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What parents should know about drugs

By By DONNIE NUNLEY
APD Assistant Chief of Police
What are drugs?
Some drugs are used for medical reasons. For example, these drugs can fight disease, correct imbalances in body chemistry and relieve pain. They're substances that affect a person's body, mind and behavior. Using drugs for non-medical reasons is drug abuse.
People may abuse drugs to try to escape problems or boredom, to go along with their friends ("peer pressure"), to get "high," to relax, and because they're addicted to drugs (they need drugs to feel "normal").
Alcohol is also a drug. Any use of alcohol by someone who's underage is drug abuse.
Why learn about drug abuse?
So you can help your child avoid its dangers. Every child is exposed to drugs at some time. It's a problem that can't be ignored. You can help your child learn about the harmful effects of drug abuse by knowing the facts.
You should know the signs of drug abuse. The first step in helping someone who is abusing drugs is recognizing that he or she needs help.
You should help your child resist drugs through positive efforts such as setting a good example. Children are influenced by what their parents say and do. Share your opinions about drug abuse. Avoid alcohol and other drug abuse yourself. Stay involved in healthy activities and be a model for your child.
Help your child resist peer pressure. Children with strong self-esteem can make their own choices, rather than "go along with the crowd." Support your child, and teach him or her ways to "say no" to drugs. Give love and understanding, love your child as a person, not just for what he or she accomplishes. Reward effort with praise. Try understanding the challenges of growing up – and help your child meet them.
Communicate with your child. Take time to talk – and remember that listening is a big part of good communication. If you are having trouble communicating, ask other parents for advice. Or, talk with a school counselor or other professional.
You should encourage positive activities. Help your child find healthy, enjoyable alternatives to drugs, such as sports, clubs, and learning and social groups. Encourage participation in school, religious and community groups.
Here is some information about some of the types of drugs that are being abused in this area.
Amphetamines and diet pills
They are commonly known as "uppers," "speed," "crank," "meth," "crystal," etc.
The medical use is to control appetite, to treat depression, a sleeping disorder called "narcolepsy" and other conditions. It is generally taken in capsules, tablets, or powder. It may be swallowed or injected in solution.
Some of the signs of abuse are increased activity and restlessness, decreased appetite, dilated pupils (from large amounts), dry mouth and nose, anxiousness, irritability and mood swings. Long-term abuse can lead to poor school performance, a sudden change of friends and poor personal hygiene.
Cocaine and "crack"
These are made from the leaves of the coca plant – "coke," "flake," "blow," "toot," etc. – may be further treated for smoking and called "crack," "rock," or "free-base." It was once used medically as a local anesthetic but is rarely used medically today.
It generally comes as a white powder, which is sniffed ("snorted") or injected in solution. "Crack" comes in small chunks for smoking. Some of the signs of abuse are short, intense cycles of emotional ups and downs, increased activity and restlessness followed by anxiety and irritability, decreased appetite, runny nose, nosebleeds and other nasal problems.
Marijuana
Commonly known as "grass," "pot," "weed," etc. Other drugs made from the marijuana plant (cannabis sativa) includes hashish ("hash") and hashish oil ("hash oil").
It has been known to be possibly useful in connection with glaucoma (an eye disease) and chemotherapy (a cancer treatment). Marijuana looks like dried herbs – green vegetable matter – and is usually smoked or may be eaten in food. Hashish comes in small, powdery chunks or is refined into oil, usually smoked but maybe eaten.
Some of the signs of abuse are excitement, anxiety, panic, or drowsiness, increased appetite, poor coordination, harsh odor on breath or clothes, redness of the eyes, lessened motivation and concentration, relaxed inhibitions and lack of interest in sustained activities.
It's your job to fight drug abuse. Set a good example, learn about drugs and take action. Staying involved in your child's life can make all the difference.