“We needed to get the truth out about these deadly substances to parents and their children,” said Mary Baum, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Prevention Coordinator for Social Advocates for Youth (SAY San Diego), which together with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center (The Center), and South Bay Community Services (SBCS), conducted the education campaign on Ecstasy, Methamphetamine, GHB, Ketamine, Rohypnol, and LSD.
“We accomplished our goal,” added Baum, during a news event today to announce the results of the “Exposing the Rave” campaign. She was joined by representatives from the other two agencies, parents, and youth, who gathered at a park in City Heights, where the campaign kicked off in October 2003.
During the year-long effort, prevention specialists from the three participating organizations conducted nearly 100 presentations and trainings at middle schools, high schools, teen recovery centers, colleges and universities in San Diego and the South Bay area. Trainings and presentations were also conducted in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community, as well as several community organizations, and community and parent centers.
Overall, approximately 3,000 youth, parents and professionals were reached through the educational trainings and outreach. Thousands more learned about the dangerous consequences of using club drugs through four news events that generated extensive media coverage and were supported by the San Diego Club Drug Task Force, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Association, the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, San Dieguito Alliance for a Drug-Free Youth, Por la Vida, and medical experts from Scripps Mercy Hospital. Furthermore, at least 13 high schools and 18 agencies are using Club Drug program materials.
“Many students and parents did not know anything about club drugs and those who did had only heard about the pleasurable effects,” said Jennifer Wheeler, Prevention Specialist with Social Advocates for Youth-San Diego who conducted the presentations and trainings in the San Diego region. “Parents were in the dark about club drugs, especially the dangers. Kids and parents should know that club drugs are not safe. People are dying,” added Wheeler.
What students and parents did not know is that Ecstasy can cause hyperthermia, loss of coordination, dizziness, fainting, depression, confusion, and sleep disorders. They are unaware that GHB causes drowsiness, nausea/vomiting, loss of consciousness, seizures, coma, and even death.
They should also know that methamphetamine causes aggression, violence, psychotic behavior, memory loss and cardiac and neurological damage; that Ketamine, when smoked or snorted causes vomiting, convulsions, paranoia, and aggressive/violent behavior.
They should be aware that Rohypnol is considered a date rape drug that causes extreme anxiety, tension, numbness, tingling of the extremities, loss of identity, hallucinations, delirium, convulsions, shock, and cardiovascular collapse, and can be easily obtained south of the border. They should be educated with the fact that LSD generates altered states of perception, causes nausea/chronic mental disorders and increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
That’s why Wheeler, Xavier Martinez, from SBCS, and Ben Abels, from The Center, went to middle schools, high schools, community and recovery centers armed with interactive materials and informational brochures to expose the truth about these deadly substances.
“Parents were always interested in finding more about the paraphernalia and what the items are used for,” said Sheila Salonius, Teen Center Director of Programs for SBCS. SBCS’s presentations to parents included a board full of paraphernalia commonly associated with club drug use.
Their efforts, combined with other prevention campaigns, seem to be having positive results.
According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Ecstasy use, for example, declined from 11 to 9 percent in 2003. The 2003 Monitoring the Future Study also revealed that LSD used dropped 43 percent (from 6.6 % to 3.7%).
This downward trend, prevention experts say, is due to the fact that when perception of risk goes up, consumption goes down.
The problem in the San Diego region is especially acute given the prevalence of drugs and the proximity to Mexico, where these substancesespecially Ketamine, GHB, and Rohypnolcan be easily obtained.
Public health officials are convinced the popularity of club drugs is due to the fact that the dangers of these drugs are not fully appreciated, much like in the ‘70s and ‘80s with cocaine. By the time the full dangers of cocaine were known, it was too late. People experienced serious problems with the drug.
In 2002, 89 people in San Diego died as a result of using club drugs. Furthermore, a total of 717 more ended up in emergency rooms in hospitals throughout San Diego County.
And while the “Exposing the Rave” campaign has now come to an end, young people are extremely pleased that it took place. A group of students from Hoover High school decided to participate in the campaign’s final news event to send young people one final message; especially before the holidays when consumption of club drugs tends to go up.
“Teens need to know that club drugs are not harmless. They think nothing bad is going to happen to them, but they are wrong,” said Victoria Olango, an 11th grader at Hoover High School, who’s been trained to do club drug presentations and now serves as mentor for her school. “I encourage young people to make the right choice and don’t use drugs. Enjoy the holidays with family and friends.”
For additional information on club drugs and the “Exposing the Rave” campaign, visit www.midcitycan.org or call (619) 283-9624.