by Karie Partington
Public Affairs Manager
Collier County Sheriff’s Office
When it comes to the drug of choice among young people in Collier County, marijuana holds the top spot, according to Collier County Sheriff ’s Office Lt. John Poling. “We see other things, but marijuana is what we’re seeing the most among young people,” said Poling, who is assigned to the agency’s Vice and Narcotics Bureau.
While on the surface marijuana may seem less sinister than other drugs that are available, the marijuana teens are using today is several times stronger than the marijuana their parents may have smoked a generation ago. Cultivation methods that allow growers to control climate, water and soil levels have dramatically improved production and strength.
Short-term effects of marijuana include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch), trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor coordination, increased heart rate, and anxiety.
These effects are even greater when other drugs are mixed with it. A user may also experience dry mouth and throat.
In the long term, marijuana smoke contains some of the same cancercausing compounds as tobacco, sometimes in higher concentrations.
Poling said Collier County is also seeing an uptick in a new drug that’s appealing to teens. It’s a compound called 25I-NBOMe and has the street names of 25I, or N-Bomb.
“It comes on sheets of paper like LSD and it has similar effects,” he said.
The drug was named a Schedule I controlled substance in October by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It is ingested by snorting it in powdered form, injecting it or lacing food with it, according to a DEA report. The drug and its close relatives like 25C-NBOMe have been involved in at least 14 deaths nationwide, according to the DEA.
In Collier County, first responders have encountered at least two and possibly as many as six overdoses that they believe involved 25I. Most of the patients were between 16 and 19 years old.
“Social media helps these drugs spread,” Poling said. “Kids are always looking to find the next high. Everything is at their fingertips on the computer.”
That’s why one of the keys to addressing drugs is prevention, and that’s where CCSO’s Youth Relations Bureau comes in.
Starting with the Jr. Deputy Club in the fourth grade and the D.A.R.E. curriculum in fifth grade, deputies teach students about making good decisions and avoiding peer pressure. In middle and high school, deputies provide presentations throughout the year that teach students the harm that drugs can do. Antidrug use PSAs produced by CCSO play during the morning announcements. In addition, Youth Relations deputies interact with students throughout the day.
“We are there to educate and also build relationships and trust,” said Lt. Tony Repicky of the agency’s Youth Relations Bureau. “The way we look at it, as long as we can impact one student we are successful.”