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Opioid crisis in Southwest Florida: ‘Lunch & Learn’ educates attendees on drug trends

By Staff | Dec 7, 2017

Local youth are becoming more drug savvy, the opioid crisis has reached Southwest Florida, and people are finding more clever ways to hide their stash, making enforcement more difficult.

That’s what attendees learned Thursday as the Cape Coral Police Department hosted a Lunch & Learn program devoted to the latest happenings on the drug scene.

Deb Comella, executive director for the Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, said the idea of the event was to educate addiction counselors, teachers and family members on what’s out there.

“Unfortunately, kids are learning about drugs on the Internet and we’re going to learn about what the kids are learning and frame the conversation with them about making the right decisions,” Comella said. “YouTube is having a big impact on kids on how drugs are delivered.”

Mary Fischer, member of the Lee County School Board, said there is an opioid crisis among students that causes attendance and behavioral issues.

“This information is important so that we can assist our workers and staff when they have issues. We need to be current so we can identify issues,” Fischer said.

CCPD Master Sgt. Allan Kolak gave the presentation about the seven most commonly used forms of drugs used by people and the symptoms shown throughout their use, with the discussion eventually moving on to the opioid epidemic, especially problematic since many opioids are legal with a prescription.

Also, Kolak said, people over time build up a tolerance, meaning they need more to do the same job, meaning the likelihood of overdose increases.

“We get between five and 10 calls a day for overdoses. Doctors give out these prescriptions to people even if they don’t know what the drug is or how it works,” Kolak said.

Many of these calls come when there is a child present, which for them gives drug use a normalcy, Kolak said. The children even know where the parents/adults keep their drugs and talk about it like it’s a normal behavior, which it’s not.

There was also talk of the other more common drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, inhalants (which kids frequently go to, as they are readily available), hallucinogens, crystal meth and more.

“Drugs are becoming more prevalent. Alcohol is still a problem, but drugs are more of a problem,” Kolak said. “We don’t see the heroin addictions in kids. We see that more in older people. Kids are using things like Zanax and the designer drugs like ‘Molly.'”

Kolak also showed off the latest drug paraphernalia, and they aren’t the old fashioned Turkish bongs and glass pipes that they used to be.

Kolak showed a Dr. Pepper can in which the “pop top” screws off to show a hiding spot for drugs. There was a green highlighter where you move the parts around to make it into a pipe, and a refrigerator magnet that opened up into a “one-hitter” for small servings of cocaine.

Kids are also being influenced by clothing they find on the Internet from sites that are pro-drug, some of which offer special compartments for people to hide their stash.

Those who attended the program found it informative.

“We got an understanding of current trends in substance abuse and awareness,” said Alex Olivares of the Center for Progress and Excellence, a mental health service provider. “I’m alert to all this. This fills in the details I was not aware of.”

“It’s nice to learn and reeducate yourself on the drugs occurring locally,” said Erin Bowman, of Twelve Oaks, a drug treatment facility in Navarre, on the Panhandle. “We’re on the other end. We’re working with individuals who are hopefully moving past drugs and seeking treatment. We need to start our education with 7-, 8- and 9-year olds.”