Drug use up in Tri-City schools?

The use of drugs in our schools is on the rise. Police tell Action News some Tri-Cities teens are developing addictions to marijuana and opiates early-on.

KEPR learned more kids are being suspended from our local schools because of it.

It's a tragic trend. A trend that can lead to addiction. "Austin" remembers observing the drug life in high school.

"Mostly just pot. A lot of potheads," said Richland High Graduate "Austin."

Still, he was surprised to hear new numbers show suspensions for drugs are on the rise.

"I don't think it's any more than it used to be," added "Austin."

Richland had the highest jump. More than doubling its numbers for the school year ending in 2012. Suspensions in Kennewick increased by a third -- according to the state. Pasco numbers decreased slightly.

Administrators tell us -- the number of suspensions don't reflect an actual spike in drug use. Richland tells us they're just catching more kids. They've placed a bigger emphasis on spotting drug use. Kennewick says prevention specialists encourage students to come forward.

Even Austin realizes -- it's a potent problem.

"Drugs change people's lives," said "Austin."

Police tells us the school districts are helping combat the problem themselves. They train staff to recognize signs of dependency. Officers say marijuana and prescription pills are the most-commonly used by teenagers in the Tri-Cities. From there -- it's a slippery slope.

"And then you're turning to heroin and other drugs," said Metro Drug Task Force Commander Trevor White.

School administrators don't think the recent legalization of pot has encouraged teens to smoke it more.
Police aren't so sure.

"That's going to clearly send a message - in my opinion - that marijuana isn't as bad as people think," said Commander White.

Working to stop addiction -- at its beginnings.

We also crunched the numbers for Finley and Prosser school districts. Drug suspension in schools decreased for both towns.