Presentation focuses on youth subcultures, drugs

From left, San Diego police Officer Jordan Wells; Tiffany Findell and Joseph Olesky, both of SDUHSD’s READI program; and Orange County sheriff’s Sgt. Nancy Wilkey and Deputy Lance Christensen, both of the department’s Juvenile Services Bureau. Photo/Claire Harlin
From left, San Diego police Officer Jordan Wells; Tiffany Findell and Joseph Olesky, both of SDUHSD’s READI program; and Orange County sheriff’s Sgt. Nancy Wilkey and Deputy Lance Christensen, both of the department’s Juvenile Services Bureau. Photo/Claire Harlin

By Claire Harlin

Youth subcultures change just as rapidly as new risks develop — from Internet crimes, to drugs, to bullying — and sometimes it’s hard for parents to keep up with their kids during those impressionable teenage years.

That’s why more than 150 local parents packed a Torrey Pines High School auditorium on Nov. 8 for a special  presentation in which two Orange County Sheriff officials specializing in juvenile delinquency explained the latest trends in youth subcultures and drugs. The event was held so parents can better understand the challenges kids face in their social networks and know the signs of substance use. Hosted by the San Dieguito Union High School District’s Recovery Education Alcohol/Drug Instruction (READI) program, the graphic program revealed real life cases, some tragic and eye-opening, that law enforcement officers have handled in Southern California. Also on display were hundreds of items confiscated from youth, from weapons to paraphernalia to abused drugs — many of which are legal.

“These things happen to our kids and these things are common and normal for our children,” said Lance Christensen, a deputy sheriff who has been cracking down on drugs at Orange County schools for more than six years. “We’ve been having a lot of drug arrests and we recently hit [school campuses] aggressively searching cars and lockers … But what’s important is showing parents the search techniques and giving them the proper resources to know what their kids are doing.”

OC Sheriff Sergeant Nancy Wilkey, who accompanied Christensen in giving the two-hour presentation, said most youth deaths — from suicide to drug overdoses — happen to kids between the ages of 18 and 25, soon after kids become adults and parents no longer have control. She referenced several recent cases, such as the September death of an 18-year-old boy who overdosed in a Huntington Beach hotel room, and said she wants to give parents the knowledge necessary to help prevent problems from escalating to that point.

“I’ve started realizing that the parents often don’t recognize the signs and symptoms,” she said. “They have absolutely no idea, no control.”

The officers said there are a number of new drugs that are easily attainable and very deadly, such as “bath salts,” synthetic cannabis such as “Spice” and “K2,” and legal prescription drugs that are abused. Bath salts are not really used in the tub, that’s a street name for a legal synthetic drugs that are sold in head shops and convenient shops and causes intense and often destructive hallucinations. The drug has also come up recently in the media due to severe cases in which users self-mutilated or mutilated others.

Christensen and Wilkey also said performance-enhancing products are often being used by high school boys, and they have nasty side effects, such as the development of breast tissue due to failure to use an estrogen blocker in conjunction with the drugs. This often causes boys to lactate and even need corrective surgery. They said boys who work out often or play sports might be at risk of using these types of products.

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