PLEASANT HILL -- Gone are the days when "stoners" could be picked out of a crowd on high school campuses, a counselor at College Park High warned parents this week.
These days, Jason Lechner told the parents and students Thursday night, even star athletes and top-achieving students drink, smoke marijuana, abuse prescription pain killers or have tried heroin.
"The one thing that I have truly learned," Lechner said, "is that intervention and enforcement is always typically one step behind the people that are out there using."
Citing statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse -- which surveys students in grades 8, 10 and 12 annually -- Lechner said alcohol use has decreased 10 to 15 percent since 2003, while pot-smoking has increased 200 percent. Many parents also smoke pot or allow their kids to, he added.
Some parents at the event, which drew about 50 people, said they believe substance abuse is a problem at the school. Lori Borden, who brought her freshman daughter and sophomore son to the presentation, said the statewide push to legalize marijuana appears to have given teens the false impression that pot is safe.
But Lechner said pot is not safe. In fact, he said the level of THC in marijuana -- which stimulates the "high" -- has increased dramatically over the past 40 years, growing from about 1 to 2 percent in the 1970s to 15 percent today.
Abuse of drugs prescribed for attention deficit disorder, such as Adderall, have also increased, along with use of prescription painkillers. Some students at College Park, Lechner said, already have two or three drug offenses on their records from middle school.
Lechner also shared anonymous comments from East Bay students, parents, counselors, administrators and police officers. At one school, a counselor said a student showed up high on acid, freaking out.
A high school senior on another campus described the school as a "pharmacy." Another student said seniors on campus were taking things too far by using cocaine, so the juniors were sticking to weed and alcohol.
Student athletes at one school celebrate big wins with drugs or alcohol and some show up high to practices. A game played by students on another campus is to try to find classrooms left open by teachers where they can smoke, Lechner said.
"Weed, Molly (ecstasy), Adderall, are the most common and popular," according to a sophomore quoted by Lechner. "I am surprised to see how many parents condone drug use and do not care."
Lechner advised parents who abuse drugs or alcohol to get help, saying it affects the entire family. He advised parents to stay connected to their children, get to know their friends and their families, and enforce clear and consistent rules prohibiting drugs and alcohol.
Borden's children said the school could help prevent student substance abuse by tightening up campus security and providing support for teens who are resisting peer pressure. Lechner and other counselors, who are funded by a grant, have worked with dozens of students who abuse drugs and alcohol.
Already, Lechner said, he has helped one student kick the habit and bring his grades up.
"It may be one finger in the dam, but I'm proud of that finger," Lechner said. "He may be one kid who can help change the culture on campus."
Percentage used in last 30 days
Gr. 8 Gr. 10 Gr. 12
Alcohol 10.2 25.7 39.3
Marijuana 16.5 35.8 45.5
Adderall 1.8 4.4 7.4
Vicodin 1.4 4.6 5.3
OxyContin 2.0 3.4 3.6
More information is available by visiting www.drugabuse.gov.
To see video clips from Jason Lechner's presentation on teen substance abuse, visit www.contracostatimes.com/education