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How to spot a drug user

Matt TerrellVail CorrespondentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

AVON – There are several ways to spot a drug user, and Avon Police ChiefBrian Kozak is teaching parents how to recognize those symptoms in their kids.Kozak is a drug recognition expert and has performed more than 5,000 drug evaluations. He says there are simple tests that can be done when your son or daughter comes home after a party, and if you sharpen your observation skills, there are behaviors you can look for to see if they’re high or drunk.But before you try anything, Kozak suggests talking about drug and alcohol with your kids.”You don’t want to surprise them,” Kozak said.Instead, tell your kids that you know what to look for, that you know what the symptoms of drug use are, and you know how to do tests that expose drunkenness and marijuana use.If you want, even demonstrate these tests. Let them know that you trust them to make the right decisions, but you know how to check if you ever suspect something.”If they know what to expect, they may not be as offended,” Kozak said.The nystagmus testIf you’re trying to figure out if someone is high or drunk, the eyes are the window to the soul, Kozak saidAn easy test to do is to look for jerking and twitching eyes, a condition called Nystagmus.If you need to test your child, start by holding up your finger vertically at eye level and ask him or her to follow your finger with their eyes as you sweep it back and forth.Look carefully at the eyes. If the eyes are jerking and twitching as they look from left to right, that’s a pretty good indication that they’ve been abusing depressants like alcohol or Valium, the drug PCP or things like glue or paint, which people sniff and breathe in to get high.”Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug here in Eagle County,” Kozak said.Another commonly abused drug here is soma, a prescription drug that basically makes you feel drunk but without the hangover, Kozak said. If a kid is using soma, you could possibly detect it with the nystagmus test.The pupil testYou can also tell a lot by looking at someone’s pupils. Most people have pupils between 3 millimeters and 6.5 millimeters. Any larger, and that’s a good sign they’re on stimulants like cocaine or meth, which speed up your body and bring feelings of excitement and euphoria.Large pupils can also be a sign someone is using drugs like LSD or peyote, which causes people to hallucinate and alters their senses.It also is a sign they’re using marijuana, which besides alcohol, is the most commonly abused drug in Eagle County, Kozak said.If the pupils are much smaller than normal, that’s a sign they’re on hard narcotics like heroin, morphine or codeine, which are used as painkillers but can be extremely addictive.Field sobriety testAs a street cop, one test Kozak liked to use is the Rhomberg test. In it, he asks someone to put their legs together, put their arms to their side, tilt their head back, close their eyes and use their internal clock to count 30 seconds.Someone high on stimulants like meth or cocaine will somehow believe 30 seconds is up after one or two seconds. Someone who’s drunk might take two minutes before they realize 30 seconds have passed.Strange behaviorBut you don’t necessarily have to perform a test to spot drug or alcohol use. If you suspect your child is taking depressants like alcohol, Valium or soma, look for typical behavior you’d expect from someone who is drunk – slurred, thick speech, stumbling, loss of coordination, disorientation.If you suspect a stimulant like cocaine, look for restlessness, talkativeness, grinding teeth, anxiety or a raw nose. Kozak said you can even look for the remnants of cocaine powder in their nose.Look to see if your child is staring into space, with their attention fixed on inanimate objects. People on drugs like LSD hallucinate, and users often mix their senses up, “seeing sounds and hearing colors,” Kozak said. He often noticed that people on hallucinogens liked to visit grocery stores and hang out in the colorful detergent isle.”Are they looking around, staring at things? Do they have a dazed appearance?” Kozak said.Track marksIf someone is using narcotics like heroin or morphine, they might have droopy eyelids, slow reflexes and might be scratching their face a lot. They might also be hiding “track marks,” or the sores showing where they’ve used needles. They’re often covered up by long sleeves or pants.For marijuana users, look for bloodshot eyes, tremors and disorientation. If they smell like marijuana, that’s a good sign, too. People on marijuana also lose their inhibitions, so if they seem not to care about anything, at least more than normal, that’s a sign, Kozak said.There are of course concrete ways to determine all these things. If you have strong suspicion that your child is using drugs, you can buy drug test at a pharmacy, or call a doctor and have them tested there. That’s also the time to start an intervention program.Kozak suggests a program called “Last Call” which can be reached at 970-748-2297.


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