Sheriff Mike Nielsen discusses how teens get mixed-up with drugs, “Skittles Parties” and more.
By Ginger Kadlec — get free updates of new posts here.
“Have you heard of Skittles parties?” Sheriff Mike Nielsen inquired from under his large brimmed hat.
Sitting next to this decorated, commanding 6′ 7″ law enforcement leader, I was reminded how very grateful I am to live in our community. As my mind shifted to thoughts of those fun, colorful candies, I shook my head ‘no’ and asked, “What are they?”
Well, more on that in a bit…
Boone County, Indiana Sheriff Mike Nielsen (who prefers to simply be called “Mike”) and other law enforcement officers around the country are fighting a war against teenage drug usage. Mike graciously sat down to educate me on the latest from the front-line of this war to protect kids and our communities at large.
I have the personal honor of knowing Mike who sees far too many kids get into trouble with drug addiction through his work with the Drug Task Force, the FBI and by overseeing county law enforcement in Boone County, Indiana, located just Northwest of Indianapolis.
Sitting down with Mike, I warned him that my knowledge about drug use is frighteningly limited… boy, did I get an education!
From the Sheriff
Mike outlined how teenage drug usage often first begins.
It all starts with tobacco use. ~Sheriff Mike Nielsen
“It’s killing our kids today; it’s killing our young adults today, and we have to find a way to stand-up and resolve this problem,” Mike emphasized.
Teen Drug Usage Facts
Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that teenage drug usage has declined in recent years. On the other end of a frightening spectrum, though, “Opioids—primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin—are the main driver of overdose deaths.” The CDC’s website states, “Opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths in 2014 and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 2000.”
The following graph from DrugRehab.com illustrates the primary types of drugs teens aged 12-17 are abusing, with marijuana leading the pack, followed by prescription pills used for non-medical purposes…which leads us to “Skittles Parties”…
The percentage of teens ages 12 – 17 who reported abusing illicit drugs in 2014:
So, Skittles parties?
I was shocked to learn that these drug parties have become commonplace among teens… and many parents have no idea they are going on!
Mike shared that kids come to “Skittles parties” with a handful of pills they obtain from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets. Mike reported that at these parties, kids will dump the pills each of them brings together in a bowl – the pills are all different colors and look like a bunch of “Skittles.” The kids then take a handful of the random pills and wash them down with alcohol… the results can be tragic.
Mike advises parents to keep an eye on the pill supplies in their medicine cabinets.
Reflecting on teen drug usage and addiction in general, Mike stated, “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” and encourages parents to take an active role in knowing what their kids are doing and what parties they are attending.
Read the rest of this series…
In Part 2 of this series, Mike talks about head shops and the specific drugs teens are using today.
In Part 3 (coming next week), Mike discusses life-saving drugs for addicts, as well as what parents can do if they suspect their child is involved with drugs.
Sheriff Mike Nielsen has been in law enforcement for over 30 years. Amazingly, his career as a police officer began after a traffic stop where the road officer, after talking with Mike for a bit, asked him to step out of the car. Impressed with his polite demeanor and impressive 6’7″ stature, the road officer invited Mike to think about joining the force. At the time, Mike was an electrical engineering manager with Fishers Control International, but was compelled by the opportunity to help others and eventually decided to become a law enforcement officer. Since joining the force in 1983, Mike has earned numerous distinctions and accreditations such as graduating from various law enforcement academies, including the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, in 2010. He has served as the Indiana President of the FBI National Academy (2015), sat on the board of directors for the Indiana Sheriff’s Association and is a certified crisis hostage negotiator among other numerous boards and association memberships. In 1999, he received the Richard Brown Memorial Award and was named “Police Officer of the Year,” and then in 2003, was named “Victim Rights Officer of the Year” by the Boone County Indiana Prosecutor’s Office. Mike serves as a fellow board member with Ginger on the Boone County Child Advocacy Center Board of Directors. Connect with Mike at the Boone County Indiana Sheriff’s Department, on Facebook at the Boone Co. Sheriff’s Office page or on Twitter @nielsen4sheriff.
Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and trained child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues. Along with her husband John and pets Lexi and Chase, Ginger enjoys traveling, skiing, hiking, brisk mornings, colorful sunsets and just hangin’ at home with “the Pack”.
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