COLUMBUS -- Marijuana use is on the rise across the state. The drug is being called the “new beer” because of its growing use among youth.
But it isn’t the only drug being abused in Nebraska. An overview of drug use in the state was discussed at a town hall meeting Thursday at Columbus Middle School.
The meeting was a collaboration between Back to BASICs, a youth substance abuse prevention coalition, and Time for Change, an anti-gang program.
Nebraska State Trooper Bill Price gave the presentation.
Price, a 23-year veteran of the state patrol, said alcohol still remains the most abused drug in the country.
“Why? It is accessible. It’s perfectly legal to possess. Everyone sells it,” he said.
A trend in Nebraska is the increase in binge drinking, specifically among young females. Binge drinking is considering having four or more alcoholic drinks in one setting.
“They are literally drinking to get drunk. They are having five, six, seven drinks,” Price said.
How some are choosing to get drunk is changing. They aren’t just drinking from a can or bottle.
A couple of growing crazes are eyeballing vodka, which involves pouring a shot of vodka into the eye, and snorting bourbon, in which the user takes a straw and inhales the alcohol up their nose.
Price said abusing alcohol that way causes a person to get drunk quicker, and also limits the prevalence of alcoholic odors.
Even though alcohol use is still high, marijuana continues to increase.
“It amazes me how many high-school kids and young kids smoke pot,” Price said.
Marijuana is a depressant. The drug in marijuana is THC. The amount of THC in it has increased, making marijuana six times stronger today than it was 20 years ago.
“We are having a lot of addiction and withdrawal issues,” Price said.
Synthetic marijuana, commonly sold as “K2” or “spice”, is still a problem despite it being outlawed in the state.
“It was perfectly legal to buy it over the counter and it could have the same effects (as marijuana). The problem is we are now seeing K3. They’ve changed the chemical compound to bypass the law,” Price said.
The drug is most commonly bought over the Internet and is marked as incense.
Recent legislation has made drugs known as bath salts illegal in Nebraska.
They aren’t the typical bath salts used when bathing, but synthetic cocaine. It is usually snorted, smoked or swallowed.
“We’ve had a lot of overdoses reported because of this stuff,” Price said of the white, powdery substance.
Other drugs commonly used in Nebraska are ones that could be found in medicine cabinets.
Over-the-counter medications and prescription medications are being abused. So are inhalants.
Price said it is important to be aware of the use of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana because they are labeled as the three “gateway” drugs.
Of the people who do use marijuana, 85 percent try other drugs.
“They start with cigarettes ... then they get into the booze and then they start smoking pot. Basically it is a training ground,” Price said.