Kansas Highway Patrol Technical Trooper Carson Nuss, assisted by Newton Police Department Officer Charles Shell, gave the first "Improving Parents' Education on Drugs" (IMPEDE) program at the Newton High School Auditorium on Monday evening.
"As of probably the last month, within this school district, I have noticed a big drug usage problem," Shell said.
As Drug Recognition Experts, Nuss and Shell are familiar with the seven main categories of drugs — central nervous system depressants, central nervous system stimulants, hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, inhalants and cannabis — and keep up with global trends in illegal drugs.
"Whatever you see around the nation; whatever you see around the world is going to hit here," Nuss said.
Nuss warned of over-the-counter supplements and medications that people can use to get high. Plants that are commonly grown, like catnip and moonflowers, can give those who smoke or ingest it a hallucinogenic high.
Showing images of different drugs along with videos of their effects on users, Nuss cautioned the audience to be aware of physical symptoms of drug use, from excessive sweating to bloodshot eyes to an inability to concentrate or answer questions.
"It starts with that first parent seeing a single sign or symptom and they start asking questions," Nuss said. "...The more you know, the better off you are."
Nuss also spoke about the culture surrounding drug users, from their music choices to the logos often found on their clothing.
"People who use advertise — you just have to get into what it's all about," Nuss said.
Parents should know what common drug paraphernalia items, like coke spoons, glass pipes, etc., look like.
"You have to look at little things; they mean a lot," Nuss said.
A teenager who chooses to use nicotine or alcohol can graduate to illegal drug use.
"It always starts somewhere (with) a gateway drug," Nuss noted. "...No matter what that starting point is, the problem is that sometimes it leads to drug addiction."
Recognizing a teenager is experimenting with drugs gives parents the chance to put up hurdles to deter them from decades of addiction they can't control, Nuss said.
"That simple hurdle can be you, as a parent, recognizing something that's not right," Nuss said.