It cannot be stated often enough that early exposure to alcohol and drugs increases the likelihood of addiction by up to 600%, depending on age of the child and the intoxicant (drugabuse.gov). Adults must protect children from all life threatening preventable diseases, including addiction, which appears to discriminate only by genetics and age.
We recently attended the annual Town Hall Meeting hosted by CADA (Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse). There was a panel of local experts that included an emergency room doctor, the District Attorney, assistant superintendent, high school teenagers, a UCSB student, Youth Service Specialist and a police officer.
It would be nice to think living in a small community that these are not things we need to worry about but as a mom of 3 teenagers who also volunteers in the schools, I know this is not the case. There is often an assumption that it is a certain “type” of at-risk student that uses but do not be fooled because there are plenty of athletes, straight A students and leadership students that are using.
For some it is recreational on the weekends at parties and for others, they sit in their cars getting high before and after school. There are students buying ADHD meds from other students prior to taking tests because they believe it helps them to focus more. And sadly, there are parents that are willing to supply the alcohol on the weekends in their homes for their kids and their friends because they think it is safer for them to use at home. How do you feel about another parent allowing your child to drink? If you are a parent that is committed to NOT letting teens drink in your home, consider taking the CADA pledge >
All of our teenagers are vulnerable whether it is to fit in, peer pressure, to escape, rebel or self medicate. It does not mean that all teens will try alcohol or drugs and for those that do, it does not mean that they will become addicted. The issue is that it only takes one time for something to go wrong. So many teens are under the impression that it is no big deal to experiment because they believe what they are being told about drugs being all natural or safe.
Local emergency room doctor, Jason Prystowsky talked to parents about the various side effects of the more popular drugs. He also explained the pros and cons of Drug testing. Some parents are choosing to do random drug testing at home with their teenagers as a way to stay informed. It is important to know that this is not fool-proof. Teens are smart and they know how to stash and buy/sell urine to use for those drug tests. There are also many drugs such as spice that will not show up on urine test because it cannot detect the THC.
Dr. Prystowsky educated parents on the trending drugs (several are listed at the bottom of this article)… e-cigarettes, vape pens spice, heroine and bath salts. It was scary to hear how many of these drugs are being marketed to teens as safe, natural and non addicting when in fact most of them have harmful side effects. What is also attractive about many of these substances is that they are affordable and accessible.
Even scarier to learn about are the “Pharming Parties” being hosted where teens get together and exchange different prescription drugs (often taken from their medicine cabinets at home) and experiment with different highs. Parents really need to pay attention to how they store medication in their homes. Don’t assume that your child or a visiting friend will not help themselves to what they find in the medicine cabinet.
I have heard from several parents since my kids started high school… “We all experimented when we were their age. It’s part of growing up.” It was emphasized by the panel that parents need to understand that this is not the “cocaine and marijuana of the ’80’s”. It is much more deadly.
Local UCSB student, Adam D., shared his story of using at the young age of 12 and getting sober at 14 years old. He explained that he came from a loving and supportive family, attended a good school and had support. This did not keep him from being susceptible to trying and becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Now as a college student, he is in a fraternity, around friends who drink but he is also a part of “Gauchos for Recovery“. It was interesting to learn that sober dorms and clubs are becoming more common at colleges across the country to support both students in recovery as well as those that are just not interested in participating in the party scene.
Communication is key and that means listening! Every panelist emphasized the importance of listening to your teens as a way to keep the lines of communication open. As parents, we do not always have to give advice, sometimes we just need to show empathy and support. And finally we need to lead by example. If we tell our kids not to drink or use drugs or drive under the influence, we need to consider how we are role modeling to them through our own actions.
- Spice, K2 or Synthetic Marijuana… was developed to be an all-natural replacement for marijuana. However it contains herbal mixtures with synthetic cannabinoids coated on the herbs and it can be addicting. Spice can result in brain alterations, but with the added danger that many of its chemical components and other ingredients are often unknown.
- Wax... the strongest form of marijuana that provides a quicker and stronger high. Marijuana is placed into a long tube/pipe, which is then hit with a highly flammable butane (lighter fluid). The butane is used to extract THC in a hardened, potent form that resembles wax. Then a “dab” is places into a bong and smoked.
- Edibles… tend to result in a much more intense and longer-lasting high than smoking. It can take longer to feel the effects and often people consume larger amounts assuming that they are not getting a high which can result in more intense symptoms. There is also a risk with younger siblings getting their hands on pot brownies and candy since they look like the real thing. It is also easy to sneak these items into a school setting.
- Vape Pens are a type of e-cigarette… There is a liquid cartridge called E-liquid used to produce the vapor and these are often flavored. Many of the e-liquids carry strong amounts of nicotine. Vape pens are also commonly used for burning concentrated THC oil called wax or dabs. Smoking dabs can be much more dangerous than smoking your standard marijuana due to the highly concentrated THC content
- Bath Salts… are central nervous system stimulants that inhibit the norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake system. The most commonly reported ingredient is methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). They are noted for producing a “high” similar to methamphetamine and have been referred to as “legal cocaine”. Bath salts can be snorted, injected, smoked, orally ingested and used rectally.
- Heroine… is smoked, snorted or injected. A trait you will often see in a heroin user is a “nod“. Often heroin users start to nod off suddenly. People will mistake it for someone being very tired but it is more like “nodding” in and out of semi-consciousness.
- Amphetamines & Prescription Drugs… [Vyvanse, Adderall, Desoxyn, Desoxyn Gradumet, Dexedrine, Dexedrine Spansule and DestroStat] are becoming more accessible. MDMA – Ecstasy [tablet form] or Molly [crystalline powder] is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that has similarities to both the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.
- Opiates & Painkillers… [Codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin] are being used more often by teens because there is a misperception that because they are prescription drugs, it is a safe high and because they are more accessible.