When does it stop being a party and start becoming a problem? Is there a way to steer clear of addiction? Every Wednesday, Mike McGowan, host of the podcast "Avoiding the Addiction Affliction," explores substance use disorders with expert guests. The podcast series is sponsored by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition.
Original cover art created by
Kelly P. of Kenosha, Wisconsin
Social Worker and Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor who instructs the Group Dynamics class at Gateway Technical College
Veronica King finishes our discussion about people cited for Operating While Impaired. The push for decriminalization and legalization of marijuana has resulted in a significant increase in automobile accidents and fatalities involving cannabis. Countering the often-repeated myths about substances and breaking through the denial is just part of the task all substance abuse counselors have to overcome to help clients. Veronica does so as a Social Worker and Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor who instructs Group Dynamics classes at Gateway Technical College for those who have been convicted of Operating While Impaired (also known as Driving Under the Influence). Veronica holds a Master’s of Science degree from Chicago State University, is a Doctoral candidate, and is the President of the Kenosha NAACP. If you need help for your substance abuse issues, help is available. To contact the Hope Council on Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse, call 262-658-8166 or explore their website at https://www.hopecouncil.org. You can also find AA meetings here: https://mtg.area75.org/meetings.html?dist=7 and NA meetings here: https://sefa-na.org/meetings
[00:00:00] [Jaunty Guitar Music]
[00:00:11] Mike: Welcome everyone to Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, brought to you by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. I'm Mike McGowan. You know, last week, just as we were ending our conversation with Veronica King about driving under the influence, Veronica brought up those who drive under the influence of other substances including marijuana and opiates.
[00:00:33] I asked Veronica if we could do a part two, and she graciously said sure. Again then for introduction purposes, my guest, Veronica King, is an adjunct instructor at Gateway Technical College, who facilitates, among other things, the group dynamics class for those folks who have been convicted of driving under the influence.
[00:00:52] She's also a longtime social worker, clinical substance abuse counselor, a doctoral candidate, and the president of the Kenosha NAACP. That's a mouthful. Welcome back, Veronica. Thanks for doing part two.
[00:01:05] Veronica: Oh, thank you for inviting me back.
[00:01:08] Mike: You know, when you, when you started last week, I knew exactly where you were going.
[00:01:12] Just as we were ending. You started adding that alcohol isn't the only substance people get in trouble at, with behind the wheel. And, and, and just go. What else do you see in your classes?
[00:01:23] Veronica: Well like I said, when I started four years ago, my classes primarily consisted of individuals driving under the impairment of alcohol.
[00:01:35] And over the last two to three years, I'm beginning to see more and more students with opiate use disorder and marijuana use disorder.
[00:01:48] Mike: Not surprising, right. As we see more of those substances being used.
[00:01:53] Veronica: Yes.
[00:01:54] Mike: Can I ask before we get down the driving under the influence road, are you also seeing that in your other practices among clients?
[00:02:01] I'm seeing opiate usage way up.
[00:02:04] Veronica: I'm seeing cocaine way up.
[00:02:06] Mike: Really? Unbelievable. You know, every time we think we have a drug under control or people get it, it seems to cycle back, right?
[00:02:16] Veronica: Yes.
[00:02:17] Mike: I think I'm on my third or fourth rotation of cocaine and third or fourth rotation of opiates in my career.
[00:02:22] I think that means I'm getting old. [laugh] Well, let's talk about driving under the influence of marijuana. How do police check for marijuana?
[00:02:31] Veronica: They have to do a legal blood draw, so they have to obtain a warrant to obtain that person's blood.
[00:02:40] Mike: Now that's gotta be more work for the law enforcement than just giving a breathalyzer on the roadside.
[00:02:46] Veronica: Yes.
[00:02:47] Mike: So they have to decide at that point, Am I gonna go through the rigmarole of doing that?
[00:02:52] Veronica: Yes.
[00:02:53] Mike: Hmm. And opiates, is that the same blood test?
[00:02:57] Veronica: Opiates, yes, because you won't know unless there's blood work done cuz they can't detect opiates or marijuana at the scene. Now, in some cases individuals might have it visible where the officer can see it like a prescription bottle or a bag of marijuana.
[00:03:19] Or a marijuana joint. That's in plain view. So that's grounds there. Cuz then now you have a possession charge
[00:03:29] Mike: Or rolling down the window and it looks like you're cooking s'mores in there?
[00:03:33] Veronica: Yes.
[00:03:34] Mike: Yeah.
[00:03:34] Veronica: So unless it's in plain view for them to get a, add possession, they need that legal blood draw to detect if what they see is in that person's system.
[00:03:46] Mike: Now. It's been a while since I've done the science on this, but marijuana stays in your system longer than alcohol.
[00:03:53] Veronica: Yes.
[00:03:55] Mike: So how do the police know then that you're driving under the influence as opposed to just having it in your system?
[00:04:03] Veronica: Basically what they'll do is the once they get the sample, it goes to the state crime lab and a forensic chemist is able to based on the amount of nanograms in the blood, they're able to use their professional expertise to state at the time the blood was taken the amount of nanograms in the blood. And if it's high, they can distinguish that. Based on the number the patient had to have been impaired at the time of driving.
[00:04:40] Mike: And because opiates leaves the system much quicker than marijuana does. If you have it in your system, you're probably impaired.
[00:04:48] Veronica: Right? And also without documentation that it's been prescribed by medical doctor, that's also grounds cuz now it's ilicit. Versus a prescribed medication.
[00:05:03] Mike: Yeah. You know, we talked last week about some people's denial when it comes to alcohol usage.
[00:05:08] Well, okay. I don't know what you've experienced, but I, I just wanna go down that road. It's gotta be the same with marijuana.
[00:05:15] Veronica: Yes, they're quick to tell you marijuana is a herb or, so that's justification. They also say, Well, they're gonna legalize it anyway. So they use that as justification. They also say they take it for relaxation or some say they take it for chronic pain, so they will try to justify their use, but you have to enforce upon them that it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
[00:05:53] Mike: Are they able to get that connection?
[00:05:55] Veronica: Yes. After they pay all the costs for the assessment in the class and the citation and the court fees. Yes.
[00:06:07] Mike: Oh, so it's different than basil, right? [laugh]
[00:06:09] Veronica: Yes. And then when you start getting into hair follicles and fingernail clips, then they take it more seriously.
[00:06:18] Mike: You know, I, what I've found over the years, and I I know you've been doing this for a while, is. When it comes to marijuana, it's a separate category when you talk to people about it. Cuz it's not just a drug. For some people it's a lifestyle.
[00:06:32] Veronica: Yes.
[00:06:34] Mike: How do you get through that? But the constant arguing about why it should be legal and that it is legal in other states, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:06:44] Veronica: But you, you share with them it, even if it's legal in other states, and even if Wisconsin chooses to legalize it, you still cannot drive impaired.
[00:06:56] Mike: Yeah.
[00:06:56] Veronica: And that's where you draw the line.
[00:06:59] Mike: Well, and here's the issue is I'm shaking my head because as you've seen it in the last year or four years go up, in your classes in Wisconsin.
[00:07:07] Veronica: Yes.
[00:07:08] Mike: It's not legal in Wisconsin yet, among other states.
[00:07:11] Veronica: Correct.
[00:07:12] Mike: But it is around us. So if we did end up legalizing it, what would you anticipate?
[00:07:20] Veronica: I anticipate we would have more arrests for it.
[00:07:24] Mike: Wow. And, and do you know when they say it's legal in Colorado and Michigan and Illinois and Washington and Oregon and all the other places. There's studies that have been done in those places about what happens when it's legalized, right?
[00:07:38] Veronica: Yes. And again they look at various issues such as OWI rates. They also look at the number of crashes, accidents, homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. They do studies on all those. And depending on the state, some of them, it, those numbers have gone up.
[00:08:03] Mike: Yeah.
[00:08:03] Veronica: I don't think Illinois has done a study yet because theirs just was legalized not quite a year ago.
[00:08:11] Mike: Yeah, I think I saw there was a study done. We're a lot like, what's the state bordering? Is it Kansas or Nebraska that borders Colorado? And they saw...
[00:08:21] Veronica: Nebraska.
[00:08:21] Mike: Yeah, they saw immediately the same things you're talking about in Wisconsin, that when Colorado legalized it, they saw an immediate uptick.
[00:08:30] Veronica: Yes.
[00:08:31] Mike: And you know, even a 5% increase in fatalities, 6% in crashes, like in some states, that's a lot.
[00:08:38] Veronica: Yes.
[00:08:38] Mike: So there's a cost to this. It's not. It's not just a plant, there's, it's still mind altering. And what are the effects? So if you're driving, why would marijuana be bad? Okay, let me just go there. Have you heard this?
[00:08:53] Cuz I hear it all the time. "Mike. I drive better stoned."
[00:08:59] Veronica: Yes.
[00:09:00] Mike: Do they actually say that in class?
[00:09:02] Veronica: They actually say that in class.
[00:09:04] Even with alcohol.
[00:09:06] Mike: Whoa, whoa. People say I drive better drunk?
[00:09:09] Veronica: Yes. Or after a drink or two.
[00:09:12] Mike: Oh, come on! Okay. How do you answer? "I drive better stoned." I have my own set of answers to that, but how do you answer it?
[00:09:22] Veronica: Well, I tell them you're not being considerate of other drivers.
[00:09:27] Mike: Hmm. In what way?
[00:09:30] Veronica: And what if an accident were to occur?
[00:09:35] Look at the potential for loss of life.
[00:09:37] Mike: Yeah.
[00:09:38] Veronica: Whether it be your life or others and how families are impacted, how society is impacted, how public safety can be impacted. And then I give them examples of vehicles that rear end law enforcement vehicles parked on the side of the road, issuing a ticket to someone else.
[00:09:59] Could be for speeding and they get killed by an impaired driver.
[00:10:05] Mike: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:10:07] There's you know, you're gentler than I am, I must say. With that, you're much more polite. You, you talked last week about showing videos and current ones, right?
[00:10:16] Veronica: Yes.
[00:10:16] Mike: There's an old one I used to share when it came to marijuana.
[00:10:20] There's an old Cheech and Chong movie called "Up and Smoke".
[00:10:23] Veronica: Yes, I remember that.
[00:10:25] Mike: Where they end up. Parked in front of a telephone pole when the cops come and, and it's actually an arrest for drunk driving. I don't know if that would be appropriate for you showing your class, but it might get some discussion going at the very least.
[00:10:39] Veronica: Oh, I'm sure. I'm sure.
[00:10:42] I enjoy showing them cases involving Wisconsin drivers.
[00:10:48] Mike: Yeah. What does, so you, you, you smoke marijuana. How would that impair your ability to drive? What are the effects of marijuana that would affect your, your ability to drive?
[00:11:02] Veronica: Well, for one, your vision, especially when your eyes are more squint and it's dark.
[00:11:11] So you're, if night driving is a problem for you to begin with and then you're high on marijuana and your eyes are, are more squint, your peripheral vision can be affected.
[00:11:27] Mike: How about um, reaction time?
[00:11:30] Veronica: Reaction time as well. Cuz I, I tell students all the time, a stop sign says stop. It doesn't say stay. And what happens is people get to a stop sign and they stay at the stop sign instead of stopping at stop sign, and that's a red flag for law enforcement.
[00:11:55] That delayed reaction is a sign to a law enforcement officer, this driver might be impaired. The same with the stop light, if people in back of you have to honk the horn to tell you if the light's green, you need to go. Those are all signs that person might be impaired.
[00:12:21] Mike: You know, I, I love the reaction time.
[00:12:23] I remember when I was much younger having roommates who did quite a bit of marijuana and you, when you called their name out in the same room, you would know, you would say, "Hey, Bob". And you could literally go one 1000, two 1000 before they turn their head and acknowledge you. It's like, I don't necessarily want that person behind the wheel of a car.
[00:12:43] Veronica: Right.
[00:12:45] Mike: Do you ever ask, you know, when somebody wants to argue with me about marijuana and we're not comparing, we're not saying it's the worst thing in the world. Sometimes I think people have this either or thing.
[00:12:56] Veronica: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:57] Mike: We're not calling it methamphetamine, rot your teeth out. But we're talking about driving.
[00:13:01] Right? And even if they legalize it, there's certain things you don't want people to do. Would you want your surgeon to be high when they operated on you? Or the pilot in the airplane.
[00:13:13] Veronica: Yes.
[00:13:13] Mike: Yeah. It's just silly. And, and with opiates we had several people on, one lady in particular, I'm thinking about, about a year ago, who was arrested because she fell asleep in her car with the needle still in her arm.
[00:13:30] Veronica: Wow.
[00:13:31] Mike: So if you had people in the classes who were, who were overdosed, passed out, and that's why they got put in your class cuz they were doing it in their car at the time?
[00:13:42] Veronica: Yes. I've had two students passed out in the drive up of Taco Bell. One, two in the morning and the, the drive up is backed up because you're passed out in the drive up. And so law enforcement has to be called. They have to break the glass, administer Narcan to you, and then get your vehicle out of the drive up.
[00:14:14] Mike: Wow.
[00:14:15] Veronica: I've had two students, one McDonald's and one Taco Bell.
[00:14:20] Mike: Well, when the bell rings, I guess you gotta answer the bell, right?
[00:14:24] Veronica: Yeah. And the bell could be law enforcement.
[00:14:26] Mike: Yeah, [laugh] that's a great point. That's really a great point. Well, what I mean, that would seem to break through the denial somewhat. Okay. If you're arrested with them giving you Narcan in the drive through of Taco Bell or McDonald's.
[00:14:40] Veronica: Yes.
[00:14:40] Mike: You're not gonna argue, are you that...
[00:14:43] Veronica: No.
[00:14:43] Mike: I don't have a problem.
[00:14:47] Veronica: And of course, you can't use a breathalyzer on that individual, so that's a legal blood draw for real.
[00:14:53] Mike: Wow, that's unbelievable. You know, you said last time that you worked on the backend, you know, corrections routinely, and oftentimes when I've done training for corrections officers and I've asked them, "What's the hardest drug for you to work with?" It's not uncommon for marijuana to be mentioned at the top of the list.
[00:15:11] Veronica: Yes.
[00:15:12] Mike: And why is that?
[00:15:14] Veronica: Well, because sometimes correctional officers might work in a different unit from day to day, so they don't know what a patient's or a offender's baseline is for what's normal behavior in this offender and what's not normal behavior in that offender. And so it makes it more difficult to detect if they're under the influence of something.
[00:15:41] Mike: Do you know Veronica?
[00:15:42] I should have looked this up before I do it. The gummies that are so illegally.
[00:15:46] Veronica: Yes.
[00:15:47] Mike: The CBD.
[00:15:48] Veronica: Yes.
[00:15:49] Mike: Is that legal to drive under?
[00:15:52] Veronica: No, because anything that impairs you, can have you cited for operating while impaired. So if the CBD oil has enough THC in it to cause impairment. Over the counter drugs, Sudafed and some of these other Coricidin that kids can can, uh, uh, [inaudible] with...
[00:16:24] Mike: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:25] Veronica: If it impairs you, you can be cited.
[00:16:31] Mike: And, and just like we talked about the last time when you said four years ago was mainly alcohol in your classes and now it's, it's not unusual to have people who are poly substance abuse...
[00:16:44] Veronica: Yes.
[00:16:45] Mike: Users.
[00:16:47] Veronica: Yes. So, They may be impaired under alcohol while driving, and the officer does the breathalyzer and may not see the need for the legal blood draw.
[00:17:03] So the person's cited for operating while impaired and, and have a blood alcohol level, but not have. A legal blood draw to detect what else is in their system.
[00:17:19] Mike: And one plus one was some of these drugs does not equal two.
[00:17:23] Veronica: Right?
[00:17:25] Mike: Like alcohol plus the opiates is not a great prescription for staying alive.
[00:17:31] Veronica: Right, and you may have some traces of marijuana still in your system.
[00:17:35] Mike: You know, that's interesting you say that because in, in one of the studies that I was reading recently where they were talking about fentanyl overdoses, it was not unusual in the least, or even for that matter, what we're talking about, fatal car crashes.
[00:17:50] It's not unusual to see THC in the system as well.
[00:17:53] Veronica: Right. We're seeing in the hospital setting individuals coming in with cocaine in their system and there's the cocaine is being laced with fentanyl.
[00:18:07] Mike: Wow.
[00:18:08] Veronica: And so the people are denying that they used any fentanyl and we're having to tell them the fentanyl may have been cut in the cocaine that you were using.
[00:18:19] Mike: Yeah. And you know that's one of the arguments I hear people making for legalizing substances is, Well then at least you'll know what you're getting. But I don't even think that's the case.
[00:18:30] Veronica: No. A while back rat poison was in some of your marijuana cause they thought people could get a higher high off of the warfarin that's in there.
[00:18:41] Mike: Well, yeah. We had a, a gentleman Veronica on these that. I, I made the comment about does Fentanyl scare you and stuff? And he said, No. We went, sought, we sought it out . Because it gave you a boost. The, the extra boost is what we were looking for, you know.
[00:18:55] Veronica: And you have some using straight fentanyl.
[00:18:59] Mike: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:59] Veronica: It's not laced in your cocaine or in your marijuana.
[00:19:03] Mike: Yeah. I was working with a guy who was chewing the patches.
[00:19:07] Veronica: Wow.
[00:19:08] Mike: You know, you, you made me think of something a minute ago when you said hospital, one of the effects that marijuana has medicinally is an anti-nausea effect.
[00:19:18] Veronica: Right. And it's also can increase your appetite.
[00:19:22] Mm-hmm. So in some of your patients with AIDS or HIV a doctor can prescribe Marinol, which is a prescribed medication that contains marijuana and it's designed to increase the appetite so that these people eat.
[00:19:43] Mike: Maybe, maybe the people were passed out in the line of Taco Bell should have been tested for marijuana too, if it increases the appetite.
[00:19:50] Veronica: Well, when they do the legal blood draw, they're, they're looking for any illicit substance.
[00:19:55] Mike: Well, I, I was thinking that if, if it reduces nausea, there's a point at which if you're drinking alcohol, that you're drinking so much that it's not a bad, it's not bad to puke it up. And if it reduces nausea to keep more in your system.
[00:20:10] A while back, I was talking on college campuses and when they had overdose deaths on alcohol where people were alcohol poisoning.
[00:20:16] Veronica: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:17] Mike: It wasn't unusual to find THC in their system too, so perhaps. What they might have puked up and stayed alive, was kept in their system and killed them.
[00:20:27] Veronica: That too. Or it's alcohol poisoning that can kill them as well.
[00:20:34] Especially your freshman student away from home for the first time. Goes to one of the frat houses and your upperclassmen take advantage of 'em. Have them drinking all this alcohol it to the point where alcohol poisoning occurs.
[00:20:53] Mike: You know, the, this is just a personal thing, but I think people need to talk about it now before, you know, if you live in a state that's already legalized it, then you probably already know this.
[00:21:02] But this isn't free. And you know, all of the studies, and I know people who advocate like, You know, talk about data not being real, but when you have study after study, it shows it. And including cross section of conservative, you know, think tanks, liberals think tanks, as well as governmental sources in the insurance [laugh] industry.
[00:21:25] Veronica: Yes.
[00:21:25] Mike: Who I don't think people would call liberal at all. For every dollar in taxes that marijuana creates that, that you generate. The cost on average of states that legalized it is $4.50 extra in services. So the net loss when you legalize marijuana to the taxpayer is about $3.50 per tax hour.
[00:21:48] And, and we should be used to that, right? Because that's the way alcohol, what we generate in taxes costs us in societal costs 10 times as much as we generate in taxes.
[00:21:58] Veronica: Yes.
[00:22:00] Mike: There's no free lunch.
[00:22:01] Veronica: No. And back during the pandemic when Governor Evers declared that liquor stores were an essential business.
[00:22:15] Well, since people weren't driving to and from work and students weren't going back and forth to school, the dollars we lost in gas tax, you gained in the alcohol tax. But now we have more people with alcohol use disorders as a result of all the drinking during the pandemic.
[00:22:39] Mike: Yeah, I was trying to find somebody yesterday.
[00:22:42] I was trying to help somebody find a a, an open therapist, and I'm sure there's people listening who are like, I have openings. But I'll tell you, my friends who are therapists, they are booked solid. This is this is a tough time to go get help.
[00:22:56] Veronica: Yes, it is. And there's a shortage of psychiatrists. So that all makes it difficult.
[00:23:04] Mike: Well, okay, I didn't ask you this last time, but if, if I get arrested for DUI and sign up for one of the classes, how soon do I get in? Are, are these, is that immediate? Is it? Or is it?
[00:23:14] Veronica: It depends. The Saturdays tend to fill up when you can't get in on a Wednesday night. I actually teach approximately four classes a semester, and then I usually teach two to three in the summer.
[00:23:31] Mike: Wow. So there's a lot of people.
[00:23:33] Veronica: Yes. And then last Fall, Robin called me and said, "Veronica, I need to add another class." So I was up to five.
[00:23:43] Mike: Wow.
[00:23:45] And what do you know? What is the cost for the class?
[00:23:47] Veronica: It costs $305 for the class.
[00:23:52] Mike: Man. That's a lot of money.
[00:23:54] Veronica: Yes.
[00:23:55] Mike: Maybe I'll open up a class myself.
[00:23:57] Well, okay, let's end this with this. What is your, so you, you work with a lot of people. What's your hope for them? What do you, what do you hope they get out of the whole process?
[00:24:06] Veronica: Well, what I hope is that they learn about the effects of driving impaired, learn about how public safety is impacted by it.
[00:24:17] Learn about how they could help coworkers and family members and neighbors avoid an OWI or operating while impaired. Just from the knowledge they were able to gain from the class. That they don't just get the information and keep it, but they get the information and share it.
[00:24:38] Mike: It'd be great if you didn't have to add a class, right?
[00:24:41] Veronica: Yes.
[00:24:43] Mike: Veronica, I, I can't thank you enough. We have had people be on twice that rarely, twice in a row. So I know this took up more of your time and I greatly appreciate it cuz you, as you open that door, I was like, we have to talk about this cuz it's a good topic. Thanks again for joining us and for those of you who are listening, if you have any topic suggestions, please drop us a note that that's always possible on the website.
[00:25:06] Until next time, stay safe. And I guess we would both say, make good decisions.
[00:25:11] Veronica: Yes.
[00:25:12] [END AUDIO]
The Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition’s mission is to support networking, encourage education, explore gaps, and realize solutions to improve treatment and reduce alcohol and other drug abuse in our community with a primary focus on families.