DENVER (KDVR) — Federal drug enforcers say dealers are finding ways to target younger kids who may not even be seeking a fix.
The FOX31 Problem Solvers sat down with the Drug Enforcement Administration to learn the latest ways dealers are reaching and impacting young people.
From where traffickers market drugs to how they change the look of drugs themselves, the DEA is now educating children at a younger age, knowing they are not immune to the trafficking trends.
It could seem as innocent as weekend cartoons.
“You think that, you know, my kids are just watching videos and cartoons. The problem is that that might be their intent in terms of what the kids want to do,” said David Olesky, active special agent in charge for the DEA Rocky Mountain Field Division.
DEA: Dealers use trends for marketing
Regardless of the intent, Olesky said drug dealers keep up with trends as a marketing opportunity.
“These drug trafficking organizations can proactively reach out and touch your kids in such a way in terms of marketing their product to an unassuming person,” Olesky said.
Olesky likens it to spam calls.
“You know, that’s just going to be a marketer, but when it comes to social media and applications that our kids are going through, they’re getting inundated by the same type of messaging, but from folks who have an alternative purpose,” Olesky said.
With the latest trends, Olesky is working to educate kids at an earlier age. He used to start speaking to students aged 12. Now, he sees the need to start as young as 8 years old.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 9 years old, if it’s 12 years old, and they have their own smartphone, they have their iPad,” Olesky said.
There’s also a website with information called getsmartaboutdrugs.gov.
How do young kids react to images of drugs?
The need for education heightens with the way Olesky sees kids reacting to the deadly drugs he’s showing.
“There is a lack of a stigma associated with a pill,” he said. “I’ve gone to a number of schools in the metro area, and I would speak to kids. I would show a photo of somebody injecting, let’s say, heroin into their arm, and everybody will cringe in the classroom when they see this.”
However, he notices a lack of reaction even with a pipe and meth, one of Colorado’s deadly threats.
“When you translate over to a pill, a fentanyl pill that looks like something you might get from a pharmacy, there’s no reaction whatsoever,” he said. “And the cartels are even adapting these pills to look like a variety of colors.”
Pressed and colored to look like candy, drugs in a dose as small as the tip of a pen or pencil can kill, reinforcing the need to teach younger in an effort to save lives.
“So, you get numb to numbers, but last year, more than 109,000 individuals (in the U.S.) died as a result of a drug-related overdose,” he said. “Those types of numbers in and of itself reveal that there’s not any one age group, race, demographic that’s being impacted. It’s all of us that are being impacted.”