Sending our children back to school each year is normally a happy time, full of optimism and anticipation for a year of personal and academic growth. This year, in the flurry of preparing our youngsters for their new years, Arizona parents might have missed two shocking news items that appeared in The Arizona Republic in August, each with dire warnings about the increased dangers our children could be facing.


The first siren blast came from the Center for Addiction Studies and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.  Every year, CASA publishes a national, back to school assessment of drugs use and attitudes of teens and parents.  This year’s results were particularly stunning: More than 27% of teens 12 to 17 reports that their schools are both drug and gang infested, and thirty percent of 12 and 13 year olds report that drugs are stored, used and sold in their schools, a 29% increase over last year. 


The study cites that compared with 12 and 13 year olds in drug free school, teens in drug infested schools are thirty-three times more likely to smoke cigarettes, seven times more likely to have a friend of classmate who has used acid, ecstasy, meth or heroin, five times likelier to have a friend of classmate who abuses prescription drugs, and almost three times likelier to abuse alcohol.  The report also found that 39% of 12 and 13 year olds in drug infested schools could get alcohol in a day or less, and 24% said they could get marijuana in day or less.  When asked where they would obtain the marijuana, 76% said from a friend or classmate, and 30% said that their parents knew the person supplying the marijuana.


The trajectory of drug use among our children is a serious indictment of the support systems that should be working to keep our children drug free, and it’s time to reclaim our authority as parents, teachers, school administrators and peace officers to reverse these alarming trends.  While we certainly don’t want more children at younger ages coming into contact with the juvenile justice system, we do need to work together to tighten the bonds that build a safe environments for our children. The study measured the effect of family ties on the drug use of 12 and 13 year olds, and found that children with weak family ties were four times likelier to smoke cigarettes and marijuana, three times likelier to drink alcohol and twice as likely to have a friend or classmate who used prescription drugs, ecstasy, meth or heroin.  The measures of family ties used by the study were open communication, frequent shared meals and parents knowing their children’s friends and the parents of their friends. Another significant finding  revealed a wide gap between public schools and private or religious schools – 46% of public school students 12 to 17 reported that there were gangs in their school compared with 2% of teens attending private and religious schools. To read the full report, please visit www.casacolumbia.org.


 The second devastating news story last month revealed a terrible truth – that heroin is becoming a drug of choice for Arizona teens because of its wide availability and low cost.  The story printed in The Arizona Republic on August 18 reported an undercover heroin bust by Tempe police officers of 40 individuals, most between the ages of 19 and 25.   Heroin is cheaper than prescription pain medications, and is preferred by many because it is easier to obtain. Problematic for parents is the fact that heroin use is difficult to detect since it creates a “normal” state in the user; it’s the absence of heroin, or withdrawal symptoms that are obvious.  Random drug testing is the best way to know if your teen is experimenting with or addicted to opiates of any kind.  For more information about heroin use in teens, visit www.teendrugabuse.org


Your Family & The Law is written by Claudia Gilburd, founder of Teen Law School, Inc. as a public service to the friends and clients of Davis/Miles Law Firm.   For more information about Teen Law School and its seminars for parents and teens, please write to info@teenlawschool.com.  The legal consequences of drug and gang related charges can be devastating to minors and their families.  The Criminal Law attorneys at Davis/Miles Law Firm can provide rigorous defense and rights protection in even the most serious cases.  Please call us today if you or your family members are in need of legal counsel.