The Rye Youth Council, in cooperation with the Rye City School District and Rye Action for Children and Teens (Rye-ACT) recently sponsored a timely and informative panel discussion, “Teens and Substances: Their Health, the Law, and Your Liability.” Five professionals in medical emergency services, local and county law enforcement, and the Westchester DA’s office shared their knowledge.
By Annette McLoughlin
The Rye Youth Council, in cooperation with the Rye City School District and Rye Action for Children and Teens (Rye-ACT) recently sponsored a timely and informative panel discussion, “Teens and Substances: Their Health, the Law, and Your Liability.” Five professionals in medical emergency services, local and county law enforcement, and the Westchester DA’s office shared their knowledge. The moderator was Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director of Student Assistance Services, a not-for-profit organization licensed to provide alcohol and substance abuse services in and around Westchester County.
A group of Rye High School students acted out three vignettes about social situations teens may find themselves in involving drugs and alcohol. This was used as a tool to facilitate the discussions and to convey the medical and legal consequences of underage drug and alcohol use.
The first dramatization involved a potential overdose. Rye City Police Commissioner Michael Corcoran emphasized the need for kids to “do the right thing” and described the Good Samaritan Law, which allows a minor to seek medical attention for another minor, without threat of arrest or prosecution.
The second vignette portrayed a house party with excessive drinking and sexual assault. The panel detailed the potential criminal charges and civil liability parents are exposed to if they consent to, or have prior knowledge of a party in their home where underage drinking has occurred. They explained that culpability is typically apportioned based on what parents knew, and in some situations, what they should have known. Charges can be wide-ranging including endangering the welfare of a child, and in some cases, parents may face arrest. In terms of the almost inevitable civil liability of such a situation, they warned that parents could potentially find themselves in the middle of an expensive lawsuit, even if they are not at fault.
The law enforcement members of the panel reminded the audience that in New York, the age of criminal liability is 16. And if the victim is under the influence of a drug or alcohol, it is always assumed that they did not consent, regardless of what they may have said at the time of the incident.
The emergency room doctor on the panel explained that if a victim of sexual assault seeks medical treatment within a critical window of 48-72 hours after an assault, doctors can most effectively provide the prophylactic treatment necessary to prevent pregnancy and treat disease. She also pointed out the fact that in New York, parents need not be involved for a child to receive care; it is the child’s right to refuse to involve the parents.
A third vignette dramatized the sharing of prescription drugs among a group of teenage friends. The panel explained that without a prescription, possession of a something like a Vicadin tablet is treated the same as the possession of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. And if someone gives away a prescription narcotic, they can be charged with selling it even if no currency is exchanged
Commissioner Corcoran was asked about the prevalence of drug use in Rye and he reported that there is a general rise in drug-related arrests: mostly marijuana and about a third from prescription drugs and heroin. He also underscored the alarming fact that the Northeastern United States has the most potent and deadly form of heroin in the country. The reason for the rise in heroin use was ascribed to an increase in access to prescription opioids and the fact that heroin is an affordable alternative to those expensive prescription drugs.
County Police Officer Jack Brito, who specializes in drug recognition, dispelled the myth that marijuana is a relatively safe drug and warned about the changes in marijuana and its dramatic increase in potency. He explained that it is “vastly different and significantly more potent than the marijuana of even ten years ago” and that it is “rapidly becoming a severely potent drug, more like a stimulant.” The reason for this is the fact that the levels of THC have gone from a common and consistent rate of about 10% to as high as 30% today.
Brito also delivered some alarming facts about marijuana concentrates (oils and waxes) otherwise known as “edibles.” The THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) rates in those run as high as 80-90%. He warned that edibles affect people at a dramatically different rate than smoked marijuana. Further, the edibles’ high is often delayed compared to smoked marijuana, setting the stage for an overdose situation.
The somber and eye-opening presentation provided an education on a problem that isn’t going away.
For more information and to see a video of the event, go to ryeyouthcouncil.org.