Identifying drug abuse among students

Bret E. Brooks
Posted on August 14, 2014
  • One of the greatest multitaskers in today’s society is the school bus driver. Having to safely operate your vehicle while watching for the inattentive actions of others is something all drivers do regardless of the vehicle they are driving.

However, school bus drivers must also monitor and manage the actions and behaviors of dozens of children who are at their backs. Any solo parent who has tried to take a road trip with multiple children only knows a fraction of what this can be like.

This multitasking includes more than just vehicle operation and behavior management. Have you really listened to the conversations of the students you are transporting? Have they talked about committing crimes or becoming an active shooter? Have you overheard them talking about how the upcoming weekend is going to be great with “Molly”? Drivers should be listening to what the children are talking about.

Often, students will talk about the previous weekend on Monday and the upcoming weekend on Friday, so these two days are the days you are most likely to hear the children discussing drugs.

Common drug-related terms
Most people know what “upper,” “downer,” “hit,” “stoned” and other common terms mean. However, do you know some of the newer slang terms for common drugs? There are many resources available that can help you understand what your students are talking about.

Here are a few drug-related terms:

•    Molly — Ecstasy
•    Horse — Heroin
•    Bean — Drug tablet or capsule
•    Drank (or Purple Drank) — Cough
    syrup mixture
•    Cheese — Type of heroin
•    Kiddie Dope — Prescription
•    Skunk — Marijuana
•    Drunk Pills — Valium
•    Go Fast — Methamphetamine
•    Forget Me Pill — Rohypnol (Roofie)
•    Special K — Ketamine
•    Gym Candy — Anabolic steroids

This short list is not all-encompassing. There are simply too many terms to list in a magazine article.

I encourage all drivers to search out more information about drug terms. Information is available from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice. You could also contact your local police department or pharmacy.

Several books have been written about drug abuse and are available from any bookstore or online.

Drug deals, reporting found drugs
Another important fact to keep in mind is that many drug dealers will market their drugs specifically to children. This may include such tactics as coloring and flavoring the drugs (as in the case of strawberry-flavored meth) or pricing drugs to match the cost of a school lunch. Fights over lunch money might actually be fights over drug money. Likewise, many dealers will approach children at school bus stops due to the set schedule and a lack of adult supervision.

If you find something on your bus that you believe might be drugs or drug paraphernalia, do not touch it with bare hands. Some drugs can be easily absorbed through skin, so avoid direct contact. You should notify your supervisor, the school district and local law enforcement.

If you are not sure what you are looking at, you could call the national poison control hotline at (800) 222-1222. If you describe what you see, they will be able to identify it, especially if it is a commercially produced drug, such as prescription or over-the-counter medication.

Illegal narcotics are not the only type of drugs that contribute to a drug problem within a school district. It is common for many drug users to abuse prescription and over-the-counter medications. Additionally, alcohol and tobacco abuse should not be ignored. Just because it is legal for adults and tends to be common among teenagers does not make it OK.

Every school bus driver should be familiar with Joyce Gregory. She was a school bus driver in Tennessee, and on March 2, 2005, she was shot and killed because she told a boy he could not chew tobacco on her bus. We know drugs can lead to murders, but did you know that chewing tobacco led to the murder of Joyce?

Listen for discussions of violence, too
Being attentive to what students are saying can also identify potential cases of bullying, potential criminal activity, gang involvement or other very serious and important matters. Violence tends to happen in significant proportions on school buses on Wednesdays and, therefore, you might hear violence-related discussions on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I urge you to really listen to what your students are saying on your bus. Doing so might prevent an active shooter, a case of bullying, drug addiction or even your own death.

Bret Brooks is the chief operating officer for the training and consulting firm Gray Ram Tactical LLC, and the author of Drug Abuse Awareness: The Authoritative Parent and Teacher's Guide. He provides training and consulting services to bus companies and schools across North America. He can be reached at

Related Topics: drug use/testing, student violence

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