Saturday, April 07, 2007

Drug Search

Drugs are easy to get, and they’re killing our kids while parents stand by in denial. “Where’s the rage?” asked Jim Bildner, whose 20-year-old son Peter died of a drug overdose a year ago. Bildner was a guest speaker at the Drug Abuse Prevention Forum Blake Works co-hosted yesterday at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

The event was convened to launch Blake Works latest releases, the DVD Drugs: True Stories and booklet Words Can Work: When Talking About Drugs. These materials educate and help parents and educators start lifesaving conversations with kids. Drug abuse is a major issue for people concerned about kids’ health: among the 300 in attendance were the new Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health, John Auerbach; State Senators and Representatives; physicians who treat addicts; educators; law enforcement officials; and other professionals who work with youth.

A panel of substance abuse experts discussed questions such as whether parents should check the text messages on kids’ cell phones, go through kids’ backpacks, and do random drug tests to check for signs of drug use. Young people want their privacy, but trying to grant it can add to parents’ denial. Dr. Herb Levine, whose son Joel was addicted to the prescription painkiller, OxyContin®, and is profiled in the DVD asked, “How much privacy does a 13-year-old really need?”

To give parents some concrete guidance, I read part of the Q&A between Dr. Brian Johnson of Harvard Medical School and myself in Words Can Work: When Talking About Drugs:

Dr. Johnson: There’s a difference between privacy and secrecy. Allowing privacy builds trust. Secrecy, on the other hand, means hiding. Kids who’re abusing drugs want to hide it. Parents who suspect their kids of using drugs need to check bedrooms, school bags, and cell phones for harmful secrets their kids are trying to keep.

Jeanne Blake: And when a child claims, “You don’t trust me”?

Dr. Johnson. If your child gives you any reason to suspect unsafe behavior, you can say: “I do respect your privacy. There’s a difference between privacy and secrecy. If I think you’re keeping harmful secrets, I need to check.” Teaching kids the difference between privacy and secrecy when they’re young sets the ground rules: If I see trouble, I’ll take action.

The consensus of the Forum was that parents need to do whatever necessary to protect their kids.

You’ll find a list of the warning signs of drug abuse at the end of the Words Can Work Issues and Answers column, Drugs: Effects on the Brain.

Resources
Drugs: True Stories
Words Can Work: When Talking About Drugs

Related Issues and Answers columns
Cocaine and addiction
Cocaine’s effect on the body
Crystal meth
Marijuana
Prescription drugs

Related columns for young people

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