Raleigh, NC – In a ordinary working class neighborhood here in the North Carolina capital local police officer Michael Jenson patrols on foot. It is, he says, the best way to establish a rapport with the children and teens that live along his beat. That rapport is needed to “get ahead” of the kids as they approach the deadly pitfalls awaiting them.
“I have to be able to warn them,” says Ofc. Jenson. “I have to let them know. It’s like they’re my own kids.” These days the biggest danger Ofc. Jenson fears is the growing use of Placebos.
In a near-ritualistic fashion many kids from inner city environs gather for what is known as a “sugarbuzz.”
“They’re popping them like they were candy,” warns Ofc. Jenson. “I’ve heard of kids taking handfuls of the things all at once. Then they just wander around with that glazed look on their faces. It breaks your heart.”
Once used exclusively by pharmaceutical companies in clinical trials, Placebos have become a recreational drug for kids seeking escape from boredom and angst that often accompanies adolescence.
Researchers still aren’t sure exactly what the effects, both near and long term, might have in store for those abusing Placebos.
“We’ve seen Placebos mimic the effects of a wide range of prescription medications,” noted Dr. Seymour Gantry of the Food and Drug Administration. “Much of the research on these Placebos is still out.”
And it’s not just the prescription-grade Placebos. Reports are coming out of “bathtub” Placebos whose effectiveness is several times more potent than those produced by heavily regualted and monitored pharmaceutical companies thus leading to a very real possibility of an overdose or other mishap.
“I blame our glamour-obsessed culture,” scolds Bertha Windmeyer, an inner-city youth counselor. “Turn on your TV at any given hour and you’ll see celebrities popping sweet, sugary treats with no depiction of the adverse effects.”
Once a sweets abuser herself, Ms. Windmeyer struggles daily with the 50 some-odd pounds left to her from a life of reckless abandon. Now forced to walk with a waddle Ms. Windmeyer sounds a clear indictment, “It’s embedded in our culture where candy is passed off as a ‘holiday-enhancer.’ ”
Ms. Windmeyer says the battle against Placebos begins at home with the parents, “How can we expect our children to grow-up and make the right decisions if they see their parents exchanging heart-shaped boxes and candy canes and setting out bowls of candy for Halloween visitors?”
But that doesn’t mean Ofc. Jenson and his department are leaving others to do all the heavy-lifting.
“Just last week we busted a tractor-trailer loaded with sacks of pure cane sugar. We do our best to go after the suppliers but what do you do when there are entire plantations dedicated to growing this stuff scattered all throughout Central and South America? It’s not just the white stuff either. We got bags of ‘downtown brown’ showing up all the time. And the powdered stuff is the worst.”
But it is a battle they fight against a mighty headwind. Local courts have been beseiged by lawsuits stemming from charges of overcrowding in the city’s jail. Last month a judge ordered the early release of two confectioners and a pastry chef after the trio had completed little over one-quarter of their sentences.
“It makes me sick,” says Ofc. Jenson. “It was hard enough getting the candy and soda machines out of the public schools without having to see these sorts of scum turned back out onto the streets.”