Youth are targets of drug war
Published by BYU – Monday 21 April, 2003
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is attempting to take the rave out of Utah’s rave scene. Shurtleff has released a multi-media CD called “Club Drugs – Nothing to Rave About,” in an effort to teach law enforcement officers and parents of the signs and dangers of the club drug culture across the state.
Utah’s drug culture has snatched the Latter-day Saint motto CTR and morphed it from “Choose The Right” to “Choose To Rave.”
Many in Utah Attorney General’s office have concluded that Latter-day Saint youth are becoming the target of a local drug war ranging from club drugs to over-the-counter medications.
“Two years ago we noticed that the jewelry that the kids wear featured things like ‘PLUR’, which is the rave motto – peace, love, unity, and respect,” said Tracey Tabet, community relations director in the Utah Attorney General’s office.
Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Attorney General’s office added that the Choose to Rave catch phrase has also been seen on jewelry.
Dealers of many of the rave oriented drugs in the state are cashing in on the state’s relatively wealthy LDS youth.
“They (rave organizers) really preach inclusion and acceptance, so for a young person who is looking for a place to fit in, they will find it there,” Tabet said. “Ecstasy creates a tremendous euphoria where you love everything and everybody. So you’ll see kids who would never ever fraternize with each other in the hallways, hanging out at a rave, just because of the environment the drugs create.”
Murphy said many of the drug dealers target LDS youth because the kids “look at these drugs and they think, ‘well, they’re not tobacco, you don’t smoke them, you don’t snort them up your nose, and you don’t shoot them up your arm’. They try to pass them off as being vitamins.”
Murphy added, “A lot of them justify it. Many of them don’t consider them real drugs.”
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have long clarified that the Word of Wisdom includes dangerous drugs. President Spencer W. Kimball re-emphasized this standard in a letter to the Church in 1981. President Gordon B. Hinckley has spoken specifically on the topic of drugs and even specified rave parties as “a dead end.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve spoke out against the rave culture two years ago in the Church’s General Conference.
“Ecstasy should read misery; Rave is really a mournful mutter emanating from sensuality gone amok. For instance, some participants foolishly think a little lewd dancing is harmless. These individuals do not ‘sin ignorantly.’ By imitating and by underestimating the enemy, they end up compromising themselves, while confusing and disappointing their friends!”
Though the church is opposed to club drugs, dealers continue to target LDS youth by rationalizing these drugs into no more than herbal enhancers and energy drinks like Red Bull.
“The pill really eases the anxiety for first time users verses handing them a joint or a cigarette because so many of these kids are LDS and have always been raised to see smoking as particularly repugnant,” Tabet said. “One problem is that these club drugs are gateway drugs that seem very harmless at first, although they are definitely not.”
The Attorney General’s office reported one young girl who went from using ecstasy to using methamphetamine and cocaine within six months.
Dr. Bruce Woolley of BYU’s Physiology and Developmental Biology Department said ecstasy is probably the most popular club drug in Utah.
“It (ecstasy) is wildly popular with young, educated Caucasian men, which describes a vast majority of the state,” said Barry Jamison of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
But other drugs are quickly establishing a nasty reputation in the state as well. GHB, one of the more common date rape drugs, is becoming a serious problem.
Woolley said it, like all synesthetic drugs, creates a dream like state, but is more serious because of its deadly toxology.
GHB incapacitates its users and frequently causes amnesia as well as major damage to the central nervous system. Rohypnol, nitrous oxide, and ketamine, which is actually an animal tranquilizer, are also gaining popularity in Utah, said Sgt. Guy of the Utah County Drug Task Force.
“Both GHB and Rohypnol have a tendency to relax the gag reflex, so if someone wants to vomit and they are laying on their back they could drown in their own vomit,” Woolley said.
Although most people typically pay for these drugs, it is not uncommon for attractive young woman to get their drugs for free.
“Date rape is a risk that is always present at these parties. Whether you ingest the drug accidentally because someone slipped it into your drink or because you try it just for the first time, or you are just a regular recreational user, you are putting yourself at risk for serious sexual assault,” Tabet said.
Last week, the Partnership for a Drug free America released a report that kids who had attended a rave are seven times more likely to try ecstasy.
Besides the club drugs, however, officials at the Attorney General’s office stressed that not going to raves does not protect children from the drug scene.
One growing problem in Utah is the abuse of pain suppressants like OxiContin, which mimics the effects of heroine and stays in the body for a long time.
“Pharmacies across the state have begun posting signs saying that they don’t have OxiContin to avoid being burglarized,” Jamison said.
Tabet said other common over-the-counter drugs are also becoming a problem in utah.
“Over-the-counter cold medications like Robitussin and Coricidin are being taken in doses of 20- 30 pills at a time, and I don’t think parents have a clue. Coricidin is just a few bucks in the grocery store. Kids have described the sensation as feeling like you’re walking through Jell-o,” Tabet said.