Chesterton Tribune



It is not your parents marijuana; know the signs of drug abuse

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The sobering facts are these:

--Children as young as 10 and 11 are experimenting with heroin.

--Nearly 22 percent of kids report coming to school, at one time or another, under the influence of substances.

--One out of five high-schoolers admit to binge-drinking on the weekend.

--Fully 60 percent of regular marijuana users graduate to a stronger drug.

--Fully 66 percent of kids have tried marijuana by the time they’re in 12th grade.

--Only 25 percent of parents talk to their kids abut the use of over-the-counter medications.

--Four out of five heroin users started by misusing prescription medications.

If you’re a parent and those statistics don’t scare the daylights out of you, you’ve stuck your head in the sand: that was the bottom-line message of Chesterton High School’s Drug Prevention and Outreach Program in the CHS auditorium on Thursday night.

For Todd Willis, director of prevention and education at Porter-Starke Services, the first hurdle not only kids but their parents have to confront is the myth that marijuana is not a gateway drug. “I hate the term ‘gateway drug,’” he said. “People like to debate it. But there’s no way around it. The evidence is clear. I haven’t met one addict who didn’t start the process with marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol.”

“Nobody wakes up one day and says ‘I want to start using heroin,’” Willis noted.

The problem is this: the cultural tide is rolling and inevitable. “The legalization of pot is coming this way,” he said, and it’s hard to convince kids that smoking marijuana is the same as playing with fire when one state after another is legalizing the recreational use of the stuff.

Even parents who, once upon a time maybe fired one up themselves now and again--with no ill effect and no legal repercussions--and who may be inclined to look tolerantly on the occasional use of marijuana, have no idea how powerful weed has become. At Woodstock, Willis observed, the THC content of marijuana was around 1 percent. Now marijuana is being grown with a THC content of 20 to 30 percent. It’s really powerful stuff.

And it’s health effects are hardly negligible. Marijuana smoke is 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke, Willis said. Long-term use has been positively linked to brain tissue damage, respiratory damage, chromosomal damage, decreased sex drive, increased risk for schizophrenia, loss of income and financial insecurity, and school, family, and legal troubles.

Warning Signs

Willis offered this list of warning signs of substance abuse (many of which, of course, are also the simple symptoms of adolescence):

--Change in relationship with family members or friends.

--Loss of inhibitions.

--Mood changes or emotional instability.

--Loud, obnoxious behavior.

--Laughing at nothing.

--Unusual clumsiness, stumbling, lack of coordination, poor balance.

--Sullen, withdrawn, depressed.

--Unusually tired.

--Silent, uncommunicative.

--Deceitful or secretive.

--Decreased motivation.

--Endless excuses.


--Unable to speak intelligibly, slurred speech, or rapid-fire speech.

--Inability to focus.


--Unusually elated.

--Periods of sleeplessness, followed by long periods of “catch-up sleep.”

--Hostile, angry, uncooperative.

Two Tips from the Coroner

Speaking on Porter County’s opioid epidemic was Coroner Chuck Harris, one day after the release of his 2016 annual report, which showed a surge of fatal heroin and opioid overdoses last year.

“You have to be knowledgeable,” Harris said. “You have to know what you’re choosing. You have to know what the consequences are. You have to know the realities you face.”

Because, Harris said, there are only three ways out when a person starts using heroin: “You figure out early that it’s not for you and seek treatment. If you’re lucky.”

Or: “You start dealing, get caught, and go to jail. If you’re lucky.”

(As Harris noted, “There are some thing worse for a parent than your child going to jail.”

Or--No. 3--“I come to your home.”

Harris had two very practical pieces of advice for parents.

The first, which he called the “Get Out of Jail Free Card”: Promise your children that, should they ever find themselves in a place or situation in which they suddenly find themselves uncomfortable or at risk, you will pick them up, any time of the day or night, anywhere they happen to be. All they have to do is text you a code phrase: “I love you”; “I miss you”; “I’ll be home soon.” But this is the hard part: parents must promise their children as well that they will not, positively will not, ask their children why they wanted to be picked up. Get out of jail free.

The second piece of advice: drug-test your children regularly. The point isn’t really to catch your kids doing drugs, Harris said. On the contrary, it’s to give them a bullet-proof excuse not to try drugs when offered them, and not to lose face or be stigmatized when refusing them. “Well, I’d love to try but I’ve got a crazy dad who drug-tests me all the time.”



Posted 3/13/2017




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