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They clear bloodshot eyes with Visine. They hide liquor in Nalgenes. They take Ritalin to boost test results. They numb out on stolen Vicodin and Percocet. They post party alerts on Facebook. They text-message dealers during class. They’re some of Wayzata High’s finest students. How the world of chemical abuse has changed since you were in school.

Photo by Jonathan Chapman

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Derek found it easy to buy the pills from kids who didn’t want to take their prescription or more serious dealers who got bogus prescriptions. “There are kids who take them simply for the euphoric feeling,” says Andy Clayburn, a Plymouth police officer and a Wayzata High liaison officer. “Then there are the achievers who take Ritalin before a test to help them perform better. You have two very different types of kids abusing the same drugs.”

Pain pills have also increased in popularity over recent years. “We find a kid using prescription pills from his mom’s knee surgery,” Clayburn says. “She may have taken one Vicodin, not liked the way it felt and forgotten that the bottle was in the bathroom.”

Derek used Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin because he “liked to numb out,” he says. Such opiates are the third most popular drug at Wayzata High—and among high-school students statewide—after alcohol and pot. “In the last 10 years, we’ve had direct-to-consumer advertising of pills,” says Falkowski, who is also the author of Dangerous Drugs: An Easy-to-Use Reference for Parents and Professionals. “So in addition to having a larger portion of kids taking meds for behavior issues in the grade-school years, they’re seeing promotion of pill-taking on TV. It’s no surprise that we have an increase in prescription-drug abuse.”

The epidemic of pill-popping is understandable, Hanson believes, given contemporary society’s desire for immediate gratification—and its belief in a pill for every problem. “People want to feel good right now,” she says. “If they feel lousy or stressed, there’s a way to fix that. We’re in a culture of fun and fast and now, and part of that comes from video-game culture—control of the world is at your fingertips.”

Teen users often think that in order to get high, they must take more than the prescribed dose, Hanson says. “They don’t know what they’re putting in their bodies and what the effect will be,” she says. And many kids think that if a drug is prescribed by a doctor, it’s safe. “We’ve done a good job of explaining that cigarettes and methamphetamine are bad,” Officer Clayburn says. “But the biggest misconceptions that kids have are about prescription medications. When I talk to students about this stuff, their jaws drop.”

The deeper Derek got into his use, the more concerned his mom became. She bought a drug-testing kit online. Derek’s results usually came back positive for marijuana. She turned off his cell phone, changed the passwords on the computer, and, as punishment, hid the PlayStation, but he kept using. She even took the door off his bedroom so he couldn’t hide out there. “I was so tired of finding stuff that I knew my son shouldn’t be doing,” she says. “I was scared to death for my son.”

He kept using­—often without her knowing. Not even the school with its two full-time cops and occasional patrols by drug-sniffing dogs could catch him. Wayzata is as vigilant and aware as any high school in the state. Hanson, its full-time chemical health coordinator, hosts educational parent meetings, trains teachers, and works closely with the coaches and activity leaders. Yet, even as adults have become savvier and stepped up efforts to catch users, teenagers have learned to keep a step ahead. “Kids are getting sneakier,” Derek says.

They burn incense in their rooms. They load their backpacks with Visine for their eyes, breath mints or gum, Purell or other hand lotions, body spray like Axe for boys or perfume for girls, even a change of clothes. They sip liquor out of water bottles or pop cans. Derek dug a hole in the yard where he could peel back the sod and stash his pipes and pot in a plastic freezer bag. They might start smoking joints because papers are easier to conceal than a pipe or bong. They smoke cigarettes to mask the smell of other drugs. “Chances are, if a kid is smoking cigarettes, he’s drinking or getting high and smoking cigarettes to cover it up,” Derek says. “That’s what I did.”

Of all the drugs Judy Hanson deals with, alcohol concerns her most. She’s frustrated that many parents don’t consider alcohol a drug, perhaps because alcohol is legal for adults or because teenagers drank when today’s parents were kids. Still, alcohol remains the nation’s number-one problem drug—for adults and minors. “Most of our kids go to treatment for their marijuana use,” Hanson says. “That’s wrong. They should be going for their drinking.”

JESSICA GARLOCK NEARLY DIED the first time she drank. On a chilly October night, she passed a bottle of Smirnoff around a campfire with four other ninth graders. They chased the burn with Coca-Cola. Jessica liked the warm feeling that spread through her body. The Smirnoff kept circling the fire.

Soon, Jessica threw up. She vomited blood. She passed out. Her friends carried her to the house of the boy who lived nearby. They asked his mother if Jessica could spend the night so she wouldn’t get in trouble. The boy’s mother took one look at Jessica and called her parents.

For Steve and Kelly Garlock, the sight of their 14-year-old daughter knocked helpless by alcohol was a very different experience from the casual drinking they remembered as high-school students in Hopkins during the ’70s. “These kids drink to get totally obliterated,” says Steve. “It’s like they’re on a mission, which is really scary when they’re out there doing it.”

Three Wayzata students—two boys and a girl—nearly drank themselves to death this past school year. Yet many parents don’t see a problem with teenagers drinking. For some, it’s a matter of ignorance. They have no idea how widespread alcohol use is. For others, it’s a matter of denial. They have heard it but don’t want to believe. “We have a culture where kids have so much independence and money that they do what they want, and the parents look the other way,” says Carol (who asked to remain anonymous), whose son Charlie went through treatment when he was a junior at Wayzata High. “It’s so much easier to look the other way because once you know, you have to do something about it.”

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

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Comments, page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 Next »
May 23, 2010 05:45 pm
 Posted by  anonymous0808

To the author of this, did you actually speak to any high school students? If you did, I think this article would be written from a non-bias perspective. I feel really bad for the upcoming classes at Wayzata High School. The whole school, as well as the parents, are taught to fear alcohol and "drugs" and that is THE MAIN REASON people go behind their parents back. If younger people were taught to responsibly drink, etc., I can guarantee that things wouldn't be as out of control as you claim they are. I firmly believe that the way Wayzata is going about things is tyrannical. Attending WHS used to make you an 'elite' student, but it's becoming more of a prison every year. When you think about a student taking ADD medicine, please remember that they are doing it to PASS THE TESTS teachers give at Wayzata. When you criticize this generation, remember the people who raised them. Let's not forget that students in the Wayzata area are not the only people "irresponsibly drinking and smoking." Just a thought...

May 24, 2010 10:25 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

This is a very biased and misinformed article. The author of this article is basing some of these allegations on erroneous judgements and assumptions. I am a student at WHS and I know this situation better than any parent or journalist would. My two cents is that teens will party regardless of anything. Its a part of the culture and a part of growing up. High schools will always have students who use substances, some for good purposes when used maturely, others not. The bottom line is, its a social activity, and it appeals to teens. There are many people who can handel the partying at a responsible level and those who can't.

May 25, 2010 11:32 am
 Posted by  wayzata

I am glad this article has been written. Wayzata has this stereotype that it is a perfect school when it really is not. I attend the high school and believe me, it is nothing close to perfect. The drug and alcohol use is very high, just like almost every other school. I believe most of the statistics in this article are way higher than it was written. Look at just a few sports teams for example, if you were to simply drug test the hockey team, I would not be surprised if the marijuana rate wasn't higher than 75%. It doesn't stop with that though, the administration has created new school laws that are ridiculous, fights between students happen all the time (verbal and physical), and friendships are practically non existent at Wayazata. Everything is determined by your reputation and your parents social status. These are just the beginning of Wayzata's problems. I believe this article is very accurate.

May 25, 2010 12:12 pm
 Posted by  littlelily

Is this article supposed to be shocking? I went to high school in a small northern MN town 15 years ago. Nearly every activity in this article was taking place back then. Drugs were easy to get. All you had to do was ask, and someone knew how to get what you wanted. Meth and ADD meds weren't popular yet, but LSD, 'shrooms, cocaine, pot, prescription pain meds... You name it, you could get it. The ol' booze in the water bottle trick was an every day occurrence. There were 7 pregnancies (that I knew about) in my graduating class of less than 200 students. What's going on now, is the same thing that was going on then. This article is just trying to make people paranoid. Be a good parent. Stay connected with your kids. Listen to them. Trust them. They'll be fine.

May 25, 2010 10:32 pm
 Posted by  420

This article is a joke.

May 26, 2010 08:06 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I don't know how the author found this information, however, this article is biased and inaccurate.

To assume 3,500+ students are avid drug users and alcoholics because one mother found that her son had a drug problem is offensive.

I know that I speak for both myself and the other clean WHS students when I say I am a little bit pissed off that Minnesota Montly and John Rosengren would publish an article that implied this. We attend one of the best high schools in the state, if not the country, and readers should be smarter than to assume we became the best by getting stoned in math.

May 26, 2010 09:51 pm
 Posted by  benthebug

I am a student at Wayzata, and i would agree that drugs are a problem. I am only a Sophomore and i can tell you, there is a big problem at school. I know a lot of other students, and about maybe half of them i know have tried or are still using drugs and alcohol. I remember spending my first year at high school listening to other students talking about how to get some weed, how they hide drugs, how they got so 'hammered' the night before, or dumb they think their parents are for catching them with weed. This is CRAZY! Alot of students above have commented on this before me. I think if you are opposing this article, and saying that Wayzata is clean and we shouldn't have too worry. You're completely wrong! You're right when you say our school isn't perfect and alot of other schools we should be worrying about... I really hope we get our heads out of the clouds and really look at whats happening! I've had a couple of friends that have been suspended and removed from the school due to drug abuse, dealing, and violence! It makes me sick to read that people have even fallen to the level where they think a pill or a drink of alcohol, or a puff of weed will make a world of difference. I believe it would, but not in the way most students are hoping for. The Statistics are wrong, and this really needs attention. Nation Wide! not just Wayzata.

May 26, 2010 10:37 pm
 Posted by  rehabs 4 quitters

Ben the bug you couldn't be more wrong. You're circle of friends obviously has develped their own "opinion" or bias against pot because you don't fully understand how much control people actually have over their "addictions". Ill tell you right now, if it was just decriminalized kids wouldn't have to hide it from their parents! Why do you think they hide it and sneak? Because they don't wanna be hounded by their parents. I'm someone whose actually socially active so I would know how the problems are affecting wayzata. The administration just needs to realize thay they can't do anything to stop students from smoking. Rehab? Good luck. Kids are just gonna want to smoke more than ever if they are oppressed in a "treatment" center. So before you form this opinion of yours, you should really do some thinking on your own, instead of basing your views on your parents. Its sad. -AM

May 26, 2010 10:38 pm
 Posted by  UTAlum

This article is extremely misinforming and bias. The goal of this article seems to be to convince the reader that Wayzata High School is just a school of drugs. This was very low of the writer to take a shot at a high caliber school such as Wayzata. The school has one of the most difficult curriculums in the state, which in turn makes many students very successful later on in life. But the only focus of the writer is to bring down the schools reputation based on a few students poor life choices.

May 26, 2010 10:51 pm
 Posted by  rehabs 4 quitters

Wayzata is a joke, and the administration needs different methods of handling this so called drug problem.

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