Misconceptions regarding use abound

Samantha Magin, Reporter

Addiction has consumed the mind and body of students, according to recent survey results.

The Healthy Youth Survey says 70 percent of seniors have tried alcohol and believe there is a low risk of harm trying marijuana once or twice.

Forty-two percent abuse marijuana frequently. Numbers have gone up this past year for marijuana, alcohol and heroin use at school, according to Puyallup Police Officer Mark Ketter.

Nonetheless, catching students has decreased at school says Ketter. He has been working at PHS for three years.

“This year has actually been the slowest year for catching people. I’m not seeing the numbers I used to,” Ketter said. “Compared to my numbers [of arrests] we’re at about half. I’m still getting about two or three if not more a month but compared to last year, I was getting at least one per day.”

This year there have been about 150 arrests where last year and previous years the numbers were doubled, if not almost tripled, Ketter says.

The classes that come in and out all have a different amount of drug abusers, according to Principal Jason Smith.

“I think [drugs are] something that affects our whole entire student body,” Smith said. “It’s our largest problem we have.”

Pills have gone down but the heroin has gone up, according Ketter.

“I have seen a big increase [in heroin use] in the last three years,” Ketter said. “That’s probably the one [drug] I’ve seen the biggest increase in.”

Heroin is a much more dangerous, addictive alternative than pills or marijuana, according to Ketter.

Not only has heroin usage risen but students using marijuana has also increased. This past year, marijuana has surpassed alcohol for the first time. Alcohol has always been the highest drug teenagers used in Pierce County—until now.

Drug and Alcohol Counselor Sharon Cleary shows concern for the students using.

“The kids that are using marijuana are impacted by memory and their learning. I have more kids today that come in and tell me they can’t remember things like they used to,” Cleary said. “They definitely aren’t learning the same especially those that are up to a daily marijuana use. It’s harder for them to learn in the classroom.”

Consequently if caught with drugs, alcohol or under the influence, the student will be immediately suspended. The student will be arrested by Officer Ketter or another police officer if they have possession of any drugs on them.

However students are allowed to come back at a reduced amount of suspension if they complete the drug and alcohol courses recommended by Cleary.

“It is okay to talk to someone,” Cleary said.

There are about 1,500 students at PHS, only 200 of them are on Cleary’s caseload. Alcohol and marijuana are the two drugs that Cleary sees students do most often.

“Most kids don’t do it but the perception is most kids do,” Cleary said.

One out of 13 students is abusing drugs in PHS, according to Cleary. Students who refer other student abusers are how the abusers become clean.

“Some students don’t want to narc on somebody but if you care about your friend you’re helping them,” Smith said.

According to Assistant Principal Char Krause, young adults don’t often realize it’s okay to talk to the administrators or teachers here. They will not be in trouble. Finding trust in an administrator, teacher or friend is important for recovery.

“I never force anyone to meet with me,” Cleary said.

If any student goes to an administrator they don’t have to call parents or guardians. It’s a confidential meeting.

Anyone who is in need of help or someone to talk to have counselors and other authority figures to go to. Cleary’s, as well as other authority figures, doors are always open.