Parents attending the drug workshop at Hannibal High School got a dose of reality Tuesday evening.

Captain Patti Talbert of the North East Missouri Drug Task Force displayed samples of illegal drugs, paraphernalia, and stressed the importance of parental involvement in children’s lives.

Talbert says communicating the dangers of drugs in an age-appropriate way should happen by the time children reach middle school .  Hannibal Public Schools incorporate the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in the 5th Grade.

Talbert says parents should keep the lines of communication open while keeping an eye out for signs of drug use.  Parents should have access to children’s cell phones, e-mails, backpacks and bedrooms.

Signs of drug use are sometimes no further than the trash can—Talbert says marijuana seeds and stems, and remnants of a joint are some obvious signs. Other items to be on the lookout for include pieces of a Brillo Pad used to hold crack cocaine in a pipe, and aluminum foil rolled up for use as a drug pipe. Something as innocent looking as a plastic soda bottle could contain a hidden compartment concealing drugs behind the label.  The chemicals inside instant ice packs are sometimes used in meth production.

While meth production in the area seems seems to be declining, meth use continues to be a problem.  Talbert says one reason is conviction for meth production is a more severe Class B Felony, while meth use is a Class C Felony.  A lot of the meth is now brought in from the Kansas City area, and more is also arriving from the country of Mexico.

Talbert does not subscribe to the theory that marijuana is not addictive and does not lead to other drug use.  She cites confessions of drug users she has crossed paths with as proof.  She has also seen examples of memory loss from smoking pot.

Synthetic marijuana and bath salts pose as much or more danger as the real thing.  Talbert says the chemical content of these drugs can vary.  Unlike marijuana, they are actually a stimulant.  Regulating substances with various chemicals (such as K2--a brand of synthetic marijuana) has been a legal challenge.  Hannibal has passed an ordinance banning the sale of the substances. Missouri has also passed legislation but is still working on tightening up the law.

Heroin use has also spread to northeast Missouri. Talbert says it gained popularity in larger areas such as St. Louis but has spread to the smaller communities.  Crack cocaine is also in the area, but is more commonly used by older adults.

One of the adults in attendance brought up the issue of prescription drug abuse.  Talbert says that is also an ongoing problem, and the source is sometimes as close as home--frequently someone misuses meds prescribed for another family member.

Talbert says parents should feel free to call the NEMO Task Force if they suspect their child is using illegal drugs.  She says minor children would usually be referred to juvenile authorities if a problem is discovered.  The Northeast Missouri Drug Task Force can be reached at 573-221-5200.