With the opioid crisis continuing both statewide and nationally, it's more important than ever for parents, teachers and other adults to be aware of drugs that minors may be exposed to, according to Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin's Office.
Sheriff's office representatives spoke to a crowd of about 40 parents and community members Feb. 22 at Bexley High School about the variety of drugs that have become prevalent in Ohio and the danger they pose, especially to young people. The presentation, Operation Street Smart, was sponsored by the Bexley Police Department Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.
From 2015-16, fatal opioid overdoses in Ohio increased from 3,050 to 4,050 -- a 32.8 spike, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
"We are No. 1 when it comes to the opioid deaths, Ohio is," Sgt. Michael Powell said. "We're ahead of New York, we're ahead of California."
Operation Street Smart aims to equip parents with information that will help them prevent or identify drug use among their children, Powell said.
"Many of times in those middle schools, seventh and eighth grade, those kids know more than their parents," he said.
During the presentation, Powell, along with Sgts. Dan Johnson and Brian Toth, discussed various forms of opioids and other drugs and common slang terms used to refer to them.
Powell urged parents to monitor their children's social media accounts and be aware of code language for drugs.
"They throw a phrase out there on social networks that doesn't make sense, where maybe they're talking about a 'sidewalk' or 'Superman,' " which are terms, respectively, that refer to drug dealers and the drug ecstasy," he said.
Parents should also be aware of drug paraphernalia, which can be disguised as pens, markers or other items and acquired from gas stations and convenience stories, Powell said. He cautioned families to be on the lookout for missing household items that can be used for drug consumption.
"You're all familiar with the spoons they use for heroin, right?" he said. "When you go in a house, the first thing you should do is go in the kitchen, pull out the silverware drawer. You'll see a whole bunch of forks, a whole bunch of knives. You'll think, 'Well, my teaspoons are gone.' Those are the little things I'm talking about."
Most importantly, Powell said, parents should keep open lines of communication with their children and be vigilant about changes in their behavior.
"When you pick up that gut feeling, that sixth sense that something's wrong here," he said, "take a much closer look at the big picture."
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office created Operation Street Smart in July 2002 as a community-oriented policing program, according to the office's website.
The goal is to provide up-to-date information about drug trends, terminology, paraphernalia and physiological affects to those who interact with youth.
Operation Street Smart is a collaboration between the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and the Special Investigations Unit, which is the sheriff's undercover narcotics branch.
For more information, call Johnson at 614-525-3318 or visit sheriff.franklincounty ohio.gov.