Honesty, not ridicule, is first rule
Teenagers can be turned from drug users to drug fighters if parents, teachers, and the kids stop fooling, themselves and confront their problems. That's what *** learned at Charles Junior High School in Northeast El Paso. When he became principal of' the school of 1,000 students in 1984, he discovered hundreds of kids were smoking marijuana and popping pills. "Instead of picking up the rug and sweeping it under, I said we had a problem and faced it" *** said. *** 47, brought in community experts to speak about the dangers of drugs. He brought kids who were seen using drugs or found with drug paraphernalia to his office. *** along with two counselors and the assistant principal talked to the students. There was no yelling, no threats, no ridiculing, no police, *** said. "We wanted to know what's happening in their life. What bothers them at home, on the streets, in school,” ** explained. "I wanted them to tell me why they wanted to take narcotics maybe I could learn something,.. Maybe I could understand.” Peer pressure was usually the reason given,” *** said. The principal convinced students they could talk about their problems, and he would stand by them if they were willing to help themselves. That meant putting the students in the El Paso Independent School District's First Chance program. It's a six-week program in which the student and his parents must attend counseling sessions one night a week. It worked. In the 1984-1985 school year, *** received reports of 156 incidents of drug use by students. In the just-completed school year the number was zero, *** said. "The students decided they wanted a drug-free campus, and they won't tolerate it anymore," *** said. As a result, academic scores have risen, *** noted. The teenagers *** sees are much deeper into drugs than the Charles students were. And be measures his group, Kids of El Paso, use are much harsher. ***, 39, is director of the El Paso branch of Kids' Centers of America, a non-profit, private group founded by Dr. *** of River Edge, N.J. El Paso is the group's second branch with a third one recently opened near Los Angeles. Kids of El Paso is currently treating 113 people from age 12 to age 24 who have drug problems. They have used several drugs, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol and inhalants. They are physically and psychologically hooked. Some of them - both girls and boys - have prostituted for drugs, *** said. Most have stolen from their parents and shoplifted to support their habits, he said. They came from both poor and affluent families. They started taking drugs at parties to be accepted. It grew into a preoccupation, *** said. Many of them used drugs to cope with problems at home and in school. Most of them were hooked within' a year he said. Parents turn to Kids of El Paso because nothing else has worked. One mother sold her home so she could move to New Jersey where her son was treated by the New Jersey center until the El Paso branch opened, *** said. It worked. Her son is now on *** staff. The Alcoholics Anonymous approach of phased treatment through peer pressure is used by Kids of El Paso. The first phase takes a kid away from his parents and into the home of another person further along in the program. He stays there until he recognizes he has a problem. He attends group meetings seven days a week. His parents must attend twice a week. The number of days decrease as the kid improves. Kids con themselves into thinking they don't have a problem, *** said. Parents often believe their children are just having behavioral problems. Parents should check their child's room if they suspect a drug problem, *** said. "Kids are clever at hiding their stashes," he noted. During the next three weeks, the newspaper will explore drug abuse and efforts to stem it, asking experts what can be done to make a difference.
DRUG WARNING SIGNS
These are some signs of drug problems in adolescents.
- ABRUPT change in mood or attitude
- SUDDEN decline in attendance or performance at work or school.
- IMPAIRED with relationship family or friends.
- IGNORING curfews.
- UNUSUAL flare-ups of temper.
- INCREASED borrowing of money from parents or friends, stealing from home, school, or employer.
- HEIGHTENED secrecy about actions and possessions.
- ASSOCIATING with a new group of friends, especially with those using drugs.
While these behaviors may indicate drug use, they may also reflect normal teenage growing pains.
By observing children and talking to them, parents should be able to determine if drugs are involved.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health