In 2012, more teens died overdosing on prescription drugs in Orange County than cocaine, meth and heroin combined.
That statistic from the Orange County Coroner’s office was one of many cold, hard facts designed to shock parents into looking for the warning signs their children may be on drugs. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department hosted the presentation Thursday at five different locations across the county.
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens welcomed the three dozen attendees at the San Juan Capistrano meeting. When kids tire of prescription meds, she said, they turn to heroin and other drugs.
“There are so many new substances, I can’t keep up with it,” Hutchens said.
Even Deputy Anton Pereyra, who led the presentation, said officers don’t always recognize drugs when they see them because they’re always evolving.
That’s why they need to educate parents, they said, who are much more likely to come upon the paraphernalia and unusual substances.
“We need you as parents, citizens of the community, to be vigilant. You are a part of this community. We need you to help us out,” Pereyra said.
The Orange County Coroner’s office has put out a particular call. Some people have switched to “smoking” alcohol. A video demonstrated all it takes is a plastic cola bottle, a cork and a bicycle pump. A more sophisticated version is called the “vaportini.”
“If you come across one of these set-ups, please give us a call and hold on to the set-up,” Pereyra said. “The coroner is interested in getting some of these set-ups that’s actually used on the streets to take it back and test it … to have a better understanding what this is.”
Here are some of the major topics covered at the presentation, which was simultaneously offered in Spanish in a nearby room:
E-Cigarettes and the iTaste
E-cigarettes were introduced in 2007 to give smokers the ability to enjoy nicotine without the smoke, Pereya said. However, they are rampant on campuses across Orange County.
“These are getting pulled out of the schools by the fistful,” he said.
A newer version of the e-cigarette looks like an iPod. It’s called the iTaste, Pereyra said. It not only vaporizes nicotine for consumption, it recharges a cell phone too.
Prescription pills are by far the drug of choice for OC teens, Pereyra said. The kids grab whatever they can find at home, gather together, dump all the pills in a bowl and indiscriminately consume them, not knowing what they’re taking or if it will negatively interact with anything else they’re taking.
“Xanax –they might as well put it in Pez dispensers. I see it all the time,” he said. Other faves include Vicodin, morphine, Oxycontin, Valium, methadone and Opana, he said. They’re called “trail mixes,” “cabinet parties,” “pharming” or “punch bowl parties.”
Because of the legalization of medical marijuana, some teens are under the impression that it is safe and harmless, Pereyra said.
But, “you can take the biggest hippy out of the ‘60s. They take one hit off this and it will blow their mind,” he said. “This isn’t the dirty leaf that was around when we were in high school.”
Today’s marijuana is 10 times stronger, Pereyra said. It’s often made into a concentrate for even a bigger impact. The concentrate can take the form of a gummy candy, wax or butter.
Vapor pens – which can look like a tube of mascara – help deliver the marijuana, he added.
“Am I going to recognize that as a teacher if a girl has it in the back of the class? No,” Pereyra said.
Vaporizing limits the smell, but doesn’t eliminate it entirely, he added. The same with all the baked goods that are sold at marijuana dispensaries. They may look like a Rice Krispies treat or cookie, but they will still have that telltale smell, he said.
Some people put salt in hand sanitizers to separate the alcohol from the rest of the ingredients, Pereyra said.
“You’ll end up with a gooey clump of byproduct and a really nasty tasting alcohol that’s stronger than vodka,” he said.