DEA official: `We bore kids to death
A Drug Enforcement Administration official began a local presentation Friday morning by admitting there wasn’t much he could do to halt the misuse of both illegal and legal drugs.
“The problem with us is that we go into the schools or go into the workplace and try to scare kids into not using drugs, and we bore them to death,” said Omar Aleman, standing before a group of concerned parents at Aspen High School.
Aleman, a 30-year veteran of the DEA, said the problem lies in a child’s perception of him – kids don’t see him as a credible speaker because of his lack of drug abuse experience. Aside from a beer or two in his teens, Aleman said he has shied away from drug use, even tobacco.
Instead of using adults as motivators, student leaders should be tapped as role models for their peers.
“In the end, the impact doesn’t come from me. It comes from the kids we’re instructing,” he said. “The whole idea is `teach the teacher.'”
Aleman makes annual visits to the Aspen School District and has become a great benefit to students and their parents because of his brutal honesty, AHS Principal Kendall Evans said.
“He talks a little bit about the failure of drug policy in the United States,” Evans said. “He talks to parents about what their roles are and what their responsibilities are.”
One responsibility is to find as much information as possible on what kinds of drugs are available to children, Aleman said. The Internet has become a favorite research tool, allowing DEA agents to see what “party drugs” have gained popularity in recent years and the many dangerous combinations these drugs can make.
Parents should always be concerned with illegal drugs but should also focus their attention on the misuse of prescription medicine. Prozac, Ritalin, Viagra and prescription painkillers are just some of the medicines that have become popular as study aids and party drugs, and they can be just as dangerous as their illegal counterparts when abused.
“My concern isn’t so much the illegal stuff, but the stuff you can get prescriptions for,” Aleman said.
Aspen’s tourist-filled “party atmosphere” doesn’t help the community’s fight against illegal activity, either.
“I’m not saying any of you are doing it – I’m just saying you’re rubbing elbows with people who do,” Aleman said. “My concern is this: You cannot continue to blame the children unless you recognize the responsibility is in your community.”
Forming a drug coalition of sorts, made up of concerned parents who could examine abuse in Aspen, could be an important step in stopping the flow of drugs through schools, Aleman said.
He said that no matter how much children are exposed to drug education in the classroom, parents should have a major role in deterring abuse. The low attendance at Friday’s meeting is an indication that some parents don’t recognize how much of a problem drugs are in the community, he said.
“The biggest detriment to stopping drug abuse in this country is this, and this, and this,” Aleman said, gesturing toward the empty chairs throughout the auditorium. “These are people in Aspen who truly believe we don’t have a drug problem in this community.
“The biggest problem in this whole issue is apathy.”
Evans agreed that a parent’s knowledge of Aspen’s drug use would aid schools in their attempts to deter users.
“The better educated the parents are, the better off we are,” he said.
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