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Collin County Parents Given Tools to Fight Substance Abuse (October, 2005)

Would you know what to look for in your teen’s room to give clues to whether he/she was using drugs?

Most parents don’t, which is the reason that presentations such as the mock teen bedroom set up as part of the Collin County Substance Abuse Coalition’s community forum on Thursday, October 13, 2005, are so important. The program was open to the public and was held at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church.

A critical key conveyed to parents Thursday was that teen’s don’t always hide things. Oftentimes the items that should alert parents to possible drug use are in plain view – items such as an aerosol whipped cream can which can be used as a piece of drug paraphernalia.

In addition to the mock room, the coalition’s panel was made up of substance abuse professionals, two sober addicts, school officials and law enforcement officials. Detective Charlie Horie of the Frisco Police Department represented this community on the panel. About 150 parents and educators from the Collin County area attended the meeting.

In the late 1990s, Collin County residents were alarmed by the number of reported Heroin deaths. Parents of the teens who died stepped forward and made the cause of their children’s death public. Substance abuse is still a problem in Collin County. The purpose of the forum was to educate today’s parents about what drugs are circulating and signs to look for in your teen’s behavior and belongings. In addition to the room on display, a typical teen car (a favorite hiding place) was displayed. One recovering addict who was on the panel was amazed at the car display, noting that she never thought of some of the hiding places revealed in the car.

Drug testing of teens was urged as a tool for all parents who suspected drug abuse or wanted to give their student something to use as an excuse from being pressured by peers into using drugs.

Frisco Independent School District performs random drug testing on its athletes. But parents who suspect their student may be using drugs may request that the school include their student in the random sampling. Panel participants Thursday night warned parents who see signs of abuse to be relieved over one negative test. They cautioned that multiple random tests might be needed to identify a student who is using drugs.

Sabina Stern, a spokesman for the Collin County Substance Abuse Program, told the audience that last year 41 percent of the criminal cases filed in Collin County resulted from substance abuse. She also noted that there were 24 drunk driving-related deaths in Collin County last year. Heroin use seems to be on the rise again, she noted. But the panel members seemed to agree that most popular drug of choice seems to be methamphetamine, a drug that can be produced easily in the home.

The highly addictive methamphetamine may be “cooked” almost anywhere. Items to be concerned about in your home, especially if a parent discovers them in their child’s room or being stored in large quantities, are pseudoephedrine cold pills, acetone, aluminum foil, anhydrous ammonia, coffee filters, denatured alcohol, drain cleaner, iodine, iodine tincture, lithium batteries, lye, methanol, Muriatic acid, paint thinner, propane tanks, Toluene, table or rock salt, red phosphorus, and Methanol.

Another warning urged by the panel was to avoid keeping large amounts of prescriptions available in your home. Teens who have been in substance abuse rehabilitation report that they often stole prescription drugs from the medicine cabinets of their parents or at the homes of friends. Xanax, pain killers and ADHD medications were some of the drugs listed as popular for theft.

The panel warned against being lulled into a false sense of security by students who dare parents to perform drug tests or continue to get good grades. One 23-year-old recovering addict reported that she got straight A’s and when her parents would suspect drug use would use her grades as a defense. “How could I be getting straight A’s if I was using drugs, go ahead and test me if you think I’m using drugs?” the young woman quoted herself as saying. She held her parent’s concerns at bay for several years with this argument. She began drinking at 12 and advanced to more abuse with each year, she said.
The message from the panel was clear that any parent concerned about substance abuse should consider drug testing.

Parents wanting more information about substance abuse in teens should contact www. acocares.org  a referral list site for substance abuse services in Collin County, your local school counselor, or your local police department for information.