It looks like an ordinary lug nut spun around a bolt.
But in Paul Webb’s fingers, the nut slides down to reveal a hole bored in the metal and carefully hidden.
“See?” he says, spinning around the threading. “That’s pretty cleverly hidden. You’d never even suspect this could be used to smoke something.”
As makeshift pot pipes go, that one is ingenious. But as Webb showed visitors Monday evening at the Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit at South Amherst Middle School, drug users can be incredibly inventive.
He waved his hands over a collection of amazing makeshift smoking devices — bongs made out of gas masks and vacuum cleaner tubes, or fashioned from glass beer bottles, even made from cardboard rolls.
The most common ways to smoke marijuana on the cheap, though, have been the same for years: using an ordinary plastic water bottle or some aluminum foil. Glass pipes, often homemade, are also common.
They are the type of paraphernalia you might find hidden away in a teenager’s bedroom where a parent might not easily spot them.
There are also, of course, highly decorative glass bongs that can be purchased at area head shops with little trouble — bongs are legal — but the average teenager isn’t going to have the budget for that kind of purpose, Webb said.
A detective and juvenile investigator with the Copley Township police department, Webb has seen it all over the decades. Now he is part of Hidden in Plain Sight, educating parents about the dangers that may be tucked away in their own homes.
What are the top concerns when it comes to teen drug use? The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites the Monitoring the Future study, performed in 2013.
It states alcohol is by far the most abused drug among underage kids, with marijuana following in second place.
At the time of the study, more than 36 percent of high school seniors told researchers they had used pot in the past year.
The next-most commonly abused illicit drugs were amphetamines (8.7 percent), synthetic marijuana (7.9 percent), and prescription painkillers (7.1 percent).
Webb said up-and-coming threats include bath salts, which are powerful synthetic hallucinogens; and waxes, dabs, and oils. Those are derived from marijuana but can be made of up to 60 percent THC.
To put that in perspective, pot 30 years ago had about four percent THC (the active chemical that creates a high). Today, marijuana grades are generally much more potent at 12 to 14 percent THC.
Webb said he anticipates marijuana will soon be legalized in Ohio, and eventually across the entire United States.
That means law enforcement agencies will need to shift their drug policy focus. Yet whatever the law says about adult use, he believes parents will always need to be vigilant about their children’s habits — in much the same way society handled alcohol use now.
Pot aside, prescription drugs are a serious and growing problem, he said.
The Partnership for a Drug Free America’s annual tracking study shows one in five teens has abused a prescription pain medication. That’s the same number that reports abusing prescription stimulants and tranquilizers. About one in 10 has abused cough medication.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
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