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Drug use feared up among Tahoe teens

In a town where it seldom rains, raincoats are becoming a popular item with some South Shore teenagers.

Kids are wearing neon slickers to protect their clothes from the vomit caused by doing caps of Gamma Hydroxy-Butyrate, said law enforcement officials.

The popularity of rave drugs such as GHB and ecstasy continues to escalate throughout South Lake Tahoe, but many parents have no idea their children are using.



“People are missing this stuff and that’s why I’m teaching this class,” South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Rebecca Inman said Thursday at South Tahoe Middle School’s Parent/Teacher Association meeting. “What I’m going to talk about tonight is trend drugs. We’ve got a bunch of them and they’re coming up here like crazy.”

n Yes, there are raves at South Shore.




Underground raves are being held at desolate forest locations and private South Shore homes, according to Inman. There also have been advertised raves, promoted as supervised parties for people 18 and older.

“The supervision is limited,” Inman said. “Make no mistake. Rave parties are about making money.”

The age range for a rave party is generally 12 to 35, said Inman, adding that the older crowd is there to sell drugs, more than to supervise.

When kids arrive at the parties, any alcohol, drugs, even water bottles, are confiscated at the door.

“Where do you think those drugs go?” Inman asked. “Right back inside.”

Inman showed parents a list, profiling a rave party. No real supervision, lots of drugs for sale, and no water allowed are just some of the general characteristics.

Those taking ecstasy and/or GHB overheat and become extremely thirsty. Kids can’t bring their own water in, according to Inman, because it is sold inside for sometimes up to $20 per bottle.

These parties usually run all night, into the morning and party-goers often dress up in costume-type clothing. Butterfly wings, bright plastic jewelry, neon rain slickers, and even pajamas are commonly seen at raves.

n Doing caps

GHB is a clear, odorless liquid most commonly made of engine degreaser and lye. Also known as Georgia Home Boy and the date rape drug, GHB is illegal, addictive, and sometimes fatal. One cap full of GHB is equivalent to six beers. The drug can cause seizures, vomiting, loss of memory, and sexually-oriented behavior, as well as other side-effects.

GHB is often concealed in bottled water, usually Arrowhead water, Scope bottles, hairspray dispensers, Visine bottles and other common household items.

“Kids are also emptying out the contents of bubble bottles and filling the container with GHB,” Inman said. “So if you’re kids are 15 or 16 years old and carrying around bubble stuff, you should be aware.”

There is no antidote for GHB intoxication. Kids who overdose must be put on life support, and if they recover, can suffer serious physical and mental consequences.

“It can easily be put into a bottle of water and it’s quite potent stuff,” said Cindy Swalm, a drug and alcohol counselor at Tahoe Youth and Family Services. “From what I’m hearing from kids, it seems to not be as big of a deal as it was a year ago, but some of my clients have had some serious experiences where they blacked out and ended up in the hospital. It’s called the date rape drug and it’s also known as easy lay.”

The butterfly is the international symbol for GHB, which is highly used by middle class, socially involved, outgoing kids, according to Inman and Swalm. And while most kids who become intoxicated by the drug take it willingly, others are slipped GHB unknowingly.

“You dose someone and you have them dancing on the tables, being videotaped, having sex with animals, all kinds of things they’d never normally do,” said Inman, adding that people are often slipped the drug through GHB ice cubes and tainted sodas.

n The hug drug

Ecstasy can be inhaled, snorted, injected or pressed into tablets, which is the most common means of taking the drug. It comes in many colors, resembles aspirin, and often has some sort of logo or symbol imprinted on top. Triangles, cartoon characters and the Playboy Bunny are a few examples.

Also known as the hug drug, MDMA, “E,” “X,” smurf, and the thrill pill, ecstasy is an illegal hallucinogen, internationally symbolized by the number one.

“I feel like ecstasy is definitely a trend, but ecstasy is tainted with different things. It’s got cocaine and heroin and some of it has methamphetamine in it,” Swalm said. “And they have these cute little symbols on them, trying to make it seem non threatening, and it is a very dangerous drug. What we see, instead of using it as an occasional party drug or a rave drug, kids are using it to abuse. The population I see abusing it is teenagers, young kids.”

Inman’s presentation to STMS parents included a list of things unique to ecstasy.

Mind expanding qualities, a euphoric rush, staying up all night, teeth grinding, irregular heart beat, and rapid eye movement are some of the effects ecstasy has on the body.

It causes an extreme rise in temperature, up to 103 or 104 degrees, and can cause heat stroke, brain cell damage, paranoia and dehydration.

Rolling, or doing rolls is a popular way to take ecstasy. A tablet is stuffed into a Tootsie Roll and eaten. Ecstasy also is taken with Skittles, mini M&Ms, and hidden in Chapstick and Pez dispensers.

“Kids are very brand conscientious,” Inman said. “It’s got to be the M&Ms, or with GHB, the Arrowhead bottle, no Safeway brand or something like that.”

Suckers and candy are also widely seen at raves, to stop kids from grinding their teeth when on ecstasy.

n Other trends

Inhalants, cocaine, morning glory seeds, nutmeg and frog glands are also being abused at South Shore.

Huffing household cleaning products, aerosols and solvents may cause kids to act drunk, but they don’t smell of alcohol. Headaches, passing out, red eyes, chemical breath, a dizzy appearance, nausea and loss of appetite are a few signs of huffing.

According to Allyson Tabor, El Dorado County Public Health nurse, breathing inhalants can cause limb spasms, kidney damage, hearing loss, permanent brain damage, bone marrow damage, slurred speech and death. Most huffers pass out, and some die the first time they try it.

Inman said she recently learned kids are chewing morning glory seeds, eating nutmeg and chewing up frog glands to get high.

“That’s all gateway stuff,” she said. “It leads to other things.”

Swalm said cocaine is regaining popularity among high schoolers.

“Something that’s really big right now is cocaine,” she said. “I was told by a client the other day that there are at least four main sources for cocaine at (South Tahoe High School.) We just don’t know who they are. But we are aware it is easy access. I don’t mean they’re selling it on campus, but kids can get their hook ups there.”

Inman said she hasn’t been asked to give a presentation at the high school, but would be happy to do so.

n Student response

South Tahoe High School Student Body President Ryan Gleason offered a look into high school drug use.

“I’ve never really been in the party scene, but I talked to a lot of people about it and from what I got, cocaine is the drug of choice,” Gleason said. “It’s become like the no-big-deal-drug. I heard some shocking stories today when I asked around. I heard about a girl who blew $4,000 in one summer on ecstasy.”

Gleason said he thinks drug use at the high school is decreasing, but those that do use, abuse hard drugs.

“What I’ve seen is a trend that’s gone downward,” he said. “It’s kind of become cool to be clean now. I mean, there’s always going to be drug use. Most of that use now is hard stuff. You’re talking cocaine, ecstasy. Kids think it’s just not a big deal with the cocaine thing.”

Kristin Heller, an eighth-grader at South Tahoe Middle School, said drugs are just as big a problem among her age group.

“I think drugs are a very big problem here,” she said. “A lot of the guys smoke pot just because they think it’s cool. It’s mostly the guys here, not to be sexist or anything.”

Eighth-grader Christie Cotcher, an active member of STMS’s anti-drug group Club Live, said she thinks the D.A.R.E. program or a similar drug-related presentation should be given to older grades at the middle school and perhaps again at the high school level.

“I had D.A.R.E. in fifth grade, but I think they should reinstate it in our mind sometime in middle school,” she said. “They should have an older program. I think parents also have a certain responsibility, but they have boundaries. If kids want to do this stuff, they’re going to go out and do it. In a lot of ways I think parents are blamed when there’s not much they can do. It’s up to us, the kids. You have to set standards for yourself.”

breakout: Teachers interested in having Officer Inman teach a two-hour drug course in their classrooms, or those seeking more information may contact Inman at (530) 542-6150.


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