Terry Stec hasn’t seen a major drug problem in the local high schools, but he said it’s always a concern.
In his seven years as a school resource officer for State College Area High School, Stec hasn’t seen a major increase or decrease in drug activity, but he talks to several parents every week about ways to prevent drug use or concerns that their child or others might be using.
About 40 parents showed up to listen to the 90-minute presentation Tuesday night at Mount Nittany Middle School as part of the district’s “Straight Talk” series.
Stec was joined by middle school SRO Rob Keen and Ali Turley, who works with the Centre County Youth Service Bureau prevention programs, to talk to parents about drug use, methods of recognizing it and ways to prevent it.
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A key indicator of possible drug use is changes in patterns, Stec said. If a young person is hanging out with an entirely new group of friends or all of a sudden loses interest in activities, Stec said it might be time to start paying closer attention.
“That’s when you want to start asking yourself, ‘OK. What’s going on here?’ ” he said.
Though harder drugs are beginning to become more prominent county and statewide, he said they have not crept into the high schools. The majority of high school drug cases are nicotine, marijuana and alcohol.
But Keen added that with those drugs around, it’s important to advise young people to stay away with them. He especially cited bath salts as a newer drug that he hope does not become more popular among the younger generations.
“Bath salts are unbelievably powerful stuff,” he said.
As important as it is for parents to talk to their kids, it’s also critical for parents to be talking with one another. Turley said parents need to know if other parents are more lax when it comes to drugs or rules.
And parents should be talking to their kids at younger ages.
Stec said if parents wait until high school years, it’s already too late. He suggests fourth or fifth grade as a good time to start talking about staying away from drugs to get in before the use starts and before exposure to what’s out there.
Parents should also be aware of household items that could be inhaled or prescription drugs left where children can get them.
Turley said her department mainly focuses on prevention and parents taking proactive steps to keep their children off drugs. She said extracurricular activities and keeping them involved is a major preventive factor.