Did you know that 71% of high school seniors don’t think that marijuana use is harmful because it’s an herb? That was just one eye-popping factoid from a presentation full of insights into current trends in teen substance abuse – with a focus on e-cigarettes (also known as vaporizers), but also addressing other drugs and alcohol.
The September 5 event was sponsored by our Partners in Parenting program and the Dragon Parents, and a large contingent of interested parents showed up at the O’Dowd Theater for a presentation and panel discussion. The content of the presentation was organized by a local non-profit called Being Adept – an acronym for Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Tools.
It was nice to see all the classes represented, with the most significant participation from freshman parents. Everyone appeared eager to learn more about the realities of substance abuse by teenagers.
Jennifer Grellman, Founder and CEO of Being Adept, and her staff did a fantastic job of informing parents about the current trends in teen vaping, alcohol consumption, prescription and non-prescription drug use and marijuana use.
Grellman shared that in 2010 she began working in both middle and high schools using curriculum to prevent drug and alcohol abuse through evidence-based practices.
Jennifer and her team are educating teens and parents that the marijuana being cultivated today is a much more potent strain than in the past, with a higher concentration of THC which is the psycho-active component. She also discussed how over the counter and prescription drugs are being abused. The fact is, one in 10 high school seniors abuse prescription drugs. Some familiar names are Adderall, Ritalin, Xanax, Vicodin, and OxyContin.
Jennifer also informed us of MDMA use, also known as Molly or Ecstasy. Jennifer explained how MDMA robs the body of serotonin, so much so that that body may never recover its normal production of serotonin – increasing the chance of addiction.
We learned details of the current trends of e-cigarettes and alcohol use. Statistics show that adolescents that “vape” are three times more likely to start smoking cigarettes. Although masked by enticing flavors, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive. The adolescent brain is most vulnerable to damage from drugs, so it’s important to avoid drugs in order to allow it to develop properly.
Why would your adolescents turn to substances? Adolescents may use substances to block out stress. Jennifer discussed how our students may be getting stressed out on the competitiveness to get into certain colleges, as well as the general stress that comes with academic competition.
Another common reason why your teen might abuse substances is peer pressure. If your teen is hanging out with friends that use substances or attending a party where people are using, they are more like to fall victim to peer pressure to try to fit in or seem cool.
Some personality traits to look for in your adolescents that may indicate if they will use or abuse substances are: hopelessness, anxiety-sensitivity, impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and low self-esteem. It’s important to talk to your teen and teach them how to deal with anxiety, for example by walking or meditating.
I met several new parents during the pre-presentation social hour. Tina S. told me that she came because she wants to know what her teens know about drugs. Another big plus was that school staff was on hand to talk about how O’Dowd deals with substances on campus. Jase Turner explained the school’s policy on drugs, and it was good to hear his response on how staff stays on top of things.
I hope all of the parents attending were able to gain as much knowledge as I did. My biggest take-away was this: It is critical parents be mindful of how we may be contributing to our kids’ stress, as well as modeling positive approaches to the way we deal with our own stress. Please talk to your teens. Better yet, let your teens talk to you.
Reporting by Dragon Parents board member Tjuana Smylie
Here is a link to Parent-Wise, an online course from 3rd Millennium Classrooms, a service O’Dowd subscribes to in an effort to provide online education to students and families about drug and alcohol use and abuse prevention. Parent-Wise is intended to support parents in having informed conversations with teens about substance use.
Please join us at the next Parent Education presentation, Date Safe Project: Health and Safety in Teen Relationships, on Wednesday, October 3 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Theater. RSVP and get more details »