There is a new and growing drug problem in many parts of the country, and Petaluma is not immune to this scourge. The latest drug trend among teenagers does not involve marijuana or cocaine, but rather the mind-altering substances they can obtain from their family’s medicine cabinets.
Prescription drugs with names like Oxycodone, Xanax, Valium, Adderall and Ritalin are being abused like never before. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some 48 million Americans, or 20 percent of the population, say they have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.
In Petaluma, the problem has received new attention as a group of concerned parents recently formed an organization to fight teenage addiction, with an emphasis on the recreational use of prescription drugs. The group, Petaluma Parents Against Drugs, is worth supporting as they lend their weight to efforts already underway from the school district, police department, Petaluma Health Center and other local nonprofit organizations.
Their appeal is straightforward — the group is asking the city to allot funding to bring back school resource officers at Casa Grande and Petaluma High schools. The two schools had police officers patrolling their campuses until the recent financial downturn forced the Petaluma Police Department to make cuts.
By bringing the school resource officers back to the two Petaluma campuses, the group argues that the schools will be safer and freer of drugs, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.
At the state and national level, more needs to be done to address prescription drug addiction and the prevalence of these substances in our society. Certainly, the conversation needs to include policy makers, drug companies and medical professionals to stop the practice of over-prescribing.
When a patient is given, say, 30 pills of Vicodin for a tooth ache, that’s a recipe for either a pain-killer addiction, or for having pills left over, which could fall into the hands of those for which the drug was not prescribed.
One Petaluma teenager, who was brave enough to lend his story to the anti-drug campaign, is Jesse Pleinnikul, a 16-year-old Casa Grande junior. At the inaugural meeting of the newly-formed Petaluma Parents Against Drugs, the teen described a party last month involving alcohol, marijuana and the prescription drug Xanax.
Pleinnikul drove home that night, though he said he doesn’t remember how he ended up in his bed.
“I put myself at risk of not waking up,” he told the group.
At some point, a Petaluma family’s precious son or daughter won’t wake up, and then it will be too late.
We should support groups like Petaluma Parents Against Drug — you can follow them on Facebook and attend their meetings. They are working to end this problem and keep our kids safe.