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Archive for November, 2010
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Been There, Done That: How Personal Stories Can Help Fight Teen Pressure to Use Drugs
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Over the last year I have been making an effort to speak with parent and student groups about the effects of addiction on a person and all of those associated with a person who is suffering from addiction.

While my son was actively using drugs, my activity concerning this subject irritated him. It made him uncomfortable and angry.  For some reason he did not want me speaking to groups. Maybe it made him feel embarrassed or ashamed.

For nearly six months my son has been working on his recovery and is not using. For me this is quite an accomplishment to see a heroin addict make such a huge turnaround in his life. It’s hard to believe that only six months ago he was speedballing and his mother and I were discussing the fatal outcome of those engaged in this activity. Hope springs eternal.

Recently I was asked to speak to students at our local high school about the effects of drugs on young people. When I told my son I was going to speak he asked if he could go with me and speak to them first-hand about what drugs have done to him. This is a HUGE step for anyone in recovery. Facing their addiction head on and in front of a group takes courage.

We spoke to about 50 students that were in the age group of 14-15 years old.  My son is only 22. When he began to talk and answer questions about drugs and his addiction those students were riveted by him. You could almost feel an electric connection between him and those students. His message was direct and in a language they understood. He showed them scars on his arms caused by infections from dirty needles. He talked about what it is like in jail, going through detox in a cell. He spoke of all his lost opportunities with college, jobs and relationships. Maybe his most powerful statement in response to a question about why he started using was, “I started because I wanted to be cool, this is not cool, this is the worst thing you could ever do in your life. Using leads to becoming addicted and I can’t even describe how horrible that is.”

This format of an experienced young adult speaking to a group of teens is the most powerful weapon I have seen in waking up young people to the risks of drugs and alcohol. Let’s face it, I’m just another old guy telling these kids not to use drugs, but when someone in their age group stands there and tells a personal story with all the graphic details — that is called bringing out the heavy artillery.

By sharing his personal story he helped the kids connect the hazards of drug usage.  Being close to their age and someone who has “been there done that” I believe deeply resonated with them, inspiring them to  think differently about the consequences of the choices they make.

Education about the dangers of drug and alcohol use is all about being relatable. No matter if it is parents, relatives, friends, professionals or peers, the key to helping your child fight the pressure to use drugs is education. Give them a way out of those pressure situations. Do not be naive and believe that your child will not be exposed to the opportunity to use drugs. Every single young person out there has to make a decision about whether or not to try using drugs or drinking. Parents, take the offensive; do not wait until the monster has entered your home. Slaying this monster is about educating its prey, before he has a chance to attack.

By the way, I want every person that reads this to know; I cannot remember a time when I was more proud of my son. I stood up at the end of the presentation in front of all of those kids and told them with my voice cracking how proud I was of him to come speak with me.

Editor’s Note: Like any relationship, your relationship with your child changes over time.  For ways to talk to your child about drugs at every age, please visit our Parent Tool Kit.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Heroin, Recovery, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

Binge Drinking: Dying For Four Loko
Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

As I was taking attendance in my Intro to Psych class last Friday morning, I noticed that Dana* was absent.  Dana, one of my star students, was scheduled to make a presentation on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (a type of chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance), a topic of her choosing to satisfy one of the course requirements.  I was surprised that she did not show up, or at least email to say that she would not make it for whatever reason. 

On Monday morning, Dana walked through the door of my classroom looking a little wan.  After my lecture, she came up to me and told me that she had missed class on Friday because she spent the morning in the hospital having her stomach pumped – a casualty of Four Loko.  As a mother of two who has dealt with the challenges of my own son’s drug problem, very little shocks me when it comes to what college students do to experiment. But even I was a bit surprised when I heard Dana, one of my best and brightest, was experimenting without fully understanding the short-term and long-term effects of her decisions. 

Four Loko, also known as “blackout in a can,” is a caffeinated, alcoholic, malt beverage that comes in a variety of flavors including fruit punch, grape and watermelon, and sold alongside non-alcoholic beverages.  The danger of Four Loko is the combination of alcohol, a depressant, and caffeine, a stimulant.  The caffeine helps the person feel more alert and lessens the sense of being drunk, so a person often consumes more alcohol than he or she would otherwise. 

Dana said she wanted to “experiment” with alcohol after Midnight Madness on campus and decided to try Four Loko mixed with Vodka.  It wasn’t long before her friends noticed that she wasn’t functioning very well. They asked her to pick up a piece of paper on the floor and when she attempted to do so, she fell flat on her face.  Dana doesn’t remember much of what happened after that, except that when she came to, she still didn’t feel well.  Finally, a friend called for help and she was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated for alcohol poisoning.

Dana asked me if she could change her research topic to binge drinking on college campuses because of her personal experience.  She wanted to convey to her classmates just how deadly drinking can be, and that had it not been for the intervention of her friends, we would be attending her funeral, not listening to her presentation.  I readily agreed, hoping that her voice would make a difference where mine had not. 

I lectured about binge drinking a few weeks earlier – I had hoped that it would be engaging, informative and persuasive.  The only point that I think may have stuck was asking my students not to leave an inebriated student alone to “sleep it off” because of the risk of respiratory failure or choking on one’s own vomit.  Maybe, just maybe, Dana is alive because one person took those words to heart.

The controversy over Four Loko continues.  Just this this past weekend, New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer called for a ban on Four Loko in New York because of the many stories like Dana’s.  States like Michigan and Oklahoma have already banned the drink because of its deadly consequences on college campuses.  Regardless of its legal status, I hope students, parents and educators alike can spread the message that it is not worth dying for Four Loko.

*Name has been changed for this article.

Posted by Pat Aussem  /  Filed under Alcohol, Confronting Teens, Denial  /  Comments: more


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