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The Marble Falls Independent School District held a public panel on substance abuse Monday, Nov. 7, in its campaign to snuff out drug use on campuses. Led by Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen, the panel covered the changing science behind commonly used drugs, ways to identify children who might be using drugs, the perspective of local law enforcement, and what resources are available to parents who are concerned about their children.

“(Drug use) has created some real sadness in Central Texas,” Allen said.

Panelists were Burnet County Health Authority Dr. Juliette Madrigal, Marble Falls High School counselor Christina Deloach, and Marble Falls Police Chief Glenn Hanson. 

To open the discussion, Allen asked Madrigal about how the chemical structure of marijuana has changed in recent years.

“Since the ’80s, there’s been a significant increase in the potency of marijuana,” she said. “From 1995 to 2012, the amount of THC in marijuana products has tripled.”

Madrigal offered a stark warning to parents.

“If you find a (vaping) pen in your kid’s room, it probably has THC, no matter what they’re telling you,” she said.

Roughly 50 percent of Marble Falls students who test positive for nicotine in school-issued urine drug tests also simultaneously test positive for THC, Allen said.

During the panel, Allen drove home the seriousness of substance abuse. He played a video produced by Hays County ISD of two parents talking about their 17-year-old child, who died from a suspected fentanyl overdose earlier this school year. 

“It’s important to see that this isn’t a bunch of alarmists making up stories,” Allen said. “What you heard was from parents, not the media or a politician — actual parents from a school district not all that far from here.”

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, a lethal dose of fentanyl is about 2 milligrams, which is equivalent in size to a few grains of salt.

After the video, the panel discussed the reasons some students turn to drugs.

School counselor Deloach said the district has noticed an uptick in depression among students, which often leads to bad decision making as they deal with daily stresses. 

“(School) comes with a lot of pressure,” Deloach said. “Some kids are equipped to deal with that pressure. Some kids aren’t equipped to deal with that pressure, so they turn to these drugs in order to cope with the pressures that are being placed on them.”

Contributing factors in the recent spike of anxiety and depression among students include academic pressure surrounding college admissions and social stress exacerbated by cellphones and social media.

“Listen to your kids when they come home and say that somebody called me fat, somebody called me ugly, somebody wouldn’t play with me, because that’s where it starts,” Deloach said. “If we brush it off because we think it’s going to be OK, it’s opening doors to pressure and students feeling like they can’t get away.”

Another factor complicating the district’s fight against substance abuse is how common drug use has become today.

“Five, 10 years ago, we could have probably come up with a profile,” Deloach said. “Today, if you have a kid, your kid is at risk of doing drugs. If you have a child in your home, there is a possibility that child is using, will use, or has used.”

Chief Hanson also pointed to a cultural shift over the past decades.

“If we look back to the ’60s and ’70s, the drug culture was the counterculture,” he said. “It seems like we’ve had a big shift in the culture, and now the drug culture is the culture.”


If you suspect your child might be using drugs, look for these warning signs:

  • a sudden shifts in moods
  • a drop in grades
  • isolation
  • no desire to participate in activities they once enjoyed
  • a change in eating habits

“Any kind of major changes you see in your child is reason to have that conversation,” Deloach said. “When you do have that conversation, and they say, ‘I don’t know how to handle this,’ and ‘I don’t know why I’m sad four out of five days,’ it’s time to seek some help and take them seriously.”

Parents can turn to several resources to help their children, including family physicians, school counselors, nurses, and local pastors.

“Please know that there are resources aplenty,” Allen said. “If we don’t know how to exactly solve that problem, we can get you to someone who can.”