Meth Lab Found in Storage Unit Close to UP

The Alarming Discovery Sparks a Larger Conversation Among Students and Staff About Drugs in America and the Community

This is a picture of the sign of the storage unit where the meth lab was located. Junior Dejaniera Valenzuela said,

Caitlynn Kelley

This is a picture of the sign of the storage unit where the meth lab was located. Junior Dejaniera Valenzuela said, "It is just nothing that you would expect from somewhere right next to our school. I wouldn’t have expected that."

Caitlynn Kelley, Journalist

On February 20th, 2020, authorities found out about a meth lab that was at the Reliable Storage Unit adjacent to University Preparatory. Victorville city firefighters were notified about there being a potential meth lab around 10:20 pm that night. They found evidence that corroborates there being a meth lab. A hazmat team was requested to enter the storage unit and to screen the materials that were found inside.  

 

 

 

Initial Reaction

Caitlynn Kelley
The post office is located right next to the storage unit and the UP campus. “We have kids after school that go to the post office to get snacks, not knowing that there was a meth lab [near] there…[It’s] surprising,” stated senior Jonathan Leung.

The close proximity to our campus caused junior Dejaneira Valenzuela to state, “Hearing that we had a meth lab [near us], I was kind of shocked.”

Similarly, senior Jonathan Leung also thought it was surprising. “I didn’t even know about it until it was on the news. I think that it’s crazy how it was right next to us and how close we are to that and how exposed we are.” Leung also stated, “I would be worried, as a parent, if I had kids knowing there was a meth lab close to our school.”

This event has raised concerns with parents from West Palms, even though the storage unit is right next to University Preparatory. Valenzuela stated how having the meth lab close to UP impacted the community around it, parents especially. “I feel like parents, if they would have found out about that, they would probably be shocked. They wouldn’t expect for a school to be right next to a storage unit that … would have a whole lab set up. I know my mom, she was kind of shocked… I’m pretty sure that is how most parents were too and they probably felt that was not very safe for the school.”

On the topic of how chemistry can be used for nefarious acts, chemistry teacher Mr. Colón stated:

“It’s kind of sad because people always think of chemistry as something where we use it negatively to make things like drugs, bombs, weapons, etc. Chemistry is something that is all around us and it is happening all the time in our bodies. It can be used for good, but with the good also comes responsibilities of knowing that some people out there use it for purposes that are either negative or bad in general.”

Dangers

“Basically, a meth lab is not a good thing to have in a storage unit. There are a lot of fumes that are dangerous, can explode, are caustic, and are hazardous to human contact,” stated Mr. Colón.

Leung agreed. When asked about the dangers of having a meth lab so close to a school, he responded, “If there was some sort of explosion or exposure of the chemicals to students it could probably affect the students, also killing and injuring students.”

The chemicals that are used to make meth are very toxic and dangerous. One of the reasons why authorities are concerned about going into a meth lab is because of the risk of it exploding. Chemicals used in a meth lab are known to be highly explosive, toxic, and flammable. If someone touches something in a meth lab, they could be burned either in their eyes or skin, or inhale the deadly fumes.

Methamphetamine is also known to be a highly addictive drug. The high that comes from using meth is highly potent although it doesn’t last long. While using meth, a person can feel more energized, have a fast heart rate, have a decreased appetite, and become euphoric (high), along with many more side-effects. If someone is a long term user of meth, they can lose weight, become anxious or depressed, have mood swings, have critical dental problems, and more. Some teenagers that do use meth use it to lose weight; they might start to use meth due peer pressure or wanting to “fit in.”

Valenzuela thought the possibility of kids being tempted to “check it out” could also contribute to the dangers. “It could cause a lot of problems. It is not a smart thing to do, first of all… I’m not saying you should do it… [but] for those kids who think that drugs are cool, they might’ve thought that it would be so cool to maybe look into it.”  

Drugs in America

On the topic of drugs in American society, Colón stated, “Drugs are going to be everywhere. We’ve legalized a lot of drugs. I think they are a necessity at times because there are some legal drugs that are required and are needed for people that really need it. The only problem is that when we over-prescribe and over-sell that it becomes so proliferated out in the community and people just take it for granted…There is that fine line between what is needed for a person and how much they are going to need and something that they’re going to get hooked on and want to try to get their next fix somehow.”

“The fact that kids think that it is so cool to do it, it kind of bothers me. It doesn’t really make me feel safe.”

— Dejaneira Valenzuela

Valenzuela feels that drugs are bad and discourages others from using them. “For me, if you don’t want to do it, just don’t do it and then the people who are doing it, ‘C’mon there is more to your life than drugs.’ I know that it will make you feel good, but it is not the best thing in the world… I wouldn’t even want to try any. The fact that kids think that it is so cool to do it, it kind of bothers me. It doesn’t really make me feel safe.”

“Yeah, drugs, they are bad. You shouldn’t do them. I think drugs now are being more normalized like marijuana is becoming legal. It is more exposed to teens. Teens are trying new things. It is pretty dangerous,” said Leung about the topic.

The Opioid epidemic was declared a national emergency in 2017 by President Trump due to the fact that it is one the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. Thankfully, among adolescents, opioid misuse has been decreasing. Less high schoolers believe that opioids are easily accessible. However, death by overdosing on drugs is increasing among adolescents. In 2015 alone, 4,235 adolescents (ages 15-24) died due to overdosing on drugs. Half of these overdose deaths were because of opioids. Opioids can make the user feel relaxed and high, which are reasons why it is common for people to abuse them. When someone takes the opioid, there is a rush of dopamine, a feel-good chemical released in your brain, which could encourage the user to repeatedly take the opioid. The side effects of taking opioids are: drowsiness, slowed breathing, confusion, etc. The slowed breathing can cause hypoxia, which happens when there is not enough oxygen that reaches the brain. This can cause permanent brain damage or even death.

The topic of legalizing Cannabis in the United States has caused a lot of controversy among political lines. Cannabis, also known as Marijuana, is legal for recreational use in California, District of Columbia, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, and in many other states. It is important to note that even though Cannabis is legal under these state laws, it is illegal under federal laws. One of the 500 chemicals that is in the Marijuana plant, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical that is behind the mind altering effects (the high). There has been people going to emergency rooms due to nervousness and psychosis (hearing and seeing things that aren’t there) due to using high amounts of THC. Some of the short term side effects from using Marijuana include: an increase in appetite, hallucinations, psychosis, and changes in mood. Some of the long term side effects from using Cannabis are the development of mental issues, such as schizophrenia and depression, and respiratory problems. Those who use marijuana are more likely to drop out of school and have impaired driving skills due to bad coordination.

Using e-cigarettes and vaping has severely increased among teenagers as well. Around 2018 and 2019, the company JUUL became very popular among teenagers and middle schoolers alike. It has high traction among the youth due to many different fun flavors that the company offers. JUUL was at first marketing these e-cigarettes to adults who are trying to quit smoking. Altria, the company that produces Marlboro cigarettes, bought shares in JUUL last year. They invested $12.8 billion dollars in shares last year. Their value in shares went down to $4.1 billion dollars due to all of the legal cases that JUUL has been spending money on. There has been 59 deaths and 1,000s of people that have reported that they became sick after vaping THC. Federal agencies have been going after JUUL due to the claim that they were misleading in their advertising. There is a multi-state and bipartisan investigation into the JUUL labs to check the content, safety, and the product as a smoke-free device. It is more dangerous to vape marijuana due to the high THC levels, which creates a more potent high. This can be very detrimental to your health and make you addicted. 

Prevention

When asked how to prevent something like this from happening again, Colón responded, “I think educate you guys [students] in the classroom, at schools, universities. I think nobody really knows the effects of something until it happens to someone you know…That is when you start becoming more aware of everything that is happening and you become more empowered. It is sad that it takes us to this point where we have to see someone you love and they are dealing with issues, but then we become empowered and then we feel like it is a cause to deal with. We start fighting for that cause and try to make people aware of what is happening. But until it happens around us and it actually directly impacts us, we just kind of say ‘ahh it is happening, but it isn’t happening here.’ And then we just move on with our day.”

Valenzuela thought more supervision would help resolve the issue. “I feel like to prevent something like that from happening… [people should] check what is going on, storage unit wise. Maybe check on the history of some people, ask for a background check. Just do ordinary routines of everything that is in the storage unit or around our school in general. Maybe the houses.” Leung agreed with Valenzuela and thought that more restrictions, along with “check ups,” could have prevented the situation from happening.

Neglect is another factor contributing to drug abuse in teens. It is very important for them to feel that they’re cared for at their homes because a lack of love is one of the main reasons that drive teens to do meth. Parents should be more involved in their children’s lives, make sure that they’re cared for, and talk to them about the consequences of their choices. This has a chance of deterring them from using meth and or other drugs in the future. There is a strategy for meth prevention in communities called Meth360, which helps law enforcement to educate communities about the dangers of methamphetamine. There are powerpoint presentations that are done in classrooms and there are former meth users that come as guests to give their testimonies. There are different experts that come in to give their own diverse opinions on the matter.

There is one piece of legislation that is against meth. It is called the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic of 2005. The act lists that the products should be restricted in quantity of purchase and that the products to make methamphetamine must be sold over-the-counter (must be in a locked cabinet or somewhere the customer doesn’t have access to).

Drugs in America have always been a greatly discussed topic, especially when it is about protecting the welfare of adolescents. Students and staff from University Preparatory showed how disturbed they were about the meth lab near their school.