Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Prevention and Education, Drug Overdose and The Good Samaritan Law

One of the frightening things that is happening with teenagers overdosing on prescription pills is that when a teen overdoses their friends are so afraid of getting caught with drugs or getting in trouble that they don't call 911. There are good samaritan laws being passed so that young people don't have to worry about getting in trouble if they report an overdose. New York just passed such a law.
People need to know the dangers of overdosing. When someone overdoses on an opiate it shuts down their respiratory system but this happens gradually. There is usually time to get help. One of the problems is that people do the wrong things. They leave their friend alone to "sleep it off", or they try to throw cold water on them, or yell at them. I have read about teens who have left a friend on the side of the road to die alone rather than risk getting into trouble themselves. Even adults have neglected to get medical services involved because of the fear that they themselves or their child will be prosecuted.  It is crucial that the person gets immediate medical attention. In half of the cases of drug overdoses no one called 911 and a life could have been saved.  Teenagers as well as parents need to be taught how to recognize an overdose and what they should do if they are in the presence of someone who overdoses. 

Read more:

Save A Life Cards

My friend Jodi Barber, who woke up to find her son Jarrod barely breathing at 3 am on the living room couch  had these wallet sized cards made. It was too late for Jarrod.  It is sad that we have come to this but we have to do everything we can to warn teenagers about the dangers of overdosing. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good Parenting

I was thinking about the article that Natalie Costa wrote for the Laguna Patch newspaper about the prescription drug epidemic. There is so much infomation in the article that parent's need to know about what is really going on with their teenagers. Our teenagers are in a warzone. "Good parenting" is simply not enough to keep them safe. There was a time; I have to admit, that I believed “good parenting” would protect my children from harm. The fact is “good parenting” is simply not enough when it comes to fighting the prescription pill epidemic.
I am enrolled in an Alcohol and Addiction Studies Program.  Recently I was in a Substance Abuse in Adolescents class. I was a little surprised when our instructor began a lecture on Substance abuse Prevention in Adolescents. She began by saying, “they are finding that environmental factors are much more significant than the genetic component.” She said the approach to prevention now is to increase the Protective Factors in a teen’s life. 
 The list of Protective Factors went something like this:
·         Supportive family relationships
·         At least one significant caring adult in the child’s life
·         Families spend time together, mealtimes together
·         Teens need to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities
·         Teens need to feel special, and feel empowered, have self-acceptance
·         There should be clear parental expectations and consequences
·         Religiosity
·         Community

My children were raised with two parents who were very involved in their lives. Our children went to good schools where we both worked in their classrooms and drove on field trips. Our children were involved in sports, dance, swimming, and karate. They were taught that there was nothing they couldn’t accomplish. We attended church together each Sunday and our children attended youth activities and summer camp at the church. We talked to them about the dangers of drugs, we even role played how to say “no”. That was my idea of being a “good parent”. I guess if you look at the list above, WE DID PROVIDE PROTECTIVE FACTORS, but that did not stop our son from taking his first hit of marijuana.  My son tells us, “he had a great childhood”, he didn’t use drugs because he was unhappy. He used because “he loved how it made him feel”. That is the problem my friends, THAT is why so many teens are overdosing on opiates; “they love how it feels.” Being a teenager today is challenging they have so many stressors in their lives. They worry about fitting in, about making the team; they worry about getting good grades and making it into college. One hit of marijuana, one oxycontin, one opana takes those worries away instantly. 
If we are going to fight this battle we have got to see that this is happening in good homes where protective factors are in place.
Natalie Costa said,
“During the research for our film Behind The Orange Curtain, the main focus was the shock regarding the number of deaths from this beautiful affluent Southern California area. We have tree-lined streets, gated communities, Blue Ribbon schools and amazing sports activities to keep the kids active and off the streets.  What makes a good kid from a good family take drugs in the first place never mind such high voltage pain killers that are extremely addictive and kill”.
Many teens report they began experimenting with drugs when they were between 12-15 years old. Experts say that teens have immature brains. The part of the brain that is responsible for logical thinking is very underdeveloped in a young persons brain. The area of the brain that dominates a teen’s behavior is the one that controls impulsivity. So they have a very difficult time making good choices because they are very impulsive. How many times have you found yourself asking a teenager “what were you thinking?” The truth is, they probably weren’t thinking. Research suggests that the younger a person begins experimenting with drugs the more likely they will become addicted.
It is a deadly combination, the underdeveloped brains of teens who desperately want to “fit in”, teens under stress, teens attending parties where very dangerous prescription drugs are so readily available. One pill can provide a few moments of bliss where, for a brief period they forget about all about the stress in their lives.  That one moment they are on the top of the world. The problem is these pills are highly addictive and eventually they are taking 8-10 pills a day just to keep from getting sick, which can be very expensive.  What we have now is an epidemic of teenagers from affluent neighborhoods either overdosing on prescription pills, or eventually turning to the cheaper heroin to feed their addiction.
Natalie went on to say,
 “What we have come to find out, there is no simple answer. These are good kids from good homes making bad, stupid choices in the name of fun. They open mouth, insert pill, and the road to hell is paved. About three out of 100 comeback from an opioid addiction and then it's a lifelong battle. The consensus was unanimous in our interview for the film - the feeling they got from that first pill - was a feeling they wanted to feel the rest of their lives. Many stay addicted because the detoxification is so painful, that it's easier to stay under the influence than to get clean”
I don’t know what the answer is. I know we are way past “just saying no”. I know that we can have all the protective factors in place and if our teen decides to put a pill in their mouth, as Natalie so eloquently said, “the road to hell is paved.” 
If you know someone whose family has been affected by this epidemic please don't judge them. We all love our children. We all want the best for them.  This battle is deadly. This battle robs families of all their hopes and dreams. It is painful. We need love and support from our friends. Help us fight to save lives.

Prescription Pill Epidemic

Natalie Costa at Behind the Orange Curtain wrote an excellent article for the Laguna Patch about the presription drug epidemic that is SWEEPING OUR NATION.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Street Drugs Book This website is a great resource if you want to learn what street drugs teens are using. The book STREETDRUGS is on sale right now for $2.95. A great resource.
Drug trends are in constant motion. Easy access to cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs is well documented. In addition, the internet provides another avenue to many different kinds of drugs or chemical concoctions that provide a high, a low, hallucinogenic or other experience. Some of these internet acquired concoctions can be more dangerous than heroin or methamphetamine. Even legitimate, commercially manufactured prescription drugs are available from international markets that do not have the same restrictions or laws as the U.S. The availability of drugs and the ability of Law Enforcement Authorities to stop this threat is daunting. Our 2011 Drug ID Guide on the left shows some of the internet connections as well as some of the latest drugs available.

April 20th AKA 420

April 20th, AKA "420" is known by teens and young adults as the biggest marijuana smoking day of the year and it is approaching. Regardless of a teens history of use, they know about this day and many experience pressure to use on this day.  It's important that parents and teachers are aware of this.

The best time  to offer support to young people is before the day arrives. Talk to them about their understanding of the day, experience of the day in the past, and anticipated pressures with it coming soon. There are so many myths about this day that it creates a great discussion. Offer ways to help them negotiate their way through it.

In addition, having drug testing supplies around the house helps the young person have a refusal skill when peer pressure occurs. It will occur. When they say, "my parents have a drug test and they will use it," then the peer pressure stops. The negative friends back away.

It's time to start talking to our teens about what's really going on in their lives.

Here is a link to Recovery Happens Newsletter about Marijuana




Saturday, April 14, 2012

Drug Awareness


Not MY KID, not at my HIGH SCHOOL, and certainly not  IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD!!!!

When most of us grew up there was probably a group of kids at our local high school that took drugs on the weekends. They may have smoked pot or taken a hit of acid at a party now and then. In the last 30 or 40 years all that has changed; prescription drugs have infiltrated our high schools and our junior highs. The potency and availability of drugs has increased. The teens who are using drugs are no longer a small group of kids who cut classes to smoke a joint in the parking lot. Today teens are starting out by taking prescription pills, which are often opiates.  These pills have a much higher potency as well as have a highly addictive component. Teenagers are much more likely to become addicted to opiates because their brains are still developing. There is no room for experimentation with todays drugs.  We are no longer talking about a handful of kids who hang out in the parking lot to smoke a joint. Teens who are becoming addicted to drugs or abusing drugs today come from good homes; they have parents who have done all they could to provide a stable, loving home.  The teens who are overdosing on prescription pills include kids who are involved in clubs, and sports, they are cheerleaders, and football players.  This is NOT about good parenting. It's about getting involved and educating our communities.

We have to wake up people, this is going on in YOUR HIGH SCHOOL, YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD,  AND THESE ARE YOUR KIDS!!!!!

Today teens attend parties where bowls full of random prescription pills are available for the taking.  Party attendees bring whatever prescription pills they have and toss them into a bowl and randomly reach in and take a handful. The introduction of Oxycontin and Opana (both prescription pain medications that are highly addictive)  has caused a widespread epidemic that is robbing families of their loved ones.

Anyone who has lived with addiction knows that it devastates the entire family. Once a young person becomes addicted to drugs they no longer have a choice. The craving for the drug rules their every waking moment. The need for the drug takes them to places they never could have imagined.
There is a very poignant moment in the documentary, Overtaken, when Cole says, "I like to say Addiction robbed me of my my morals and my ethics, I stole thousands and thousands of dollars from my parents, I wrecked cars, I wrecked relationships, I traumatized my family, which today, I am not comfortable with but back then I didn't care."

These young people didn't set out to be drug addicts or to have their lives ruined by the craving for a drug. There is another line in the documentary that speaks to this,
"When you can stop,  you don't want to,
 and,  when you want to stop  you can't."

As I mentioned before, teenagers have brains that are still developing,  They are very impulsive as a result of this immature brain development. They don't have the ability to make rationale decisions. One choice  to take a pill can alter a person's life forever.

The lives of the Rubin family will be forever altered as a result of Aaron's overdose from Oxycontin in 2005. Aaron was in a coma for 3 weeks. Sherrie stated, "we were planning his funeral". Aaron is now quadriplegic, he communicates by using his hands and fingers. Today instead of attending college as a student, Aaron and his mother give presentations at colleges about the dangers of prescription drugs.

Aaron Rubin and some of my classmates at Saddleback College
Sherrie and Aaron Rubin

Some teens don't survive the overdose. Jarrod Barber was one of those teenagers whose life was cut short. On January 8, 2010 Jodi Barber and her husband, Bill woke up to find Jarrod barely breathing on the sofa. A few days later they were attending his funeral. Today rather than attending her sons college graduation, or helping to plan his wedding she is advocating to shut down pill mills and educating students in junior high and high school about the dangers of prescription pills. She and Christine Brandt produced the  documentary OVERTAKEN. Jodi and Christine work tirelessly to educate our community about the dangers of these drugs.

Jodi Barber and Christine Brandt
This epidemic is destroying families. Young people today should be attending high school dances and graduations not attending funerals of their classmates. This is the time for each one of US to decide what WE will we do to speak out about what is going on in our own backyards. Go to your local high school, ask what type of drug awareness program they have in their school, write your senator, clean out your own medicine cabinet, and take your old prescription pills to "drug take back days". We are way past teaching our children to "just say no". As parents and grandparents we need to learn all we can about drugs and teach our children the dangers of these highly addictive drugs.

The Barber family

Friday, April 13, 2012

Overtaken - Official Trailer

Amazing People

I have met some amazing women since I have been here in SoCa. Women whose lives have been forever changed by drugs. Jodi Barber is one of those women. I met her the first time I went to see Overtaken. She is truly an amazing woman. She lost her sweet son Jarrod 2 years ago at the age of 19 and she has been on a mission to educate parents, teachers, principles, and young people about the dangers of prescription pills ever since. She is truly an inspiration. Check out her website.

I met Sherrie Rubin and her son Aaron that night as well. Sherrie and Aaron give presentations about the dangers of prescription drugs.See the video above about their families journey. Sherri and Aaron recently visited one of my classes at Saddleback college. 

 Sherrie's website:
The mission of H.O.P.E. is to provide public education and awareness of the rising abuse of prescription drugs, namely the drugs OxyContin, Oxycodine, and Vicodin and the connection these drugs have with Heroin abuse.