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Superintendents’ forum: How Edibles are Changing Landscape of Drugs in Berks County

This article was originally published in the Reading Eagle:

By: Dr. Christy Haller, Exeter School District

Thursday, October 26, 2023

A national study published this year by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the number of children who accidentally ingested drug-laced edibles rose from 207 cases in 2017 to a staggering 3,014 cases in 2021. This, as both a parent and an educator, is extremely alarming. As it turns out, it also alarms our local police, too.

Recognizing the importance of educating our teachers about these new products, we collaborated with the Exeter Township Police Department to provide this information to teachers and staff during a special professional development session.

Detective Sgt. Rocco DeCamillo pointed to a table filled with police-confiscated THC-laced gummies, brownies, cookies and other treats,

“This was not manufactured to appeal to adults,” he said. “It was manufactured to look like candy to appeal to kids.”

This session was designed to help educators understand the dangers of edibles, but more importantly, how manufacturers have gone to great lengths to disguise drugs as candy, brownies and cookies.

DeCamillo walked educators through the ever-complex and constantly-changing landscape of what drugs police are seeing being sold and being used in Exeter by adults and minors alike.

“Things have drastically changed in the last 20 years,” he said. “When the majority of us were in high school, marijuana was natural and looked like pot. Now, there’s so much synthetic stuff out there that’s chemically-produced with no regulation or oversight — and much of it’s been disguised to look like candy.”

In cases of accidental ingestion, children may unknowingly come across these drugs in their own homes thinking they have discovered a treat and innocently eat it or share it with their friends. Because of this, it is important that we, as parents, develop an awareness and educate ourselves about the types of edibles that are being marketed to children.

I was shocked to see how closely these items resemble popular brands of store-bought candy or cookies.

As educators, we share the same goals as parents: We want to protect our children so that they can learn in a safe environment. My hope is that in sharing this information with our community and families we can provide an awareness of these drugs and their potential impact upon our children.

If you would like to see examples and photos of these edibles, I encourage you to visit our website to see photos from the police presentation: exetersd.org/blog/news/drug-awareness-workshop.

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