Teens and Drugs – K2 and Spice are Banned, but What Fix is Next?
Drug du jour K2 is now illegal in Michigan. But that doesn't mean parents can rest easy. What's at the heart of teen drug use? And what can families and communities do?
By Megan Krueger
Nearly two years ago, Bill Miskokomon began noticing a dramatic shift in his 16-year-old son's personality.
"He was not the kid I knew at all," the Shelby Township dad recalls. "I knew it wasn't him, and I couldn't reach him."
The blank stares, slipping grades and countless fights were too much to brush off as typical teen rebellion. Miskokomon, who asked that his teen son not be named, started to wonder if his son was using drugs. He administered drug tests to his son when it was time for the teen to get a driver's license, but the results came up clean each time.
"I had a false sense of security," he says of the negative tests – but he knew his child "still wasn't acting himself." As his relationship with his son further dwindled, he continued searching for the reason why.
Desperate for answers, Miskokomon searched the teenager's bedroom and found small, silvery packages labeled "potpourri."
A worried Miskokomon researched the substance online and discovered the potpourri he found in his son's room was actually K2, or "Spice" – a synthetic drug made of herbs, sprayed with chemicals and manufactured to mock the effects of marijuana when smoked, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The designer drug didn't show up on drug tests, was addictive, and – shockingly enough – was perfectly legal.
Miskokomon's son, now 17, had been smoking K2 for about a year and a half when Miskokomon found out. The teen had been buying it at a local gas station and smoke shop.
"It was like living a nightmare," Miskokomon says of that time. "A lot of times I'd worry if he was coming home, (or) if I was going to find him alive in the morning."
But while parents and politicians rejoiced, drug treatment experts and law enforcement officials had a more tempered response. They, after all, are on the front lines of teen drug use, and were well aware that K2 was just the latest teen drug trend. Banning one type of drug – while crucial – was just one battle in a war that may never be won.
The prevalence, the problem and the publicity beg the question: Is there any way to stop teens from getting high?
Why teens do drugs
As long as there have been drugs, teens have experimented with them. The risky teenage behavior has to do with brain development, says Dr. Charlene McGunn, executive director of Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families, an anti-drug organization based in Clinton Township.
"The brain of an adolescent is research-proven to be a work in progress," she says, noting that MRI studies have shown "the brain is really not fully developed … until into the 20s."
"The area of the brain that is last to develop" – known as the prefrontal cortex – "is what promotes decision making," she says. Hence, a premature prefrontal cortex can cause teens to make bad decisions or take risks.
Of course, there are social reasons teens dabble with drugs, too.
"Kids are curious and they will try things," says Mark Hackel, Macomb County's executive and former county sheriff. Hackel helped Macomb become one of the first counties in southeast Michigan to ban the sale of K2 in early June.
Hackel says "it's not one thing" that causes teens to try drugs. Rather, he thinks, "it has a lot to do with society in general."
Hackel says teens sometimes try drugs and drink alcohol because of the examples they're seeing on TV, among peers or even in their own homes.
"Parents provide a terrible example to kids sometimes," Hackel says.
For example, if parents come home from a party and tell a friend on the phone about how drunk they were, or if they come home from work and drink several beers a night, they're sending their teen the message that "it can't be that bad," he says.
"We unfortunately don't set a very good example for kids in our daily lives," Hackel says. "(The) reality is we don't realize the impact we're having on kids."
When all of these influences mix with teenage curiosity, kids try drugs for the first time – or "the worst time," as Hackel puts it, because the teen is then "always chasing that same high."
McGunn says that a majority of alcoholics and drug users began using during adolescence.
"We don't know the long-term implications of drug use on the developing brain," McGunn says. "What we do know is that if we can postpone the use of alcohol until the age of 21, we will not, very likely, have an alcoholic."
The powerful role parents play
Following the battle to get his son help and inform others about K2's dangers, Miskokomon has formulated advice for other parents: "Get more involved."
Parents, he says, are "so busy" with their "day-to-day lives" that sometimes, they believe "as long as my kids aren't in trouble, they're fine."
"I just think as parents, we need to step back and take time with our kids," Miskokomon says. "Pay attention to what's going on in their lives."
And if parents see a change in their teen's behavior, he says, "Ask why."
As McGunn has found through the teen focus groups she studies with her coalition, teens want their parents to be involved in their lives, and studies have shown that parental involvement is one of the biggest factors in preventing teen drug use.
"(Teens) don't want parents to be controlling their every movement," she says, but "they want parents to be involved. They really want parents to listen." When parents supervise their teens' actions and whereabouts, get involved at their schools and listen to their thoughts and feelings – even those they don't like – teens feel protected and cared for.
"All the common-sense parenting ideas are really the most important things that can occur for kids to keep them from experimenting," she says.
Teens are susceptible to making bad decisions based on their premature brains, so "parental presence is so very important" to help kids make the right choices, McGunn says.
What parents can do
To talk to teens about drugs, parents must be informed, McGunn stresses.
"In terms of what parents should be aware of, I think it starts with parents educating themselves on current trends," she says.
The next step is having a conversation about drugs with kids at a young age.
"Basically by starting to ask what the teen knows, (and) what they're observing," parents can start the dialogue, she says. She suggests parents also do this by "expressing considerable concern about any drug – alcohol, marijuana, tobacco – really anything at all that might be used."
And again, parents should also keep in mind the examples they're setting for teens, Hackel says.
"I think they need to start realizing it's our responsibility to set the tone," he says. "We don't realize that we're role models and mentors to kids – not just kids in our own homes."
McGunn suggests parents occasionally throw parties at their home that don't include alcohol, for example, since alcohol is "the primary drug that teens are going to see their parents use.
"It sends a distinct message that you can celebrate and have a good time without alcohol," she says.
Peers also play a large role in influencing teenagers. Therefore, McGunn says parents should get to know their teen's friends.
"One of the ways of determining whether a teen uses is whether they're associated with other teens who use," she says.
Fighting the never-ending battle
Sometimes, though, parents cannot stop their teens from trying drugs.
Miskokomon says he talked to his teen about drugs, and spent a lot of time in his son's life – from Boy Scouts and baseball to attending parent-teacher conferences.
"You can't stay on your kids 24/7. There's so much peer pressure out there," he says.
But Miskokomon's message to other parents whose kids are doing drugs is "not to give up on their kids." Today, Miskokomon's 17-year-old son is back home in Michigan after completing a 30-day drug rehab program in South Dakota.
"He did great," Miskokomon says, but adds that his son still "has a long road ahead of him."
While other teens across the nation face similar roads to recovery, new drugs will threaten to wreak havoc on teen lives.
"There's always going to be the drug of the day," McGunn admits. "However, that doesn't mean that parents can't inoculate their children so they're less likely to use it."
The best way to reduce teen drug use is to fight the demand, Hackel says.
"(It's) K2 today, but what's it going to be tomorrow? Something different," he says. "We can't constantly be chasing after the supply when there's the demand. How do we get people to say, 'We don't want to do drugs?'"
Getting teens to avoid trying drugs is a community effort, McGunn says, and everybody in the community – from law enforcement and churches to schools and coalitions – have a place in doing so.
Yet in the end, "It's always going to come back to good parenting," she says, and when you bring all areas of the community together on the issue, "the head of the table is always going to be the parents."
Concert Combines Band and Choir
By Hannah Warren
Oct 21, 2010
On October 21, band and choir students from Chippewa Valley impressed their audience in their annual collage concert. The collage concert is a fundraiser that provides a chance for both band and choir classes to take the stage together and show people in the audience the joys of both instrumental and vocal music. According to Mr. Timothy Hoey and Mr. Kent Wattleworth, the band and choir directors, this concert is always popular with parents.
This year the band and choir surprised everybody with a combined piece between the full choir and the wind ensemble. It was called “O Fortuna” from the Carmina Burana, a rather intense and dark masterpiece. It proved to be the favorite.
The show went on with seamless transitions between both band and choir after each group played through a song. One choir student, Chantel Boyd stated, “I liked the collaboration between the band and choir.”
Then, of course, marching band came on and finished up the night with their upbeat music, and colorful displays from their flag twirlers.
It takes a lot of dedication for both director and performer to make this concert possible. According to Boyd, choir has been practicing since the first day of school. Marching band begins practicing before the school year even starts at camp. The bands practice every day, both at home and school.
“You have to stay on top of things, and know your students well,” Wattleworth stated. Mr. Hoey wishes they could have practice time on Dakota’s stage even before the day of the show. “It would help out both the concert and stage tech workers,” he stated.
Chippewa Turns Dakota Red for Suicide Awareness
By Lauren Jacks
Oct 16, 2010
On October 16, students from both Chippewa Valley High School and Dakota High School put their controversies behind them and teamed up to participate in the 5K walk at Dakota for suicide awareness.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people who are 15-24. However, it is preventable through education and intervention, which is how Chippewa chooses to handle this. CVHS claimed that this was "Hero in the Hallway" week, hoping that anybody who witnessed bullying in and out of school would attempt to put a stop to it.
Reinforcing the entire idea of "Hero in the Hallway,” an assembly was held later that week with guest speaker “Dennis” Liegghio, who lost a loved one to suicide when he was only 14. He told the students his heartfelt story of losing his father and how he struggled with his own thoughts of suicide long after. "I wrote the song ‘Know Resolve’ which put me on a different path and helped me release my emotions," Dennis said.
"I finally found a way to express myself. I was later invited to the Macomb County Survivors of Suicide group meeting, which was overwhelming," Dennis claimed. "I
thought I was alone," he added.
In reality, he wasn't alone. There are thousands of other people in the “same boat” as Dennis. Now he holds an annual "Be Aware Walk for Suicide Prevention" at Dakota, where hundreds of people sign up to raise money for the Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families and the Know Resolve organizations.
Top fundraiser Mary DeClerck, with $1,700, said, "This [the Suicide Walk] was a great turnout. Even though we didn't reach our goal of $20,000, we raised almost four times more than we did last year!" In fact, this walk raised over $15,000.
The ratio of Chippewa to Dakota students favored the Big Reds. "I was surprised to find more people representing Chippewa than Dakota, but Coach Murphy did an amazing job advertising it," Chippewa sophomore Emily Racey claimed.
Out of everything presented to the students that week, from the songs Dennis sang, to the tear jerking stories of lost family members from walkers, Dennis wants everyone to know that "talking about suicide helps. Don't hold your emotions in, don't try to act tough. Please go to www.knowresolve.org and read more."
Opinion Editorial / News Story
NHS Inducts New Members
By Samantha Hull
Oct 20, 2010
The Tomahawk Staff
Students, parents, and staff walked into the dark auditorium at Chippewa with four unlit candles waiting upon a table on an empty stage. Once lit, the glow of these candles would represent the essence of an organization that would shape these students' lives and their community, as well.
On October 20, the National Honor Society held it's annual Induction Ceremony for new inductees. Fifty-nine new members were inducted this year, joining the 62 current members.
The advisors for NHS are Ruth Moore and Nicole Faehner. "I think the Induction Ceremonywent well. The Executive Board did a great job with their speeches, the vocal performance
was fantastic, and Mr. Spreitzer' speech was inspirational,” Moore stated.
During the ceremony, members of the Executive Board and officers of NHS gave speeches regarding the four pillars of the National Honor Society, which are Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character. These pillars represent the characteristics of members of NHS and the model of what new and current members should strive for.
The current officers of NHS are President Caitlin Heath, Vice President Sarah Popko, Treasurer Tuan Doan, and Secretary Nicole Calandrino. "In order to accomplish everything that needed to be done, a lot of effort was required," Heath stated regarding the extensive planning of the ceremony.
One of the tasks of the Executive Board was to choose a keynote speaker for the ceremony. These students agreed that Spreitzer, an English teacher at Chippewa, resembled the pillars of NHS the best and he was selected for the honor. According to Heath, "We thought Mr. Spreitzer wrote a very insightful speech," which referenced all four pillars of NHS and also the Peace Corps.
After Spreitzer's speech, Rachelle Livi and Emily Ward gave a vocal performance, followed by the inductees reciting the NHS pledge and the inductees signing the NHS book.
As members of NHS, students have to attend periodic meetings, maintain their grades and citizenship, and volunteer 40 hours in their community during the school year. Some examples of volunteering are to assist with elementary school activities and tutoring.
Students Need Courage, Not Apathy, to Stop Bullying
By Colleen Langlands
Lately, it seems that everything has been about the hero in the hallway program. Seeing Dr. Suzanne Spurr in the lunchroom, trying to sell t-shirts, is not an odd occurrence. Students were asked to sign a pledge to not bully, and to stop bullying completely. However, many students wonder whether the program is doing anything at all.
“I’ll see kids in the lunchroom, talking to Dr. Spurr and claiming to be following the Hero in the Hallway program. But, then, I’ll see those same kids in the halls later, making fun of other kids. It’s not right,” senior Melissa Martlock, said. Indeed, it seems that students only sign the pledge because they are told to, and because it will look bad if they don’t. This is a major problem.
The program is there to help, but it seems that it’s not being taken very seriously by a portion of the student body.
Incentives haven’t seemed to work either. Last year, there was a drawing every week, and if that person was wearing their Hero in the Hallway merchandise, they would win something. Seniors who wore a Hero in the Hallway t-shirt or bracelet on Wednesdays could also win something. Sure, the idea was nice, but it didn’t seem to rid the halls of bullying.
“Yeah, I haven’t really seen a difference. I don’t really feel like anyone takes it all that seriously. Kids just wear the shirts to seem ironic,” senior Nicole Sherrill said.
Many feel that the signing of little pieces of paper and wearing of certain tshirts does nothing to stop those whobully. Well, of course these outward signs don’t stop bullying, they only raise awareness. It is up to students to have the courage to act on their commitment and stop the acts of bullying in the hallways or identify those involved to teachers and administrators so that bullies can be stopped once and for all.
“Maybe, I don’t know, everyone could just try a little harder? If everyone just stepped back for a second and made the choice to be nicer to those around them, we could get rid of bullying altogether,” senior Katie Lambert suggested.
That sounds like a great idea, don’t you think?
Sports Stars Come Back to Big Red Roots
By Hannah Warren
Oct 23, 2010
On October 23, men and women gathered with family and friends in the humble hallways of Chippewa Valley to receive the great honor of being recognized on the wall of fame located down the athletics hallway. This event is known as the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.
According to Diane Zatkoff, Ninth Grade Center principal, this ceremony has been going on since 1998, and occurs every four years. Nominees are selected by the Hall of Fame committee which is made up of administrators and both past and present coaches. In order to be nominated, the athlete must have had good grades while attending the school and claimed an all state status in a sport. However, each potential candidate must wait ten years before being eligible for consideration for this honor.
When people entered the schools auditorium it was filled with a regal "red" pride. One inductee, Jim Deliz, a former Big Red baseball player, said that this school had opened up a lot of good opportunities for him and had given him a lot of help. He now works in a family business,
Tenibac Graphion, for his father. Some
advice he'd like to give to students today is
something he heard from his own father
twenty years ago and never forgot. "Accept
the responsibility of doing things the right
Another inductee, Dave Kauflin,
who was Mr. Baseball and was drafted by
the Detroit Tigers in 1994, stated that the
athletes in the school today should try as
hard as they can and listen to their coaches.
Kauflin now works construction and plays
golf and softball regularly.
The night kicked off with a
power point of old yearbook photos (both
headshot and athletic) of all the different inductees.
This warmed the crowd up and
brought about reminiscing from that certain
game that each person had played in to remarks
about the "goofy" track shorts.
The ceremony then continued on to
its segment of inducting a coach onto the wall.
This year's inductee was Dan Phillips, who was
once a coach of the women's cross country and
There were many stories, jokes, and
different shout-outs about each inductee as they
took the stage. At one point during the night,
there was even a raffle to give away different Big
Red apparel to inductees. "It takes more than
just effort on the playing field to be an inductee.
It takes character, hard work, and effort,"
Zatkoff stated. All of the inductees embodied
that statement, and perhaps even more, on this
Parents and Teachers Communicate at Conferences
By Will Perkins
Oct 13 - 14, 2010
A common phrase heard from
teachers is, "I don't give out grades, you
earn them." A student's grades are solely
reflective of his or her effort, and no one
else's. So if parents can't earn grades for
students, why are Parent-Teacher conferences
(held October 13 and 14 this year) so
important, and what role does the parent
play on the student's education?
"Until you're eighteen you're
still a kid under your parents. They have a
right to know how you're doing in school."
sophomore Nick Kutskill said while discussing
parent teacher conferences. Freshman
Randee Calandrino said "Your parents
can help you, and if you're doing well,
you can get rewarded."
"They can be an useful tool to
create a line of communication to the parents,"
teacher Brian Weitzel said. He emphasized
that this was especially true for
the parents that teachers need to see. "It
helps the kids who are on the fence", Weitzel
continued. The ones "who are leaning
towards failing get the extra support from
both us [the teachers] and the parents," he
English teacher Matthew Brown
also had a few things to say about the
importance of Parent-Teacher conferences.
"They help me to keep in conference
with parents. Sometimes I learn
things about students. I'm certain parents
learn things about students."
Brown's response to this year's
Parent-Teacher conferences was especially
positive. "I think there's been a high attendance
rate," he said, "and I've had a
high attendance from students who are
struggling.The more parent involvement
the better," Brown
emphasized. "I've had
some scary conferences
but I definitely think
they're a positive
also had his share of
conferences with the
parents of struggling
students. "I don't
think they are effective," he said, "but I do
think it is the right of the parent to meet us
and I do think it is our professional duty to
meet with the parents and to give them some
insight into their child, because collectively
teachers might see students more than the
parents." However, "If it helps one kid, then
it's worth it," Weitzel added.
"I think it's a great thing that we
have them at progress report time because
otherwise it's like an autopsy rather than a
check-up. I think it's a positive thing for the
students who are struggling." Brown concluded.
Chippewa Valley Men’s Soccer Comes to a Finish
By Samantha Hull
Oct 29, 2010
The Chippewa Valley Men's soccer
team ended the 2010 season on October 20 at
Stevenson High School.
The team made it to the second
round in Districts, but lost to Sterling Heights
by one goal. They finished with a record of 7-1-2
in the MAC Red.
The team was led by three captains
this year: seniors Troy Mannino, Corey Messinger,
and David Pociecha. According to junior
Mark Dreshaj, the team was comprised of a
total of nine seniors, twelve juniors, and three
sophomores. "We were almost always solid in
the back and moved the ball around well,"
Dreshaj, a defender on the team, noted.
"The highlight of this season was
beating the undefeated (at that time) Stevenson,
while we were playing away," senior
Troy Mannino commented. Chippewa Valley
won this game by a single goal over Stevenson
on September 20. This win over
Stevenson is even more impressive, looking
back, since Stevenson recently won the Regional
Championship on October 29.
Men's soccer is coached by Gerry
Haggarty, who also coaches women's soccer
at Chippewa Valley. Pociecha said that
Coach Haggarty "would always make a way
to help us play better each game during
halftime. He would motivate us to work
harder than each opponent on the other
team and have fun at the same time."
During the first round of Districts,
on October 18, Chippewa Valley played
away at L'anse Creuse. The Big Reds were
able to get a victory there, with a 6-2 win
over L'anse Creuse. The team later lost to
Sterling Heights, 2-1, in the semifinals of
Districts. This loss prevented Chippewa
from playing in the District final against
Women Runners Develop Character and Skills
By Kyle Roberts
It's about developing strong character.
The girls cross country team runs to compete
with other schools in battle, but they also run to
compete with themselves.
Coach Tymrak's essential belief is that
cross country's purpose is to develop "scholar
athletes who pride themselves in knowing they
have done everything they possibly can to be an
effective team member as they represent their
school in the community."
Every day he works to help the team
take one step closer to not only competing
stronger, but also helping them understand
what it means to be an athlete.
While Coach Tymrak helps instill
these morals, he puts forth a training program
built around consistency. "It's not
really the miles that are so significant, but
rather the consistency of training over time
that will help bring our runners closer to
"The team can improve by maintaining
a sustained and consistent daily
effort in the remainder of our practices this
season," Coach Tymrak emphasized. He
noted the great of improvement in all his
runners over the past year, most notably in
freshman Sam Pizzo, and sophomore Sarahbeth
The team also has Rachel Walney,
a freshman who qualified for states. "She's
very self-motivated, and with that she helps
push the other girls on the team to be as
good as she is," team member Erin Kupps
"We would like to build a team
that will compete each season for MAC
championship, along with being one of the
top teams in our county," Tymrak emphasized.
With returning runners such as Pizzo,
Tuttlle, and Walney, that goal does not
seem out of reach.
"Coaching girls cross country is
well worth the challenges that each day may
bring; no two days are alike and that is exactly
why I enjoy coaching the girls' team,"
CVHS Women’s Swim Team Finishes Season with a Splash
By Kayla Leach
Chippewa Valley High School's
Women's swim team brought its successful
season to a close this past month of October.
The entire team, composed of freshmen,
sophomores, juniors, and seniors, swam their
way through a series of challenging meets.
Meets consisting of both team and
individual events required dedication from
both the swimmers and their coaches. The
girls practice two to three hours, three days a
week, with an optional Saturday morning
practice. According to Head Coach Tony
Grice, the team is in the Red Division, the
highest of division rankings.
Key swimmers also helped the
team at a meet against Dakota High School,
walking away victorious. Coach Grice had
high commendations for freshman Erika
Willson and Skyler Muzichuk, sophomore
Samantha Gray, and seniors Shaina Kulczycki,
Brianne Shock, and Lauren Williams.
Diver Ashley Felcyn was also mentioned.
"We were close going into the meet at
Dakota," Coach Grice commented. "But
we were able to win in the end."
The team was able to meet goals
such as a win at the county meet and overall
improvements at every meet. As the
season comes to a close, Coach Grice said,
"You can look forward to us doing well at
division and improving our times."