The most dangerous drugs children can get their hands on are sometimes in mom and dad’s medicine cabinet.
However, just as potentially lethal as prescription medications are everyday household products, such as hair spray and deodorant spray, that can be inhaled to get high.
Sgt. Sandra Brown, the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s former community resource officer in Buellton, described drug trends in Santa Barbara County last week at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School during the monthly meeting of the SYVUHS Parent-Teacher-Student Association.
Now assigned to the Sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau, Brown often sees the outcome of fatal drug use, and many times it is young people who are the victims.
She encouraged parents in the audience to participate actively in their children’s lives, listen to what they have to say, and to trust their “sixth sense” for changes in behavior, friends and clothing.
They also should be quick to report others’ behavior, such as a liquor store selling illegally, she added.
“We need to police our communities,” she said in Monday’s hour-long presentation.
Although she said alcohol and marijuana are the most frequently used drugs at the school, Brown did not focus on those substances.
Prescription drugs can be obtained many ways, and one of the simplest is looking in the medicine cabinet or the drawer next to a bed. Other methods include fraud, theft, and “doctor shopping.”
Brown suggested keeping medications locked away, and safely disposing of unused and expired pharmaceutical drugs — both prescription and over-the-counter medication — by using collection boxes at each of the nine sheriff’s substations in the county as part of Operation Medicine Cabinet.
The free program, which began in October 2009, is for household medications only.
She said children should not be given adult medications because it sets an example that giving others prescription drugs is acceptable.
Abuse of pharmaceuticals is nothing new, she said, but she likened its impact on the county to Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast earlier this month.
Brown, who is on the board of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), also spoke about the neurological effects of drug use on young people.
The adolescent brain does not fully mature until the mid to late 20s, and drug use at an early age can increase the chance of addiction, she said.
Use of methamphetamine, which can cause serious brain damage, is still prevalent in all ages in the county, and being proactive is the best deterrent, she said.
“We have to teach prevention, not recovery,” she added.
At the Coroner’s Bureau, there is a “a constant flow of inhalant deaths,” according to Brown.
She described inhalants, which are breathed in or “huffed,” as the most accessible drug high to youngsters. Among the substances that can be abused are nail polish remover, glues, paint thinner, and butane gas lighters.
Red flags to watch for include aerosol cans discarded in the trash or hidden under the bed.
Synthetic drugs, such as “bath salts” and “K2,” a synthetic cannabis, are a relatively new problem, she said.
“This is very, very scary,’ she said of the hallucinogenic effect it can have on users.
The biggest use of synthetic drugs has been in Lompoc and Isla Vista, said Lt. Brad McVay, police chief in Buellton and Solvang, one of about 30 audience members.
Snoring should not be ignored, she said, because a passed-out person could be in a potential medical emergency. Vomiting is also a danger sign, and the person needs help, not a bucket or a blanket, she said.