents about a rise 
in drug use in a monthly newsletter sent home to parents in December. 
He wrote that his staff continued to be "concerned about the rise in 
substance use among some of our students." He listed a long list of 
drugs being used, starting it off with heroin.

"We have also taken deliberate steps to identify locations on the 
campus where students may be engaged in this type of unlawful and 
dangerous behavior," he wrote.

Since Nov. 1, 2006, 13 students at Gilbert High School have been 
disciplined for drugs other than marijuana, although the district 
does not specify which drugs. Other Gilbert high schools saw between 
two and four such cases.

"The biggest issue is parent involvement," said Tava Udall, a Gilbert 
High mother. "Look through their backpacks. And ask questions. If 
there is a piece of tinfoil in your child's backpack -- hello -- 
that's not a science project."

Many heroin addicts use tinfoil to heat the drug before smoking it.

A Mother's Story

One Gilbert mother, who has requested anonymity due to the stigma of 
heroin use, said she was totally unaware of her honor-roll daughter's 
descent into addiction last fall. A stayat-home mom, she was always 
there for her children when they left in the morning, returned from 
school, and when they came home at curfew time. She thought that 
meant her children could never hide a drug addiction from her.

Her 16-year-old daughter, a girl she describes as very motivated and 
well-behaved, started avoiding home and quit hanging out with her old 
best friends.

Call it a mother's intuition or, as she does, divine intervention -- 
but after time spent praying for an answer, she had a dream in which 
her daughter was doing drugs at a party. She couldn't shake the 
image, and soon afterward, she bought a home drug test.

Her daughter fell to her knees in the bathroom, sobbing, when she had 
to take it.

"That's when I first realized perhaps my worst nightmare was coming 
true, when she refused to do it," she said. Eventually, she convinced 
her daughter to comply. The results showed evidence of heroin, 
cocaine, prescription painkillers and marijuana.

Within seconds, things escalated as her daughter attempted to run away.

The mother chased her daughter outside of their spacious Gilbert 
home, tackled her on the lawn and wrestled her cell phone away -- she 
knew that's how she would get in touch with her dealers.

The girl still fled, though after a few hours she came home. Her 
mother discovered she had been using heroin for about four months. 
She had spent close to $10 a day, smoking the drug in the bathroom 
between classes.

The next morning, she had severe withdrawal symptoms -- nausea, 
vomiting, diarrhea, tremors -- when she went for an intake exam for 
drug treatment. The doctors recommended detox, but there were no beds 
available for adolescents anywhere in the Valley. She had no choice 
but to admit her daughter to a hospital emergency room that night to 
go through the toughest part of detoxification.

Doctors gave her fluids to keep her hydrated, but her mother wouldn't 
allow any painkillers during the detox.

"I wanted her to experience what it's like to withdraw from these 
terrible drugs, and I know that sounds maybe inhumane, but as a mom, 
I knew she wasn't going to die from it. ... I wanted her to feel the 
aches and pains of what she had done to her body so she wouldn't do it again."

Two days later, a bed finally opened at Banner Desert Behavioral 
Health Center, where she completed her inpatient treatment.

More than 80 days later, her daughter is still clean, but her life 
has been changed forever.

She won't go back to Gilbert High School, choosing instead to attend 
a private school where she won't be confronted by her old dealers.

"It's the scariest thing I've ever gone through, and if I can prevent 
one other family from going through this nightmare, then it's worth 
telling this story," her mother said. "I always made a point to hug 
her when she got home at night to see if she had been drinking -- you 
can smell the alcohol. But the telltale signs that our parents would 
use can't tell about these drugs. It's changing."

Parent Patrol

The Gilbert mom has joined a group of concerned parents who want to 
get heroin off the high school campus.

Six parents met with Santa Cruz and other district administrators on 
Tuesday to discuss what they can do to help. One plan the parents 
came up with is to create a volunteer corps to stand outside the 
school's bathrooms, keeping a watchful eye on who goes in and out.

"That's the number one spot they're doing (heroin)" said Udall, whose 
daughter attends the school. "In elementary (school) they have tons 
of parents in there every day... When you get to high school, it's 
over and done. And why? Because that's when they need us the most. 
.. Our goal is to get the parents who are willing to come in one day 
a week and maybe we can make a difference."

The parents would also enforce the dress code and other small rules 
they feel are being overlooked.

"If they don't enforce the simple rules, how can they enforce the big 
ones? You can't," she said. "The language, the dress code, the 
displays of affection -- that will escalate. ... The kids think it's 
a joke because it's not being enforced."

However, Udall was impressed that the principal openly admitted there 
was a problem and asked for help.

District officials say programs they offer, such as character 
education, help children learn refusal skills, and that parent forums 
- -- like one coming up March 22 -- educate parents on warning signs of drug use.

Unlike schools in the Scottsdale and Cave Creek unified school 
districts, Gilbert High does not use drug-sniffing dogs in its hallways.

Some students, like Leslee Payne, 16, don't think the district is 
doing enough to stop the heroin problem.

"Everyone knows who does (heroin)," she said, adding that, while she 
has heard the school is trying to root out the dealers, she hasn't 
seen any action taken. She doubts the drugeducation programs the 
school touts will help.

"I don't think it'll do anything," she said. "Whoever is using heroin 
isn't going to stop because of some talk they give."

She believes at least one adult has come on campus to deal heroin, 
but said she still feels safe at the school because she stays away 
from the users.

The Gilbert Police Department does not have records of heroin cases 
by age, but it reports that in 2005, there were 18 reported heroin 
cases in the town. In 2006, that number more than doubled to 48.

Police Sgt. Andrew Duncan said he's not ready to say it's any sort of 
heroin trend.

The Drug Enforcement Agency's 2006 report for Arizona cited a 40 
percent decrease in the price of heroin in 2004, indicating an 
abundant supply. The report said purity levels in heroin have 
increased some 7 percent in the past two years. A current trend in 
the Phoenix division, according to the report, is the increasing 
presence of heroin in public schools.

In general, more children have abused prescription drugs than heroin, 
according to Leslie Bloom, executive director of the Partnership for 
a Drug-Free America's state chapter.

Bloom cited a survey by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission which 
shows that just 2.8 percent of high school seniors in Maricopa County 
have tried heroin, compared with 20 percent who have abused prescription drugs.

Heroin in America Heroin: A highly-addictive depressant painkiller 
typically sold as a powder or as a black sticky substance. Processed 
from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the 
seed pod of the Asian poppy plant. It creates a surge of euphoria 
when snorted, smoked or injected.

Mexican black tar heroin: The type of heroin used in Arizona, most 
coming across the Mexican border, and less expensive than other types 
of heroin. Resembling small bars of hard roofing tar, it is smoked, 
often by inhaling the vapors produced when heated from below, known 
as "chasing the dragon." Experts say some teens wrongly believe 
smoking the drug is safer.


1898 -- 1910: Heroin is marketed as a nonaddictive morphine 
substitute and a cough medicine for children.

1914: The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act is passed to control the sale of 
heroin, allowing it to be sold for medical purposes.

1924: U.S. Congress bans the sale, importation or manufacture of heroin.

1970: Time magazine publishes an article documenting heroin use among 
wealthy adolescents in large cities, noting that 224 teens died from 
heroin the previous year.

1970s: Heroin becomes popular as part of the rock 'n' roll scene; 
singer Janis Joplin dies from a heroin overdose.

1970s: Use among American servicemen in Vietnam increases. Some take 
their habits home with them.

1990s: Heroin again makes a comeback as celebrities in the grunge 
music scene overdose on it.

Mid-1990s: "Heroin chic" becomes a popular fashion statement, 
characterized by runway models with sallow appearances, sunken eyes 
and jutting bones.

1997: A report by the national Household Survey on Drug Abuse 
estimates 81,000 new heroin users. A large proportion of these are 
smoking, snorting or sniffing heroin instead of injecting it, and 87 
percent of the new users are under age 26. By comparison, in 1992, 
only 61 percent were under 26.

2005: In Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces that 146 
people, mostly teens in Scottsdale, are buying, selling or using 
drugs as part of a "heroin ring." He says numerous illegal immigrants 
were arrested in connection with the ring.

2006: Sheriff's deputies arrest five suspected dealers, including 
possibly the main heroin supplier in the Scottsdale ring.

2006: Social workers begin to notice more Gilbert teens becoming 
involved in heroin use.

If you go What: Gilbert school district's annual drug prevention 
seminar When: 6:30 p.m., March 22 Where: Mesquite Junior High School, 
130 W. Mesquite St., Gilbert Who: Parents, guardians and other adults 
are invited, though the district asks that no children or teenagers attend.

Information: Susan Cadena at (480) 497-3300, Ext. 275.
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