Palo Alto Weekly
News - April 11, 2014
Youth narcotics use is down, but potency of 'street drugs' is up
Arrest of naked man allegedly on narcotics uncommon but unsurprising, counselors say
by Chris Kenrick
Use of narcotics — like those allegedly ingested by the Palo Alto 18-year-old who was arrested after trespassing and fighting residents on Colorado Avenue Friday, April 4 — has declined among local youth, according to survey data.
But police and youth counselors said the increased potency of many of today's street drugs combined with relaxed attitudes toward marijuana use still land too many local teens in the hospital or in jail.
Police booked 18-year-old Daiki Minaki of Palo Alto on one count of felony battery and six misdemeanor charges (resisting arrest, battery on an officer, under the influence of narcotics, battery and two counts of trespassing) after apprehending him naked in Midtown, having allegedly beaten a woman walking her dog and fought two residents in their homes.
"This kind of episode is not common — and I understand why we are curious and concerned," said Becky Beacom, manager of health education at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
"Our small percentages (of narcotics use by youth) still translate into too-high numbers of actual youth whom we care about and, in this particular case, innocent victims as well."
Self-reported use of prescription narcotics, such as oxycontin and vicodin — even once — dropped among Palo Alto 11th graders from 9 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2012, according to the California Healthy Kids Survey. Use of heroin in the same period dropped from 2 percent to 1 percent. New survey results for 2014 are expected to be released soon, Beacom said.
Police and drug counselors could only speculate on how Minaki could have ingested whatever substance allegedly sparked Friday's outburst that led to his arrest.
But they said increased potency of today's street drugs can have unintended consequences, whether someone is a first-time user or a repeat user.
"It could be that he thought he was smoking marijuana and it was laced with something," said Darin Conway, a therapist who runs the mental-health counseling program at Los Gatos High School through Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY).
"The rules still apply that if you're at a party and you're drinking something, don't set your drink down and leave it alone and pick it up again, because you never know what somebody's going to slip into something," she said. "Drugs are drugs — they're illegal and they're not regulated so you never know exactly what you're getting."
Palo Alto Police Detective Sergeant Brian Philip said he sees a serious problem in Palo Alto with abuse of prescription drugs among youth. "They'll either take it from their parents or go into other parents' medicine cabinets at high school parties," Philip said.
Philip said he's seen local high school students who were crushing and encapsulating painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and vicodin, cutting dosages in half and selling them by the pill.
But alcohol and marijuana remain the paramount issues for Palo Alto teens, police and counselors said.
Moves toward legalizing marijuana in some states have led to a reduction in perceived risk of what actually remains a dangerous drug for teens, they said.
"Marijuana is a very serious problem. It's a gateway drug," Philip said. "It can have serious effects on someone's developing brain."
In the 2012 California Healthy Kids Survey, 23 percent of Palo Alto 11th graders reported having used marijuana four or more times — slightly up from 21 percent in 2010. Thirty-two percent reported having used alcohol four or more times — down from 37 percent in 2010.
Palo Alto police cited 22 juveniles for possession of marijuana, either on school campuses or in the community, since Jan. 1, 2013, he said.
In two recent cases, a Palo Alto middle school student was caught smoking marijuana in a school bathroom and a high school student on campus was found in possession of narcotics, marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia, according to Palo Alto Police Detective and School Resource Officer DuJuan Green.
Therapist Connie Mayer, director of outpatient counseling services at Palo Alto's Adolescent Counseling Services, said she was not surprised by the apparent bad reaction Minaki experienced last Friday.
"The only real surprise here is that he wasn't wearing any clothes and was quite violent," she said. "We see teens that are overdosing and having bad reactions" leading to hospitalizations.
Adolescent Counseling Services Executive Director Philippe Rey said, "There's a trend of community apathy when it comes to drug use — especially marijuana — where parents will no longer put their kids in treatment because it's 'only marijuana' and as long as they're keeping their grades up, who cares?
"We're still talking about underage kids with their brain functions still developing, and it may affect their cognitive abilities and development."
Mayer said there's a "misperception that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, especially with legalization and with parents who may have smoked in the '60s and '70s.
"But it's a different drug now, much more potent," she said. "There are derivatives of potency that are unbelievable.
"There's so much shame in this community, and we reduce that here," she said. "We provide a safe place for parents and teens to talk, without pain or shame, about what's going on and to heal."
Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by dontregretit,
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:57 am
As somebody who smoked weed in the bathroom of the high school in 1980, as well as many other places, I don't regret it a bit and would do it again in a heartbeat. If you really stop and think about it all weed does is make somebody "feel" a certain way, not unlike a bag of potato chips does, a martini does, or even an orgasm does. Before somebody outside of my body starts being the "feeling police" telling me what kinds of feelings and experiences I can or can't have, I would ask why do you bother? I can see if the marijuana use is causing me to become violent or a thief or something else, but if all it is doing is changing the way I feel-or even think, in a given moment, and I am not hurting anybody, why do YOU have to come along and tell me it's "not okay" for me to feel that way. It's just more morality police in a different uniform. Driving impaired, bad news, being unmotivated-for me pot has the opposite effect, but if it did, let me live with the consequences, which should include Mom and Dad not supporting me indefinitely, and then I'll get up and go to work, but absent these things maybe we should all chill out about this issue.
I smoked a lot of weed, starting at age 14 and neither I nor anybody else sees any evidence that it impacted my developing brain as I stayed on the honor roll and went to college and have a very successful career now. I wonder how much "Reefer Madness" is in play here as I have never met a soul who smoked pot when their brain was developing and thinks it ruined them. Yes, some people do get lazy, apparently, but if you read history, some kids have always been lazy slackers trying to do as little as possible, and stay that way, all through history. Can't blame weed for that! And if that is a "side effect" then that person might want to consider stopping, just like the person with the extra 20 pounds of fat might want to skip the ice-cream, but at the end of the day it is a personal choice. They guy with the clogged arteries may have a car accident on 280 and hurt people, but I don't see anybody forcing him off his chips...
My parents used to punish and ground me for months and it never for one second stopped how I felt about pot. It didn't stop me from using and enjoying it, it only made me feel like I was a "bad" person in their eyes, which I was. That shame they inflicted on me for the simple "sin" of wanting to feel a certain way did far more lasting damage to my heart, mind, and soul than any toke ever did.
As an epilogue, I did just fine in life. When my son started smoking pot, I remembered back to my "day", chuckled, began to focus on "harm reduction" rather than trying to force abstinence on him, which only would have driven him underground. I am the parent they can call if they get into trouble, and their friends all appreciate it, too. I am the parent who doesn't notice the pungent waft coming out of the bedroom and they aren't driving around trying to find a place to stop and smoke before the cops show up, and then driving around some more. I am the parent who my kids can talk to and they tell me everything. I am the opposite of how my parents were and my kids are way more at peace than I was because of it. It took me having kids and watching them do their thing to realize my parents harshly judged me and drove me away from them, rather than accepting me and working with me, not making me "ashamed" of enjoying a plant like millions and millions and millions of others obviously do. Food for thought!
Speaking of food for thought, before you send your kid to "addiction treatment, please make not of how many overweight people who are addicted to food are providing that "treatment". Do read about how AA and traditional models don't work, but were marketed well.)
My father had Alzheimer's. I understand weed prevents the plaque from forming. So all those years my father was punishing me, and having a stiff drink at night, maybe it was him who was dying the slow painful death of his brain cells, not me.
Chill out parents, love your kids and guide them. Ask yourself why you want to control how they feel. It's the same mentality that tries to tell somebody who is gay not to be. If your kids don't get to tell you how you should feel, or you don't like it when others do it to you, then maybe you should think about leaving them be, perhaps exploring what is going on (like did your daughter get raped at that party but can't tell you and pot is helping with the PTSD? Or is the anxiety from the intense pressure of Paly schools causing them to need a way to relax, or do they just like thinking outside of the "box"? Go there with them, accept what they tell you, lovingly. Let them have their ride on this planet, don't force yours on them. They will thank you for it.