School Resource Officers (SROs) say they now are encountering more kids slipping dangerous drugs into hookahs, hookah pens and e-cigarettes than ever before in Hillsborough County.
More resources on talking to your kids about dabs and other illegal substances
"We're trying to keep on top of them, but it is just challenging," said School Resource Officer Raymond Rembert.
In fact, at his school, Rembert says using hookahs has become a game for some students. They've created a contest, or a sort of competition among those who smoke.
"They try and see who makes the most smoke," he said.
Now, Rembert is confiscating what he says students are calling dabs: hot, concentrated doses of THC. (The high from marijuana comes primarily from THC.)
He says students are melting the illegal substances into hookahs and smoking them on school grounds. Rembert said many parents would never recognize dabs for what they are, and he says kids are hiding them.
"The way the kids talk to each other, the apps that they have and the texting, and you know, it's hard for us to keep up," Rembert said.
Monday, school resource officers from across Hillsborough County gathered to get critical information needed on how to fight this threat in their own Hillsborough County Schools.
Anti-drug advocates say some of the worst problems come from advertisers who give kids messages that things like hookahs and e-cigs are nearly always safe.
"They are a lot of myths in the information that they're getting," said Gary White of the Hillsborough County Anti Drug Alliance.
Outpatient rehab centers were also on site to help SROs connect kids with drug treatment options.
"It's so much harder to treat people later. It's important to get it as early as possible," said Sonya Bufe of Phoenix House, an addiction treatment nonprofit.
Rembert says parents shouldn't be afraid to talk about so-called "safe" drugs like e-cigarettes.
"We want to make sure that they're safe and to do the right thing," he said.