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Wednesday Journal, November 27, 2019

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A YEAR-LONG SERIES FOCUSING ON COMMUNICATING OUR PRIORITIES FOR CHILDREN

Pot will be legal. But not for OPRF students

OPRF students work to tell peers worries of early use BY LACEY SIKORA

Contributing Reporter

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n January, recreational marijuana will be legal in Illinois, but don’t expect big changes in how Oak Park and River Forest High School handles possession of marijuana on campus. Lynda Parker, student services director, says of the current policy and anticipated reaction to the changing state law, “Students are arrested for possession of marijuana and given a suspension, social probation, and a referral to the Prevention/Wellness person. We will review our practices given the upcoming changes in the law to make sure they remain consistent with the law. Nevertheless, those changes in the law will not affect students of high school age because marijuana will remain illegal for youth under 21 years old.” Ginger Colamussi, OPRF’s prevention and wellness coordinator, says the most recent Illinois Youth Survey, conducted in 2018, sheds some light on how many students at OPRF use marijuana and what their attitudes are toward the drug. She looks at the percentage of students who report using marijuana in the past 30 days, a number she says is more indicative of regular usage than looking at students who report using in the past year. “Seventy-four percent of our students reported not using in the past 30 days. Clearly, that is by far the majority of our students. It is still a concern

GET THE WHEEL FACTS!: Members of HYPE (Healthy Youth Peer Educators) Jonah Black, Claire Devaud, Lauren Harris, Maia Sullivan, Parisa Gharavi and Lucas Vergara used October’s Red Ribbon Week to share facts on smoking marijuana, vaping and alcohol use with their fellow students.. that 26 percent are using, but it’s good that students are by and large making healthy choices,” said Colamussi. Colamussi says the 2018 survey shows that “most OPRF students do not view regular marijuana use as risky. Forty-nine percent of sophomores and 68 percent of seniors think there is

slight risk or no risk of harming yourself if you smoke marijuana once or twice per week.” The Centers for Disease Control reports those beliefs are wrong. The CDC Marijuana Fact Sheet reads, “the teen brain is actively developing and often will not be fully developed until

the mid-twenties. Marijuana use during this period may harm the developing teen brain.” The CDC cites studies that show the negative effects of marijuana use in adolescence include: decline in school performance, increased risk of mental health issues, impaired driving, and

the potential for addiction, reporting that 1 in 6 teens who repeatedly use marijuana can become addicted. When she meets with students who have any substance abuse infraction, Colamussi says she works to address the reason why students are using and

See STILL ILLEGAL on page B4


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Wednesday Journal, November 27, 2019

OAKPARK.COM | RIVERFOREST.COM

The facts about teens and vaping Twenty percent of teens vape. Less than most believe.

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BY LACEY SIKORA

Contributing Reporter

t’s an issue that is hard to ignore as new stories about the dangers of vaping and reports of vaping related illness are on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control estimated that in 2018, about 20 percent of high school students in the United States had used a vape in the past 30 days. At the recent Parent University held at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Nathan Biggs, coalition director of LEAD, a non-profit organization dedicated to parents and other adults in their promotion of healthy family relationships and the prevention of alcohol, drug use and other risky behavior by youth, spoke with parents about the vaping epidemic. Biggs emphasizes “High school and that when it comes middle school to vaping, as well as other substances students have like alcohol and stressors just like marijuana, the vast adults. It can be very majority of kids are not using. addicting to find “Nationally, we something that takes see that about 20 percent of kids vape, away stress for a little but most people while.” guess that number is 50 percent. That Nathan Biggs difference is where LEAD coalition director peer pressure comes EARLIER THE WORSE: “The younger you are when you start, the more likely you are to become addicted because the in. They’re hearing brain is still developing,” Nathan Biggs, coalition director for LEAD. (Stock photo) from their parents and the media that “High school and middle school stu- which coincided with schools expe- always ask [at presentations] ‘True or around for about four years, seems like everyone is doing it. It can lead to the dents have stressors just like adults,” riencing a massive increase in teens false: vaping is safer than smoking?’ a more pressing threat.” perception that the minority is not us- says Biggs. “It can be very addicting to vaping. Juul’s electronic cigarettes Before the news on vaping related illBiggs says research shows that the ing. The real message gets missed.” find something that takes away stress smelled like candy, and the vapes ness, almost everyone thought it was younger teens start using nicotine, the Biggs has been involved in youthfor a little while.” He also points out, were easy to hide. Biggs says that in safer. Now, no one seems to think that. more likely they will develop a nicotine led substance abuse prevention efaddiction. While he is in favor of confis“Substance abuse is a mental health the past few years, schools have be- The perception is changing.” forts for 18 years and says the LEAD As of early November, there were cating vapes from children, he also supissue. The younger you are when you come much better at detecting and program focuses on giving youth the start, the more likely you are to be- identifying vaping. During his talks 1,800 hospitalizations due to vaping- ports a holistic approach for helping skills necessary to not use illegal subwith parents and school staff, he tells related illness nation-wide, and Illinois teens manage addictions to nicotine. stances. Like smoking traditional ciga- come addicted because the brain is “You can’t punish people out of an them how to identify vapes and how led the nation in reported cases. Biggs still developing, and the older you get, rettes, vaping is not legal in Illinois for addiction. It’s really important to offer says he believes educating through to have tough conversations with kids the more skills you have to deal with those under the age of 21. Biggs sees a way out and a connection with menscare tactics rarely works with teenagabout vaping. the stress in your life. If you discover a tie between the nicotine delivered by tal health resources. It’s important to ers but says it is hard to argue with the In the past year, LEAD representaother, healthy coping mechanisms, vaping e-cigarettes and the abuse of tives have spoken to over 13,000 stu- facts on vaping. “With smoking, kids bring in the parents. Kids are using for substances like alcohol and marijuana you’re less likely to use.” Perceptions about vaping have dents at over 200 schools, and Biggs see that it takes a long time to develop a reason; they’re not using in isolation. by youth, in that all substance abuse by minors has a root cause beyond the rapidly evolved since Juul entered sees much more adult and youth con- an illness. Seeing teenagers in the hos- We need to help them find a way to fill the market in 2014, a time period cern about the dangers of vaping. “I pital today, when vaping has only been that void.” substance being abused.


Wednesday Journal, November 27, 2019

OAKPARK.COM | RIVERFOREST.COM

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Survey says? Vaping’s all the rage Most recent Illinois Youth Survey shows large minority of local youth are vaping BY MICHAEL ROMAIN Staff Reporter

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he results of the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey are in, but one of the most important aspects of the survey — which is administered every two years to middle school students and to high school sophomores and seniors throughout the state — has nothing to do with the numbers and everything about how the state has changed in two years since the last survey was completed. To understand the intricacies of navigating life as a young person and a parent who want to steer clear of underage drug and alcohol use, look at the asterisks. Underneath the chart labeled “2018 Substance Use Rates by Grade,” there’s this: “*New question added in 2018.” That new question polls students’ use of tobacco and vaping products both within the past year and within the past 30 days. The 2018 IYS, the most recent one conducted, is the first one to poll students about their vaping use. And while the survey was conducted before Illinois passed a law that will

HARD TO SPOT: Vaping devices are small and easy to disguise. (Stock photo) make recreational marijuana legal among adults 21 and over by Jan. 1, 2020, it does reflect the changing world of marijuana consumption. For instance, the 2016 survey question “When, if ever, did you first smoke marijuana” was changed to “When, if ever, did you first use marijuana?” in the 2018 survey. The change is appropriate, considering the dozens of ways that marijuana can be consumed beyond just smok-

high schools, but it’s seeping down into the middle schools,” she says. “Vapes can look like your pen or a flash drive. They’re very easily concealed. They’re odorless. You can also do the flavored vaping.” Logic, one of the more popular electronic cigarette brands, explains on its website that vaping “is the simple act of inhaling and exhaling vapor from an electronic cigarette or similar device, for example a vaporizer or vape

ing it — from mixing it into edibles to rubbing hemp oil on your skin to inserting the psychoactive cannabinoid THC into an electronic cigarette and vaping right there in class. And that latter scenario is not just hypothetical, says Megan Traficano, the youth services director for Oak Park and River Forest townships. “All the kids are vaping and what’s really scary is you kind of just think of that stuff as something involving the

pen. The actual device used for vaping is a small battery powered device that heats e-liquid into an inhalable vapor, similar to how steam is formed. E-liquids come in a variety of flavors and nicotine levels, including nicotinefree.” According to the 2018 IYS, 23 percent of Oak Park and River Forest High School juniors who volunteered to complete the survey reported having used any tobacco or vaping products within the past year. Twenty-two percent of OPRF juniors who were surveyed said they used E-cigarettes within the past 30 days. For OPRF seniors who took the survey, the rates were higher. Thirty-four percent admitted to using tobacco or vaping products within the past year while 31 percent admitted to using Ecigarettes within the past 30 days. Vaping products are also prevalent among middle school students attending public schools in Oak Park and River Forest, the 2018 IYS data shows. At Brooks, Julian and Roosevelt middle schools, tobacco and vaping products ranked only behind alcohol in popularity. At Brooks and Julian in Oak Park, 7 percent and 8 percent of students admitted to using tobacco or vaping products within the past year while 6 percent and 7 percent, respectively, admitted to using E-cigarettes within the past 30 days. At Roosevelt, 16 percent of students said they used tobacco or vaping products within the past year while 17 percent said they used the products in the last 30 days.

See LOCAL VAPING on page B4

Year by year: Local students self-report drug and alcohol use Brooks

Julian

Roosevelt

OPRF sophomores

OPRF seniors

Any substance used in the past year (%)

30

32

36

47

61

Alcohol used in the past year (%)

28

29

29

43

62

Any tobacco or vaping products used in the past year (%)

7

8

16

23

34

Marijuana used in the past year (%)

5

4

12

29

50

Cigarettes Used in the past Year (%)

2

1

0

3

7

Alcohol used in the past 30 days (%)

13

13

14

23

44

Any tobacco or vaping products used in the past 30 days (%)

8

7

17

25

35

Any E-cigarettes used in the past 30 days

6

NA

17

22

31

Marijuana used in the past 30 days

1

NA

8

20

38


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Wednesday Journal, November 27, 2019

OAKPARK.COM | RIVERFOREST.COM

help, saying, “I think that this workshop is great because almost everyone has been in a situation where you want to help someone but you may discusses methods of support to help not know how. This brings a simple but them stop. She also organizes school powerful procedure to helping someefforts at education and prevention one who may be struggling, whether it and says that one of the most effective be about drugs, mental health, school programs is a group of peer educators work, or so much more.” known as HYPE (healthy youth peer Beyond coordinating student-driveducators.) en programming, HYPE members Colamussi’s office serve as role modworks on producels and educators “We can help ing educational in the areas of drug media about the someone who and alcohol prevenfacts and risks of tion, suicide premay be struggling, marijuana and othvention and mental er substances. A whether it be about health issues. Comonthly newsletter lamussi says their drugs, mental known as The Stall role in reaching health, school work Street Journal is their peers is meandisplayed in school ingful, “Research or so much more.” bathroom stalls tells us that there Jonny Hugh and uses humor to is greater impact from peers talking convey health and Member of HYPE about these topics. wellness informaKids are more likely tion, including facts to relate to peers about substance and more likely to believe their peers.” abuse. She also publishes a new eDuring the school year, HYPE con- newsletter for parents called Healthy ducts roughly 100 workshops for OPRF Huskies, which focuses on mental classmates, and Colamussi, says one health initiatives as well as substance version, The Blunt Truth, is focused abuse education. on sharing the risks of marijuana and In November, OPRF hosted the pilot vaping. “It creates a large amount Parent University, aimed at covering of conversation in the classroom. It’s a number of topics touching on teen fact-based, not judgment-based. The substance use and mental health. CoHYPE members are equipping their lamussi says a second Parent Univerpeers with facts so they can make sity is planned for the spring and will healthy choices,” she says. HYPE students also run the annual include speakers on the topic of mariRed Ribbon week every October as juana legalization.

STILL ILLEGAL continued from page B1

well as National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week in April. Sarah Vivas, a sophomore HYPE member, says manning the tables for Red Ribbon Week was a great way to use interactive, fun games to disseminate facts about drug use. “Other students, who would walk by the table at lunch, would stop and do fun activities while also learning about drug awareness. “ Jonny Hugh, a sophomore HYPE member, thinks the workshop entitled Friends Helping Friends offers real-life

LOCAL VAPING continued from page B3 Most students reported getting the products from friends and older siblings. At Brooks, 41 percent of survey respondents said they got the products from friends while 18 percent said that an older sister or brother got the products for them. At Julian, the numbers were similar: 38 percent said a friend gave them the products while 14 percent reported getting the prod-

SENDING A MESSAGE: Sarah Vivas, Sarah Ungaretti, Hannah Henson, in the “Healthy Selfie” photobooth!

ucts from relatives. At Roosevelt, 57 percent reported getting the products from friends while 10 percent said older siblings gave them the products. At OPRF, the number of students who reportedly got the products from friends was similarly high — 59 percent among sophomores and 64 percent among seniors. Interestingly, the percentage of students reporting that they got the products from older siblings was higher among seniors (15 percent) than juniors (9 percent). Fifty-

seven percent of seniors and 30 percent of juniors reported purchasing the products at a gas station, store or mall. Traficano said that the rising popularity of vaping products combined with the coming legalization of recreational marijuana is presenting some very unique challenges for local substance abuse prevention experts, youth interventionists, law enforcement officials and others dedicated to preventing underage substance use and abuse. Case in point? The THC-infused Ecigarette, which can cause a high, is

nonetheless odorless and smokeless (hence potentially undetectable to a teacher). So what are the implications of much looser regulation, easy access and less stigma (unlike cigarettes, which most people know cause cancer and are odorous, serious concerns about the health hazards of vaping are just now making headlines.)? “It will take a lot of education — no matter what the drug is,” Traficano said. “They interact with everyone’s body differently.”

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