Drug data to get more interactive

The Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse plans to put its data online in a more interactive way next month.

Previously, Regional Evaluator Kayla Fishbeck said, there was one large document — the regional needs assessment — and people had to review that to find what they were looking for. Now that information will be in the form of interactive graphs where web page visitors can view their county’s data.

PBRCADA has data for Region 9, which includes 30 West Texas counties, Fishbeck said. She’s hoping to have the data up by the end of April.

Fishbeck also gets data from visiting and talking to treatment centers and schools.

“I hope to find a good way to put on the website … to tell a better story. Not everyone collects numbers, but there are a lot of stories to be told so I hope to incorporate that in a nice way on there also,” she said.

Having visited several schools in the region, Fishbeck said she found that opioids like Hydrocodone and Oxycontin, and downers, such as Xanax, are taking over at the schools.

“I was a little surprised to hear how much Xanax was mentioned in pretty much every school that I went to,” Fishbeck said.

Youngsters may be getting the prescription medication from their parents’ medicine cabinets or those of relatives, but their parents may not know it.

Sara Tomlinson, coalition coordinator for the Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, said young people can also order the prescription drugs online from Craigslist and have it delivered.

It’s also easy to conceal.

“The kids could put it in an aspirin bottle,” Tomlinson said.

Fishbeck noted that you can’t smell the pills either.

She added that parents may be working a lot and might not have that connection with their children.

“They’re not having the sit-down family dinners in the evening. Maybe they’re working at night. They don’t even know they need — that they need to protect their kids from their medicine cabinet,” Fishbeck said.

“Also, it’s in pill form and they (teachers or administrators) can’t smell it,” Fishbeck said. However, they sometimes see handoffs, or can recognize symptoms, which she conceded sound like typical teenagers. They include students having glazed over eyes, being unable to focus, walking slowly and falling asleep in class and teachers having a hard time waking them up.

Students also have found ingenious ways of storing drugs.

“Parents aren’t aware of the endless amount of ways for people to do drugs now,” Fishbeck said. “It could be a gummy bear; it could be in a pill; it could be in a syrup or a liquid like liquid marijuana or powdered alcohol called palcohol.”

Although she said some parents do drugs with their children.

Fishbeck said students who use drugs cuts across all demographics.

“It’s across all classes, especially for the pills,” she added.

Texas is one of the better states in terms of the amount of opioid overdoses and fatalities currently, Fishbeck said. “But all of the U.S. is expected to increase in their rates of opioid fatalities and deaths, and with that a lot of people are turning to heroin because it’s more accessible” and on average, it’s about a tenth of the price of opiates.

Fishbeck said the Permian Basin hasn’t seen an increase in heroin in schools, but Methadone clinics are “full to the brim” with patients seeking treatment.

For the United States, Fishbeck said, 75 percent of heroin addicts started off with prescription pills.

Education is always key — for youngsters and their parents, Fishbeck said.

“What I’m hearing is these days it really is it’s just cool to do drugs … You have to change the attitude of the students. They have to see the harsh outcomes of it. They need to hear the stories of the people who can’t get off of these drugs. They need to see how it tears families apart. They need to see how people can’t reach their dreams, or get the jobs that they need and how it leads to criminal records and how unhealthy and unsatisfying that is,” Fishbeck said.

Ector County Independent School District Police Department Lt. Jeff Daniels said if someone suspects a student of being on drugs and there is enough reasonable suspicion for an administrator to assume that person is on drugs or under the influence of any illegal narcotics, even prescription medications they shouldn’t be on, they can require that student to submit to a drug test.

“The parents have to take them off-site to a certified drug testing facility and return with the results,” Daniels said.

This way, the teachers and administrators can find out if what they’re seeing is accurate, Daniels said. Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said if parents refuse to take their student for drug testing, it’s an admission of guilt and the discipline code kicks in.

Daniels said the No. 1 thing ECISD police see most at schools is pain pills.

“Because if you’re turning a blind eye, you’re not giving that student a chance at rehab, at getting the education they need to get off that stuff, if that’s what they’re on. It’s not just about catching them, it’s about fixing the problem more than anything,” Daniels said.

The Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse’s Regional Needs Assessment says that according to the Texas Education Agency, Region 9 had 13,954 disciplined students, resulting in 220 expulsions.

Of those disciplined students, 1,070 of them were disciplined due to alcohol, tobacco, or drug violations. Most of these violations came from Ector County, resulting in 475 alcohol, tobacco, or drug violations, the assessment said.

“Nowadays they’re just trying so many different things. There’s the Tide Pods; then there was the potpourri. They’re eating and smoking everything, it seems like,” he added.

He said if someone tries something and it did something to them and they lived, everyone else wants to try it.

Aaron McKown, a sophomore at OCTECHS, and Skylar Hubbard, a sophomore at Permian High School, are members of the state Crime Stoppers Ambassadors Program and part of student Crime Stoppers at ECISD.

McKown said he can tell if someone is on drugs if they’re not acting like their normal selves.

Usually, Hubbard said the students will tell them what they’re on.

Daniels said the information on how drugs affect youngsters is online, but “it’s trying to recognize how their lives were changed” by winding up in jail, the hospital, or possibly dead.

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