By Terry Dean
The drugs of choice for some students at Oak Park and River Forest High School are marijuana and alcohol, so says the school's substance abuse counselor.
But Margo Bristow counsels students who use a variety of other drugs, including heroin. And mostly, those kids who do use are just looking for a high.
"It starts out as fun and just fitting into the group," Bristow said, "and then it just turns into 'I just need to get high. I need some kind of high; I don't care what it is."
Illegal drugs have been the focus of much of the conversation in Oak Park lately, sparked from this spring's drug forums at OPRF sponsored by the school's Citizens' Council.
Students, though, are looking for a high with multiple sources including some over-the-counter, prescription drugs. "Robo Tripping" is a slang term for kids abusing Robitussin. In general, "Triple C'ing" is still most common, Bristow said. That slang term refers to "Coricidin cough and cold," medications taken by kids in high doses. The same is true for taking large amounts of Robitussin or other medications.
"One thing I do not see here is huffing, and I'm very relieved I don't see that," Bristow said of the practice of inhaling various substances.
Kids are also getting high from anti-anxiety meds and amphetamines. Other substances abused include ecstasy, acid and shrooms (also known as magic mushrooms). One of the newest drugs making its way into Oak Park and River Forest is called K2, or spice. It's an incense that includes ingredients from marijuana and gives people an intense high.
But along with marijuana and alcohol, a third major and often overlooked drug kids are using is tobacco. Hookah bars are very popular among teens, Bristow said. They either wait until they're of age to enter or get fake IDs to go to the bars, which are outside of Oak Park but not too far for kids to travel.
"We have a huge tobacco issue here, and it seems like it's taking a backseat to the others and is just as damaging, and maybe even more so in my mind," she said.
As for alcohol and marijuana, kids are sometimes influenced by the music and artists they listen to. They often listen to music that reinforces what kind of drugs they're using. That's especially true with certain alcohol products, like Hennessey or Courvoisier, that is glorified in the music.
"No kids drank these until they were popularized by the artists," Bristow said. "The music really reflects their own attitudes. The kids glorify everything and if they see someone who has used and is successful then it just gives them more rationale to use."
Anti-drug march on Sunday
The effort to raise awareness about substance abuse among kids at Oak Park and River Forest High School continues this Sunday Oct. 3, with a scheduled anti-drug march taking place in the two villages. The march is sponsored by the Oak Park Township Youth Services and the Oak Park and River Forest Parent Action Committee. The OPRF PAC is an outgrowth of the drug forums and roundtables from earlier this spring.
The march begins at 1 p.m. at Keystone Park in River Forest and the tennis courts at OPRF, 201 N. Scoville. Both marches are scheduled to end at Scoville Park in Oak Park. A rally featuring music and guest speakers and other events will take place thereafter.