Beginning An Honest Conversation

Over the past few months, a number of communities have sponsored forums concerning the serious escalation in drug use among middle school and high school students. These forums have challenged parents to become more proactive ...

Print Email

Over the past few months, a number of communities have sponsored forums concerning the serious escalation in drug use among middle school and high school students. These forums have challenged parents to become more proactive in addressing this serious issue. They've urged a greater collaborative effort between parents, school and community.

Three local school communities stressed their concern that drug use in their respective communities is out of control. It is no longer experimental and merely the use of marijuana, but rather it has escalated to the use of heroin, crack and cocaine. The recent drug busts in our county have further alarmed parents and local community leaders.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that 53% of 10th graders are reporting only using alcohol, with 25% of 10th graders are reporting using marijuana and 15% of 12th graders are reportedly using prescription drugs such as Vicodin. Many local professionals working with middle school and high school students indicate a sharp rise in the use of marijuana, prescription medication and heroin. They've also indicated that parental denial is off the charts. A growing number of parents are minimizing the severity of their son or daughter's drug use. When confronted most want you to believe that it is a phase or stage of development, but not a potentially serious problem.

The social landscape in our community is out of control. A growing number of young people have already died this year because of reckless choices around drug and alcohol use. Some of our local high schools are referred to by young people as pharmacies, because of the wide range of drugs that are readily available.

A local school district substance-abuse task force sponsored a workshop for parents and marketed the program by saying that Free Home Drug Test Kits would be available to all participants while supplies last. A school official made it clear that the purpose of the workshop was not drug testing, but rather raising parent's awareness of the seriousness of the local drug problem in that community. He made it clear that the school district was not promoting any kind of testing.

Whether a school district is or is not promoting drug testing, does raise some interesting questions to think about. Should school communities have random drug tests for all students? Should that become a standard practice in all of our schools? Should parents become more proactive in this issue and do check testing at-home? Needless to say, there are strong arguments for and against any kind of mandatory drug testing.

What the issue does underscore is the severity of this social problem among our young people. What are we doing to address this growing epidemic that is claiming an alarming number of young lives? The other issue of concern is what kind of treatment is available and accessible to families who are battling drug abuse and possible addiction?

The drug testing kits are a tool. They are not treatment for substance abuse or addiction problems. For those who choose to use these kits, what are you going to do with the results they produce? If your son or daughter tests positive for drug or alcohol use, what next?

Parents need to act cautiously if their son or daughter tests positive for illegal drug or alcohol use. A positive drug screen does not mean your son or daughter is a drug addict, or that your son or daughter needs rehabilitation experience or intensive outpatient counseling program.

Hopefully a positive drug screen will begin an honest conversation between parents and their teenager about their drug and alcohol use. Based on that conversation or a series of conversations, as a parent, you would have the sense of what to do next. If it was truly an isolated social circumstance, then maybe an ongoing conversation about social choices would be enough. However, I would be cautious in this climate, not to be duped. Remember, teenagers and adults tend to lie when it comes to deeply personal issues that could get them into trouble.

If there is a pattern of behavior around drug and alcohol use, it would be wise to seek the advice of a professional drug and alcohol counselor. It probably would be helpful to have the teenager you're worried about participate in a comprehensive drug and alcohol assessment, which is another tool that could be helpful in determining the seriousness of your son or daughter's involvement with substance-abuse.

Short-term counseling is another tool that could be helpful for the identified child who's possibly making poor decisions regarding drug and alcohol use. It also might be helpful for parents to participate in the process. Too many parents are ill-informed, and probably could use some support in navigating the complicated social landscape that their children must meander through.

Parents must also be aware that the present generation of young people is well-informed about drugs, drug testing and how to get over on the system. Most of us would like to believe that our children would not deceive us. In an ideal world, that is correct. Unfortunately, in a drug infested world, our children's moral compass is damaged. If they are using illegal substances, their thinking is impaired.

Therefore, they know better than many adults how to alter a drug test. Placing adulterants on their fingertips and hands, and rubbing the inside of a test cup before urine collection can sabotage the test. Be sure that you check your children's pockets and clothing to see if there is a small container with someone else's urine. An eye drop of water or other clear substance can dilute a urine test. Remember, our children are experts in deception. If there is a strategy to deceive you out on the street, they know about.

If you discover that your son or daughter has a substance abuse problem, hopefully you will have the insurance coverage for treatment and you will find a treatment modality close enough to home that can meet your needs.