Warning for Parents: Drug Threat is Real

Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Matejka and Detective Shane Maloney likely spurred some nightmares Monday night, and a La Cañada High School sophomore gave them additional reason to fear, and hope.
A crowd of close to 100 — most of them parents — filled Lanterman Auditorium for an eye-opening seminar exploring local drug trends. Those in attendance learned what type of drugs are gaining traction with teens, what clues might indicate that a child is engaged in drug use and, also, what recourse a family might have to address drug- and alcohol-related problems.
It was a sobering way to spend an evening.
“It’s so scary,” said a single mom of three kids ages 21, 17 and 14, who asked not to be named. “But I don’t want to be surprised. I don’t want to be the last one to know what’s in my girl’s backpack.”
In a presentation that was part PowerPoint and part show-and-tell, Matejka and Maloney gave pointers and passed around drug paraphernalia ranging from bongs to meth pipes (the latter of which, they warned, are often for sale at convenience stores).
They also elicited uncomfortable murmurs from the crowd during a brief video that showed the rapid meltdown of a teenage boy experiencing a bad trip on Spice, a nickname for synthetic marijuana.
They informed parents that if their child seemed to be collecting candles or incense, or carrying around eye drops, they might want to check for green substance on the seats of their cars.
Matejka — who is a regular presence on the LCHS campus as a sheriff’s liaison — mentioned that marijuana today is as much as 20% more potent than it was in the 1960s and that studies have shown it can cost a user as many as eight IQ points.
The deputies talked about “Ivy League Drugs,” those prescription medications that often are easily ascertained. “If you’re finding little pieces of aluminum foil with black lines on it, [they’re smoking OxyContin],” Matejka said, suggesting that people dispose of their unused prescription medication at the CV Sheriff’s station.
He also addressed raves, and asked parents to take heed if they see a child with a baby’s pacifier, which is used, he said, to counter the involuntary gnashing of teeth that happens when someone is on ecstasy or related “club drugs.” Other signs, he said: vapor rub and fuzzy masks, colorful bracelets and glow sticks.
Cocaine use, Matejka cautioned, is on the rise.
Vincent Dioguardi, 15, stood to speak, supporting that claim. He said he first smoked marijuana at the age of 11 and started using cocaine at 13. He said he was not only using drugs but selling them.
That stopped, he said, when his parents caught him smoking marijuana in their basement in the early morning hours about a half-year ago, at which time they helped him seek help in a program called Action Family Counseling.
“Everything that the officers come and tell you about how marijuana is a gateway drug is very true,” said Dioguardi, who attended St. Francis High School as a freshman before transferring back to LCHS this school year. “I tried cocaine for the first time … and I fell in love with cocaine, which is terrible to say, but it’s the truth.
“My grades started slipping and everything got out of hand. The lies I would tell my parents, all that kept growing, everything kept going downhill quickly … I couldn’t see what it was doing to my family. It didn’t click in my mind that it was hurting them more than me.
“I’m thankful for that day [his parents caught him]. I thank God every day that day happened, because if that didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be standing here right now.”
“They found my backpack,” continued Dioguardi, who said he had 12 grams of marijuana inside it. “But the thing that probably saved my life was them going through my phone. Now I know you guys are all going to check your kids’ phones, because if they hadn’t checked that, they wouldn’t have found out about me dealing.
“And then I looked at my mom: ‘Yes, and I have an issue, I can’t help myself anymore.’”
Fortunately for Dioguardi, he’s taken to the treatment at Action Family Counseling. He’s also surrounded himself with a new “friend group” at his new church.
But his testimony was a shock to many parents in the audience, even those with elementary-school-aged children.
“I can’t believe he was [11] years old,” LCF’s Deborah Bell said. “I almost didn’t come. I have a 7-year-old. I thought, ‘Do I really need to go?’ And my husband, he said, ‘Yeah, you need to go.’ And it was just heartbreaking to hear a young kid get up there and say he was so young. Really powerful.”

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