There is no denying that the topic is pushed aside. Society constantly tries to act as if it is not present and parents try to suppress the thought. However, the fact of the matter is teen drug and alcohol abuse is very common in our small town Petaluma.

Officer Aaron Lindh, a Petaluma DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Officer, reported that there were approximately 25 juveniles arrested for alcohol and 15 for drug abuse in 2014. These numbers seem slightly low to a high school student who knows how often these things occur. Officer Lindh explained why: “If we have dealt with a kid on a habitual basis, that is the only time we go past calling their parents,” Lindh Explained, “If a kid has never had an incident with us and is polite or compliant, that’s usually when we contact their parents.”

With this information, one can easily see that the problem is bigger than expected. Forty juveniles just in our city limits of 14.49 square miles have been put into bigger trouble than a phone call home due to drug and alcohol abuse. To fight this problem, the DARE program was created to help sixth-grade students learn about drug and alcohol abuse at an early age.

“Our goal is to try to educate the kids and parents about the concern of drug and alcohol abuse.” Lindh stated, “We start early, and talk to sixth graders at different schools to try to prevent anything before they are introduced to drugs and alcohol. Also, it’s important for students and parents to know there are resources and programs available. We discuss these programs and resources with parents when we release underage juveniles back to them. We don’t just put the burden on the parents. All Petaluma City Schools offer this information to parents and students as well.”

Although the punishment does not seem too drastic, Lindh explained the process in more detail. “The numbers seem low because in Petaluma, instead of sending all of the kids to juvenile hall, we send them to rehabilitation, stay in contact with their parents, and do not go directly to criminal offense.”

While the scope of the problem in Petaluma is completely subjective, high school students can confirm that the problem is evident.

“I would definitely say drugs and alcohol are common among high school students,” one high school junior stated. “It’s not like there are big parties like other schools, but people definitely do things in small groups of friends.”

While it is not obvious to many adults, high school students commonly use drugs and alcohol. Petaluma has more activity than meets the eye.

(Olivia DeGraca is a junior at St. Vincent de Paul High School and is co-editor of the school’s newspaper, The Onlooker.)