Imagine this scene... It is a warm spring day and two boys are seen talking to each other. The first boy, let's call him John, approaches the second boy, Mark and asks what he is doing. Mark replies, "Not much" and gestures to an object in his hand. "Do you want to try some?" Mark asks. John replies, "Oh, I don't know." Mark says, "It's cool. Everybody is doing it. Just one time can't hurt you." John agrees, "OK just this one time."
Now step back for a moment and you will notice that the boys are standing across the street from a local middle school. The object in Mark's hand is a marijuana cigarette. Even more surprising are the ages of the boys: Mark is 12 years old and John is only 11. It is 3:30 PM. Do you know where your children are?
As a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked with teenage boys on probation for the last five years, I have heard many similar stories about how teenagers are introduced to drugs, many in middle school. I have also heard many more disturbing stories about how drugs and alcohol have dramatically changed the course of these boys' lives and resulted in them been placed away from their families and under the custody of the juvenile justice system. In fact, 98% of these teenagers have experimented with drugs and alcohol prior to their court ordered placement. Of these, at least 50% have a moderate to severe drug/alcohol addiction. These boys on probation come from diverse backgrounds; some are from poor immigrant families, others are third generation gang members, some even come from middle class or upper middle-class families with educated and successful parents. But they all have one thing in common. It is 4:30 PM. Do you know where your children are?
We have heard the shocking statistics: "nearly 50% of teenagers try marijuana before they graduate from high school." "One in every five students tried using inhalants by the 7th grade." The inhalants, also known as "huffing" is using common household and classroom products, such a spray paint, whipped cream, air freshener or hair spray to inhale in order to obtain an intoxicating effect. Then there are the more powerful "street drugs" such as crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, acid and Ecstasy. Surprisingly, most teenagers began drug abuse by experimenting with legal drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, that are easily accessible. It is 5:30 PM. Do you know where your children are?
So, as parents what can we effectively do to prevent our children from following the path of drug abuse, criminal behavior and incarceration or maybe worse, death? Well, in the 1980s the "Say No to Drugs" campaign began. Then in the 1990s the DARE program was introduced. However, most of the research indicates that these two approaches have not made a significant impact on decreasing teenage substance abuse. The most recent campaign uses the slogan "Parents: the Anti-drug." This anti-drug campaign takes the approach of encouraging parents to question their teenagers about their friends, activities and whereabouts on a regular basis. However, with most parents, either single or married, working full-time away from home is very difficult to keep track of teenagers between the hours of 3 and 6 PM. These are the hours when teenagers are hanging out with their friends or home chatting on the Internet and associating with many new people who can introduce them to drugs. By the way, the one common element shared by the teenage boys on probation that I work with was a lack of parental supervision.
To learn more about this issue please attend the free seminar Parents The Anti-Drug: truth Or Propaganda, sponsored by Families Counseling. The seminar is scheduled for Saturday, March 13 at 10 am, at the SCORE! Educational Center. See our back page for more information.