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This Is Your Kid’s Brain on Drugs

SafeLaunch Teaches Parents How to Prevent Adolescent Addiction

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Age Increases-Risk DecreasesAdolescent substance abuse can be a tricky, touchy subject. Conversations about intervention and treatment often turn into blame game debates about funding gaps, the war on drugs, and a permissive American culture. But for Janet Rowse and SafeLaunch — the educational organization she co-founded and runs — the issue is relatively simple. “It’s really all about the brain,” she said. “It’s math and science.”

It’s the mission of Rowse and SafeLaunch to teach parents about the intersection of early drug use and addiction struggles later in life. People who experiment with addictive substances before age 18 — be it alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription pills, or any other narcotic — are six times more likely to develop abuse problems than those who didn’t start using until they were 21 or older, Rowse said. Statistically, six out of ten 14-year-olds are likely to become dependent on drugs or alcohol when they’re exposed.

Rowse explained a young brain is a vulnerable brain, as it hasn’t fully formed the frontal lobes that act as a reasoning center and manage impulse control. Yet it’s hardwired from the start to seek social acceptance in even questionable circumstances, such as a circle of friends passing around a joint. “It’s not that kids are making bad decisions,” Rowse said. “They’re still just figuring out how to make right decisions.”

Rowse has two grown children who graduated their way through Santa Barbara’s school system. As an interested and involved parent, she noted with alarm that little progress had been made over the years to curb adolescent substance abuse. It wasn’t from a lack of trying, she said. “School administrators are just spread so thin.” There are approximately two million U.S. high school students who meet the criteria for an alcohol or drug use disorder, but only about 100,000 have received treatment in the past year. Rowse has also experienced personal loss from addiction in her extended family.

So Rowse, who previously served on the board of the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, decided to act. She partnered with friend Ron Cuff, a retired Navy pilot, hence the name SafeLaunch, and started organizing awareness-raising events about primary prevention. The Wind Beneath Our Wings program, a flying memorial to young people lost to addiction, reaches a national audience. “It’s an honor to tell their stories,” Rowse said. Here in Santa Barbara, SafeLaunch hosts art competitions as well as informational talks. This Monday at 5:30 p.m., neuroscience researcher D.C. McGuire will speak at Santa Barbara Junior High School’s Marjorie Luke Theatre about cognition and behavior, and how parents can better understand what makes their teens tick. The event, which is free, is being co-presented by the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Adult attendees will also have a chance to fly a paper airplane to win $25,000 in cash.

“What we’re trying to do is raise the volume and consistency of the message,” Rowse said. It’s imperative parents learn about the risks that come with even dabbling in drugs, she explained, and practice ways to speak to their children so they also appreciate what can result from seemingly harmless fun. “It’s a tough balance between protection and autonomy,” said Rowse of raising a child. “But to not act is not an option.”

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News: SafeLaunch Teaches Kids About Dangers of Addiction in Creative Way

On October 1, 2016, SafeLaunch brought Flights Above Addiction and their interactive “static display” aircraft DJ to Ernest A. Love Field in Prescott, Arizona for the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) Fly-In. This was a very special event for SafeLaunch as the plane was greeted and cared for by some very special guests, “Wing Parents” of three of the young people who “fly” with the aircraft wherever it goes. The SafeLaunch founders are grateful to these families for sharing their child’s story to help break the stigma surrounding the disease of addiction and raise awareness of the high risks associated with teen drug and alcohol exposure. These young people are the Wind Beneath Our Wings.

11 October 2016 by

PRESCOTT- The death of a child is one of the most painful things a parent can go through. Bonnie and Floyd Waite went through this when their child, James, died six years ago at the age of 35 from addiction.

“It’s been six years to just deal with it,” said Bonnie.

“You never get over it,” Floyd added.

Bonnie and Floyd Waite are involved with SafeLaunch, a 501(c)(3) volunteer organization, whose goal is to inform both parents and children about addiction. The SafeLaunch plane was on display at the AOPA event at the Ernest A. Love Prescott Municipal Airport.

“We started SafeLaunch to educate parents about brain development,” said SafeLaunch co-founder Janet Rowse. “It turns out that most people don’t know that the real risk for kids and drug use is the fact that their brains are not fully developed.”

SafeLaunch is sending home the message of addiction dangers to children in creative ways. During the AOPA (Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association) Fly-In at the Ernest A. Love Field in Prescott, the organization brought a plane owned by fellow co-founder Ron Cuff and allowed children to make their own mark on the aircraft using markers and paint after learning a lesson about addiction dangers from Cuff and other volunteers.

“My hope is that by allowing kids to get this close to an airplane, become intimately familiar with it-the way it looks-the way it feels, perhaps inspire a dream in them,” said Cuff.

“I tell the kids that a good life is like a good flight. My flights have all been good because I plan for them, because I keep my mind sharp, because I always have a destination in mind and then I always have an alternate in mind,” Cuff continued. “So I tell the kids that they have to keep their mind sharp and they have to decide on what they plan to do with their life in order for it to be successful.”

Millennials Remembered at the 2016 Wings Over Watsonville Airshow

Aircraft Carrier pilot will reveal the names of some very special millennials who are the “Wind Beneath His Wings” at Wings Over Watsonville

April Rovero

“I feel deep remorse for what my generation has wrought, and I am determined to do something about it.” states retired Navy Carrier Pilot Commander Ron Cuff. “As a card-carrying “Baby Boomer” I feel partially responsible for the epidemic of addiction we now have, with hundreds of loved, young people dying every day. Although I wasn’t a part of my generation’s drug culture, it was my generation that promoted illicit drug and heavy alcohol abuse… and normalized it. Because of this, we are living with a national overdose epidemic that no one saw coming. I have affixed the names of people who lost their young lives from drug and alcohol abuse under my aircraft’s wings to show parents and children that serious, sometimes deadly, consequences from drug and alcohol use can happen to anyone.”

Great Flight NoseSafeLaunch, the nonprofit Cuff co-founded, is bringing its 22nd “Flight Above Addiction” to the Wings Over Watsonville Fly-In on September 3, 2016. There, teens and preteens will be given the opportunity to paint their dreams for a healthy future on Cuff’s solid white Millennium Edition Cessna Skylane.

The Cessna is a focal point for SafeLaunch. Co-founded with Janet Rowse, SafeLaunch raises awareness about the serious threat of drugs and alcohol to developing brains. “A 14 year old’s brain, if exposed to an addictive substance, is up to 600% more susceptible than is an adult’s,” Rowse says. Together, she and Cuff encourage parents to learn the facts and do everything possible to stop addiction where it starts 90% of the time… with adolescent exposure to alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs. Cuff tells kids, “A good life is like a good flight. It takes a careful plan and an alert mind, one not fogged by drugs or alcohol, to reach to your life destination”.