A Drug Enforcement Administration representative spoke at the Feb. 25 Family Night Out at Dakota High School. The theme of the night was “Teen drug trends: alcohol, marijuana and vaping.” Pictured is a Family Night Out event from earlier this school year.

A Drug Enforcement Administration representative spoke at the Feb. 25 Family Night Out at Dakota High School. The theme of the night was “Teen drug trends: alcohol, marijuana and vaping.” Pictured is a Family Night Out event from earlier this school year.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Substance abuse discussed at Family Night Out at Dakota High School

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published March 4, 2020

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The theme of the night was “Teen drug trends: alcohol, marijuana and vaping.”

Family Night Out at Dakota High School on Feb. 25 was hosted by Dakota’s Coalition Teen Council, a division of the Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth & Families.

Rich Isaacson, a community outreach specialist for the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, was the featured speaker.

“I talked about some national and state trends when it comes to substance use,” he said.

Isaacson worked as a special agent with the DEA for 26 years, retiring in 2017. He now works in a contracting capacity with community outreach.

What he hopes parents took away from the outing was that they understand it’s important to have conversations with their children about substance use.

In addition to talking about the substances most prevalent in society, like vaping and marijuana, he also spoke about the opioid epidemic and the increase in stimulant abuse.

“Prescription drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, and how sometimes that contributes to this stimulant issue with abuse of cocaine and methamphetamine,” Isaacson said. “We’re concerned with much of the cocaine being sold in Michigan, which is now being tainted with fentanyl, a really powerful synthetic opioid.”

Isaacson said the DEA tries to raise awareness of many issues and goes around speaking with students, community coalition groups, and even the business community and graduate-level university programs.      

“In law enforcement, we recognize we have such a large substance use problem in this country that just attacking the supply alone is not going to do all that much,” he said. “We need to combine law enforcement with drug prevention and education.”

Dakota High School Student Assistance Specialist Stephanie Lange said the coalition’s first Family Night Out in November focused more on education and resources about vaping.

February’s outing, she said, put the spotlight on teen substance trends over the past 10 years.

“It was more alcohol, marijuana and other drugs,” she said. “We don’t want parents to forget there’s a lot of things that put our kids at risk.”

While many people may have a lower perception of risks with certain substances, Isaacson said that when he speaks with young people, he focuses on drugs they may have that perception of.

“Research shows that if we have a low perception of risk for a drug, we’re more likely to experiment with it,” he said.

One statistic he shared with the group is that America still loses 15,000 people a year to heroin overdose-related deaths.

“Not as many people know that over the last couple years, we have lost just as many to cocaine- related overdose deaths,” Isaacson added.      

When it comes to prescription overdose deaths from substances like benzodiazepine, a depressant, he said there were over 10,000 in 2018.    

For vaping education, Isaacson shared how dramatic the increase has been in youths who vape.

He presented a statistic from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which shows that last month vaping of THC, the lead ingredient in marijuana, among high school seniors between 2018 and 2019 increased from 7.5% to 14%.

When asked why he thinks there is a societal effort to steer youths away from vaping, while at the same time marijuana is becoming widely accepted, he said vaping to him means marijuana use.

“The fastest-growing rate people are consuming marijuana is through consuming hash oil,” Isaacson said. “There’s such misinformation in our society with marijuana use right now. Young people see so many relatively positive messages about marijuana, and now with the marijuana industry, there’s so much money in that. I don’t shy away when I’m speaking about the negative effects of marijuana use. It’s not a benign substance.”   

Lange said Family Night Out started in 2001 as an opportunity to bring people together.

She added that February’s event was attended by students from the National Honor Society, the Key Club, and the Coalition Teen Council from Dakota and Chippewa Valley High School.     

Earlier this school year, another Family Night Out was held at Dakota, focusing on vaping awareness. Students then learned about the latest trends, news and updates regarding the growing youth epidemic.

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