How To Drug Proof Your Kids in Three Not-So Easy Steps

How To Drug Proof Your Kids in Three Not-So Easy Steps hover background

Mar 24

As a high school counselor, there was one day, many years ago, in which everything lined up, fell into place, and worked. This one day clicked exactly like you wish every day could. The day began with the chemistry teacher leaving me a message about a good student who was falling behind. In fact, it was so out of character for the student that the teacher was convinced something big was happening. Based on what other students were saying and the student’s behavior she had observed the teacher thought the student was using some sort of substance on a daily basis. The teacher was concerned and did not care if the student knew that the teacher had turned her name in to me.I called the student, Marie, to my office. “Marie, your teacher contacted me because she is so worried about you. Your grades are seriously dropping, and it isn’t like you. What’s going on?” Tears filled her eyes immediately.“Other student’s say you’re using. Is this true?” I asked her directly, but gently.  She nodded her head while breaking down in tears. We talked for the next several minutes. She was using crystal meth and it was taking control of her. She knew she was in trouble and needed help. I asked her if I could call her mom and let her know. She agreed and we set up a time before the end of the day to touch base. She promised to show up.

I immediately called Marie’s mom. I slowly let her know what had been uncovered this morning. The other end of the line was quiet. Then she slowly, through tears said, “I just went through her dresser drawers and I found a bag of pills.” We both sat in silence. “What should I do now?” she asked.

I quickly found the phone number of what I knew to be the best rehab place in town. I urged her to contact her insurance to see what her coverage would be for this particular rehab and then call the rehab for placement immediately. She did just that and called me back within the hour. They arranged an intake for 2:00 this afternoon, exactly when Marie and I were set to touch base. Everything fell right into place. Marie came to my office, I told her that her mom was on the way and that the intake appointment was made. She agreed to go without any fight. She was placed inpatient for 10 days in a non-lock down facility and four more weeks as outpatient. She did great. She kept up with her school work while she was gone and came back to school a renewed person. She was connected to a twelve step group, and back to the good student we all knew and loved. Her mom did all the right things to get Marie the help she needed, starting with opening her eyes and mind by searching Marie’s room while she was at school. These events and the timing of them were the perfect example of how the school, the parent, the community, and the student can work together for the good of the kid. If only every day came together like this one did.

Substance use and abuse is a growing problem with our kids. Many reasons could be sited for current trends, like access to new synthetic drugs, the cheap cost of heroin, or the legalization of marijuana in many states. What ever the reason, there are three steps to making sure your child remains substance safe. Perhaps we cannot truly claim drug “proofing” our kids, but we can definitely put precautions in place that may make all the difference towards meeting that goal. These steps are not necessarily easy, but with effort from you, the parent, these steps can make all the difference.

Step #1 to a Drug Proof Kid: Talk to your kids from an early age about all substances and their effects.

There is no such thing as too early a time to talk to your kids about different substances and the effect of those substances.  I’m talking about all substances including the ones that are socially acceptable—alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Parents must educate themselves on the 7 different Categories of Substances and the effects of each category. This information continues to grow as more synthetic drugs are produced. Parents must educate them selves by reading and researching the main drug categories and the physical and mental effects of each. The more you know, the more you can teach your children. In a nutshell the seven main Drug Categories are:

1)      Depressants—Alcohol, Barbiturates, Tranquilizers, and Prescription Anxiety Meds—effects: impaired decision making, impaired coordination, slow down the central nervous system

2)      Stimulants—Tobacco, Methamphetamines, Cocaine, Caffeine, Prescription Anti Depressants and ADD medications—effects: speed up the central nervous system,

3)      Narcotic Analgesics—Heroin, Codeine, Oxycodone, Prescription Narcotic painkillers–effects: lower blood pressure and temperature, pain relief, drowsiness

4)      Hallucinogens and Designer Drugs—LSD, Molly(Ecstasy), Dextromethorphan (DXM-Cough Syrup), Bath Salts—high pulse rate and blood pressure, anxiety, hallucinations, altered senses

5)      Cannabis—marijuana, spice—effects: increased pulse rate and blood pressure, the munchies, increased hunger, paranoia, slowed thinking and concentration

6)      Inhalants– Nitrous Oxide(Laughing gas), Chlorohydrocarbons(Aerosol spray, paint cans)—Effects:  erratic movement, stimulation, loss of inhibition, severe headache

7)      Anabolic Steroids—Anadrol, Depo-Testosterone, roids, juice—Effects: hypertension, hostility and aggression, acne

This information is just the tip of the iceberg; research more and stay on top of new drug information. As parents, open your eyes, ears, and mouths! Talk to your children about depressants when beer or wine is consumed; talk to your kids about stimulants when a family member smokes or when you need a cup of coffee in the morning. In other words, help them at a young age to understand that everything they put into their body is a choice that has a consequence. The more they hear this, the more they will remember it as teens and young adults. When a celebrity dies of an overdose, talk to your kids about narcotic analgesics. When your kid has a cold and needs cold medicine, talk to them about the effects and dangers of stimulants. When there is a TV special about the rise of heroin, talk to your kids about the dangers of hallucinogens and synthetic drugs. When a famous athlete is busted for steroid use, talk to your kids about anabolic steroids. When a peer at there school overdoses, talk about it. They can DIE of not talking about it. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it.

Step #2 to a Drug Proof Kid: Supervise Your Kids (aka Spy on)

For some reason, parents may think they shouldn’t be following up on their kids—that this would be showing a lack of trust. Yea, that’s right. You can’t trust kids to always make the best choices—they’re kids. So, you give them all of the true information, allow them space enough to make their own decisions, but never take your eye off of them. You should know where your kids are at all times. The older they get the harder this becomes. So, you make a network with the parents of their friends and you talk among the parents all the time. To this day, my kid’s friend’s parents are my best friends. As a village, together we helped keep all of our kids safe.

Warning signs to watch for that your child may be experimenting or using a substance are:

  • Falling or failing grades
  • Unusual irritability or moodiness
  • Frequently tardy or absent from one or more classes
  • Deterioration in appearance, grooming, or health
  • Change of friends
  • Wearing sunglasses all the time to conceal dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes
  • Sudden or unexplained increase or decrease of money
  • Spending more time alone than usual
  • Spending time in odd places like a basement or garage
  • Lack of motivation
  • Texts and/or cell phone calls at strange times like late at night or in the middle of the night
  • Lack of motivation
  • Unusual odor on breath or clothes
  • Withdrawal from responsibility
  • Withdrawal from family, school, and social events
  • Secretive, paranoid, or defense behaviors
  • Lethargic and frequently fatigued
  • Typical sleep schedule disrupted
  • Aggressiveness
  • Forgetfulness or memory loss
  • Inconsistent speech
  • Impaired coordination or physical dexterity
  • Lawbreaking or promiscuous behavior
  • Increased lying
  • Stealing
  • Red eyes
  • Excessive hunger or lack of hunger
  • Unusual silliness or giggling
  • Out of character behavior
  • In possession of drug paraphernalia

If you see any of these warning signs, talk to your kid. Go through their drawers and secret hiding places. Don’t hear and believe what you want to hear; believe what you see. Take the time to research substance treatment resources in your community. Pick up your child from school and go to the nearest help available. Rescue and intervene when your kids are still kids. After age 18, you lose the ability as a parent to help them get help.          

Step #3 to a Drug Proof Kid: Shake all of the Skeletons out of Your Own Closet

This last step requires you, the parent, to get real with your own self. Are you modeling—setting—a good example to your children about living a healthy life when it comes to substances? Does every picture you post have you holding a wine glass? Are you still smoking, even after we know the physical health risks? Do your children see you reaching for a glass, a smoke, a pill every time you feel stressed? It is not easy to look at our own behavior and make changes if necessary. But, do it. This one act may save your children from a lifetime of addiction and sorrow. Kids model after their parents in almost every area of their life. Even when they say they hate you, they become you. Clean up your act; get help with substances if you see yourself depending on a drug of any category. It won’t be easy, but you’ll never regret it and the truth you are demonstrating to your kids.

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