ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — With school back in session this week and next, D.A.R.E and school resource officers are returning to schools to help students understand the dangers and consequences of using illegal substances.

“They’re illegal for those over the age of 21, they’re still illegal for anyone under the age of 21,” Kristen Mazur, an Officer with Orchard Park Police, and Vice President of NYDOS, said on the use of Marijuana. “Because it’s legal it makes kids think that it’s safe, or it’s okay because it’s legal, which you know, is not the case.”

Mazur says they’re seeing an increase in accidental ingestions of edibles by young children, as the packaging looks similar to candy or a snack. She says these high levels of THC are dangerous for children, as they can feel the effects faster and longer. It can aslo cause them to get sick.

“If adults have these products in their home, we definitely encourage them to be stored like medicine. To be stored like a prescription drug or something like that to make sure that these products are out of sight and out of reach of especially young children, who are maybe unable to read and to know what that product actually is,” Mazur said.

One substance that they’re noticing an increase in usage among children is vaping. She believes vapes can look appealing for children, as they come in different colors, flavors, and sizes, however, she says vaping is dangerous for their development.

“In the nicotine level in these products is so much higher than a regular cigarette, so it’s causing kids to become addicted faster,” Mazur said. “Nicotine has a negative effect on brain development and growth so we talk to kids about what happens when you put these thing in your body.”

She also says that because vaping products are so new, they don’t know the long-term effects vaping has on health, but that studies on the short-term effects show it can have a negative effect on health, especially for children’s development.

During D.A.R.E., they teach children a variety of topics, the ways to say ‘no’ to drugs, how to be a good communicator and the dangers and consequences of using drugs.

“Kids are suspended from school, sports teams, in trouble with their parents things like that,” she said when talking about some of the consequences students can face if they are found to be using substances.

If you would like to learn more about the dangers of drugs and substances, or more about D.A.R.E, visit their website here.

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Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.