Teens are finding increasingly clever ways to abuse commonly-prescribed drugs such as Xanax, Adderall and pain pills, Terry Childers, a representative from Bradford Health Services, told a small group of parents Nov. 13 at the Columbia County Alternative School.
“They’re forecasting there’s going to be more deaths from prescription drug overdoses this year than car fatalities,” Childers said. “That, to me, is staggering.”
Childers was joined by A.J. Creswell, a senior counselor with The Insight Program, to educate parents on substance abuse issues and risks faced by teens today.
Thursday night’s forum was the first in the alternative school’s “Navigating the Teen Years” series, open to anyone in the community. Two more meetings, likely focused on substance abuse and cyber bullying, will be held in 2013.
At the beginning of the forum, parents and children were placed in separate classrooms for different presentations.
Childers and Creswell, both recovering addicts, told stories about how teens soak gummy bears in vodka before school and eat them in class.
Another teen and his friends would browse the obituaries for people who had likely needed prescription drugs and then break into that home during the funeral, Childers said.
The duo also addressed the dangers of over-the-counter medications.
Dextromethorphan, an ingredient found in popular cold and cough medicines, can be taken in large quantities or extracted to cause hallucinations and out-of-body experiences.
Coricidin products, often called “Triple-C,” contain 30 milligrams of Dextromethorphan, also referred to as DXM, and give teens a quick fix. These drugs can lead to seizures, brain damage and death.
Inhalant abuse, such as “huffing” cans of common household items such as computer keyboard dusters, whipped cream and spray paint, can have tragic outcomes, including brain damage, heart attacks and death, Childers said.
Marijuana also is more potent today than it was a decade ago and some teens have turned to using synthetic marijuana, commonly called Spice, he said.
Teens with self-esteem issues are typically more susceptible to drug abuse, especially when they’re transitioning into high school, Creswell said.
“That’s when I found drugs and alcohol,” said Creswell, describing them as a sense of security for teens. “It took away that edgy feeling, that (discomfort of) trying to find a place in high school.
“It took all that away magically.”
Creswell said parents should make it a point to know who their children’s friends are.
If teens hide friends from their parents, that’s a sign something isn’t right, he said.
Other warning signs are theft of money and slipping grades, he said.
Creswell encourages parents to set boundaries for their children.
“For me, it was comfortable to know my limits,” he said. “Any teenager thinks they’re Superman but in their gut, they know there are limits and that’s what they’re looking for.”
Childers said it’s also important for parents to be on the same side as their teens.
“They’ve got to be able to trust us a little bit, too,” Childers said. “It’s real important to have some kind of dialogue with your kids.”