CUSTER COUNTY–On Tuesday, more than 430 local students heard a message of positive prevention when it comes to drug and substance abuse. As part of the Elks Drug Awareness Program, students from Ansley, Arnold, Broken Bow, Callaway, Merna, and Litchfield learned a little bit more about drugs and alcohol.
Substance Prevention Specialist and humorous youth speaker Ray Lozano traveled from California this week to speak to Custer County students about the “effects of drugs and alcohol on the body, the addictive process, consequences of risky behaviors, alternative choices, and the ability to make positive life decisions,” as stated on his website.
Lozano comes from a non-user background but saw the negative results of alcoholism and meth use in his family. He shared personal stories of being a kid and watching his brother go to jail for smuggling heroin into the United States. As a five-year-old watching his brother in handcuffs, Lozano said “my brother actually saved my live that night” and Lozano began his journey of sharing a message of prevention. He began giving prevention presentations in high school and was known as a different kind of “drug guy.”
“It’s weird because I became the drug guy on our high school campus, not the providing drug guy, but the providing information drug guy which is really weird,” Lozano said.
On Tuesday evening, parents had the opportunity to hear from Lozano and get a closer look at marijuana and its effects on a developing brain, but in an informative and entertaining way.
Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the main element people are looking for to get high. Lozano explained that natural weed has a 5% THC level but weed and weed products have continued to heighten in potency due to human manipulation of the plant. In 1969 normal THC levels were 7% and today that number has risen to 21%. Edibles such as marijuana cookies can see levels of 85% THC with cannabis wax levels as high as 98% THC.
Lozano went on to explain how marijuana affects a youth’s frontal lobe development decreasing one’s sense of time/urgency, decreases attention span, and also builds up anxiety as a person who often smokes weed continues to function on an emotional level rather than an intellectual level.
“[Marijuana] It’s unbelievably detrimental to the brain especially for developing brains for kids under the age of 23,” Lozano continued. “What happens is the brain begins to function on an emotional level, not an intellectual level. Now the problem is the person that smokes weed cannot see this taking place. It’s really difficult for them to see this happening but the brain begins to function on an emotional level, not an intellectual level.”
Ray and his daughter Brooke continued the evening by talking about the brain’s response to rewards and consequences and how those responses change when drugs or alcohol are used. Brooke also talked about the dangers of nicotine present in vape juices and JUUL products and how they are marketed toward young students.
Ray and Brooke ended the evening with a message of hope and a reminder that not all students are using drugs or alcohol.