DennisBeaverAugust 16, 2014   •  By Dennis Beaver

If given the option of making an arrest or helping a family deal with a child’s involvement with drugs and the wrong people, to Narcotics Officer Frank Martinez of the Hanford Police Department there is no real choice at all.

“Dennis, we find elementary school children in possession of marijuana, and often, weapons. Drugs are an equal opportunity life-destroying evil, not confined to ‘those’ people who live in blighted neighborhoods.

“There are signs that parents need to look for — behavior which is a tip off that something is wrong, that their son or daughter might be using drugs. For cops it is the greatest feeling in the world when you can help to open their eyes – and that is literally where to begin, knowing what to look at, what to look for and how to interpret your findings.

Trust your sense of sight and smell

“As most parents know their kids–how they react and behave–seeing a material change is a fire alarm sounding,” Martinez observes.

“The type of behavioral and physiological changes depend on the drug. With opiates – typically prescription pain mediation–the most common signs include:

  • A diminished ability to be alert. Dilated pupils, wearing sunglasses at odd hours or indoors.
  • Zombie-like behavior, withdrawn, lethargic and nodding off as if about to fall asleep. This is referred to as ‘the nods.’
  • Acting as if they just want to be left alone all the time.

“However, someone on marijuana will radiate a sense of not just not caring. They will still have that fight in them, so that if you argue, they will respond unlike opiates, where they are so withdrawn that they just will usually not respond or engage in the argument.

“Meth–which is a powerful stimulant–has a constellation of symptoms including inability to sleep, staying up for days on end, fidgeting, scratching, picking at their skin, extreme carelessness about appearance, loss of interest in school or regular activities, and aggressive behavior. It is a horrible drug which destroys lives unless help comes quickly.

“All of these drugs have different smells, and typically a kid high on weed will have a telltale smell. Marijuana, heroin and meth have their own distinct odors, ranging from vinegar to nail polish remover.

“Once you have experienced the odor of burnt or unburnt marijuana you’ll know. Drug enforcement officers will tell you that even before a little kiss and hug from your spouse when coming home, if you’ve been at a marijuana grow earlier that day, standing orders from the Home Commander are to ‘Jump into the shower, now!’ Martinez observes with a broad smile.

Theft from the home strongest indicator – Begin a dialogue

“Typically kids in school do not have a job, and if they have developed a real habit, they need money, and consequently theft from the home is the #1 indicator of drug use with a juvenile. Add to that coming home with the behavior of someone who just doesn’t care – these are strong signs that drugs are involved and requires investigation.

“At this stage, you absolutely must establish a dialogue,” Martinez stresses. “You need to know what is going on with your child and it is up to you to start that dialogue. Some children will not be comfortable in talking with parents but might with a mental health professional. My point is that dialogue is simply critical–these are potential life threatening issues.

“Tell them what you are seeing. It must be made clear that the behavior is simply unacceptable, that you are concerned. For example:

  • These are my observations: you are stealing from the house, you are coming home late, you are hanging around with very suspicious people. You come home smelling like weed and I think you are smoking marijuana.
  • I want to know why. Is there a problem? Is there something going on? I am very disappointed that you are using marijuana (alcohol, drugs, etc.)
  • I am so disappointed and feel betrayed by your deception , seeing you come home drunk and especially when the police show up at our house. Do you have a problem, or can you admit to having one?

“Success will in part depend upon getting a buy-in from your child. You can ease that process by acknowledging, ‘As a kid, I also made mistakes, and know that I am not perfect – no one is. Together we can move forward. I need your help.’

“Remember,” cautions Martinez, “In dealing with children–of all ages–they will minimize what the truth actually is. They may tell you half-truths, not the whole truth.”

The Hanford Narcotic Officer knows of only one way for a child or an adult to change course. Next time we’ll tell you what it is.


Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.



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