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.

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