Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time for that chat with the kids about drugs...

Here are some statistics to scare the crap out of the parents out there. These are statistics for kids between the ages of 12 and 17. The figures come from the 2008 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. If you read nothing else of this post, please read the last couple of paragraphs. And please consider having a talk with your kids about drugs.

Seriously, this is critically important.

More than 60% have tried alcohol.
More than 47% have tries illicit drugs.
4.9% have experienced substance abuse problems with alcohol.
4.6% have experienced substance abuse problems with illicit drugs.
There is only a 1.9% crossover, so a full 7.6% of these kids have experienced substance abuse issues altogether.

In regards to the illicit drug use, there is a lot of crossover.
3.4% = Cannabis, 1.2% (est.) = other traditional illicit drugs.

The more frightening statistic is the abuse of pharmaceuticals, which is becoming one of the most serious youth drug problems today. An estimated 3% have abuse issues with pharmaceuticals. But that is just abuse, the estimates for kids in that age group to have tried/sometimes use pharmaceuticals are more than 40%. In context with other sources I have been reading, this is often in combination with alcohol and almost always includes mixing pharmaceuticals.

It doesn't matter if it is the first time a kid has tried this out. The right combination of pharmaceuticals, or mix of pharmaceuticals and alcohol = a dead kid.

I would also point out that initiation is getting younger and younger. We're talking 10 or 11 years old, sometimes younger. And the younger the child, the more likely it is that they will be trying pharmaceuticals. The other thing that is important about this pharmaceutical problem, is that there is far less correlation with traditional risk factors. Poverty, drug abusing parents and even an expressed distaste for illicit "street" drugs are not nearly as relevant with pharmaceuticals as they are with street drugs and alcohol.

A good time for that talk, would be when you next see your kids. Don't wait until they are preteens or teens - that could well be too late. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect, this is a great resource and I am going to post a longer discussion about this when I actually finish my paper.


Stephanie Zvan said...

I can't tell you how happy I am that the teenager most closely under my care popped up on Facebook last night to tell my husband, who had Tweeted some scotch-tasting notes, "alcohol is BAD for you!" We need to have a talk about moderating that attitude so she doesn't feel like the people encouraging her to abstain were lying to her, but given her risk factors, that was very nice to see.

Becca said...

That's it, this evening, when I get home, my son and I are going to have "the talk". Actually, *I* will talk, *he* will listen.
Actually, truthfully, I fear it may already be too late. You should see the way he chugs bottles. I think he wants to practice keg stands.

*sigh*. In my day, we never had to worry about three month olds this way...

Anonymous said...

'Don't wait until they are preteens or teens...'
So, should I talk to them while they are still in the womb?

Anonymous said...

I would also add to check your medicine cabinets. After 20 years in the same house my parents moved and had to clean things out. They found quite a selection of prescription drugs that have a street value. Some dating back to when they had at least one teenager living at home and since then neighbor kids water the plants and take in the mail when they are on vacation. A huge amount of ritalan, some oxycodone, some percoset, a couple valium and I don't know what else. Except for the ritalan, all of it was left over from surgeries, injuries or dental work. The ritalan (which had to have been at least 10 years old) was what my dad took for narcolepsy for many years. They didn't really know they had all that stuff. They wouldn't have noticed it was missing, but if someone had gone looking it wouldn't have been that hard to find.

My father was fairly alarmed when he put it all together because he mentioned he thought kids raiding the family medicine chest was kind of an urban legend.

Granted this took a number of years, but you might have more stuff lurking around than you think. Or your parents might or the neighbors your kid waters the plants for.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Stephanie -

I think it is great that she has the attitude she does about alcohol and would assume that she is probably bright enough to understand that pharma drugs are not any better for recreational purposes. But it is important to keep in mind that there are a lot of adults in treatment today, who felt like that at her age. By virtue of being female, she has something going for her, but by virtue of being the daughter of a substance abuser she has a lot going against her. Better than fifty percent of juvenile substance abusers are the children of substance abusers. A full 21% of children of substance abusers become juvenile substance abusers. She is doing great and will probably be one of the seventy nine percent who don't go there - but the trouble isn't over by a long shot.

One of the biggest reasons cited by children of substance abusers, for not using as a juvenile is proximity to the substance abusing parent/s. This is true even of kids who weren't aware - or claimed not to be aware of the parental substance abuse (there is some debate about whether that is conscious or not - in general). The big problem is that once that proximity is gone, they don't have that example. They will not be terribly likely to hang around people who are habitual substance users or worse. That does not mean they won't be around people who drink once in a while, maybe smoke a little pot here and there - you can probably see where this is going. It is not that many such kids can't develop a healthy and reasonable relationship with substance use - many of them do. Many others just avoid it altogether. But there are also a lot of them who fall into an abusive relationship with substance use.

Honestly, the very best thing to help ensure that the child of a substance abuser doesn't become a substance abuser, is for that parent to have a very long and exceedingly difficult talk with their child - lay out what their life has been like, what their relationship with their substance/s of abuse has been like and make it very clear that because they love and respect their child, they don't want them to go through all that. Make it clear that experimenting may well be a lot more dangerous for them, than it is for other kids. Make sure that they know that there is a lot that is unknown about addiction and other substance use disorders, and that the offspring of a substance abuser has a significantly elevated risk of being a substance abuser themselves.

And if there are known neurological issues such as depression, bipolar, dissociative disorders, then that should be discussed too. Even if the child doesn't have those problems, they tend to run in the family and these are a fucking huge risk factor.

The second best thing, is for someone who is close to the child to have that conversation, if the parent is just not capable (not a values judgment, it is really fucking hard to do).

Just to make it clear - by age twenty, lifetime use of illicit drugs jumps from 37% to more than 50% - by the time you hit 25, that is past 60%. Alcohol hits more than 79% by 20 and more than 90% by 25.

Not trying to freak you out, or anything, just wanted to raise awareness...

DuWayne Brayton said...

Becca -

You really need to be especially careful with infants. They generally get better, but that is relative. My very nearly two year old isn't nearly so frantic about the bottles - he actually takes hours to get through a bottle sometimes. But frighteningly, the eldest is still all about the milk...

Anon one - Not a bad idea.

Anon two - Very good point. I am pretty anal about that sort of thing, but it is not uncommon for drugs to be sitting around for years at a time...

Both anon - Please use an identifiable tag. I don't mind people using bullshit names, I just need to be able to differentiate or things get confusing. I hate to be a dick about it, but as a general rule I delete completely anon comments...

Becca said...

DuWayne- it's escalating. 46oz in 18hours. 46. Bottle after bottle, with no end in sight. That's beyond kegstands, given his size. My poor son. *shakes head*

Abby Normal said...

One of the things that drove me to drugs was my father always trying to talk to me about them. I kid you not. He was convinced I was on them (I wasn’t) and he was always going on about them or accusing me of taking/selling them. Occasionally I even got punished for, “Something you did that I don’t know about.” That wasn’t the only reason I eventually started on them. But the thought, “If I’m going to do the time I may as well do the crime,” definitely didn’t help.

That’s a rather extreme example. But my point is to be aware of how you go about it. Generally speaking, talking to your kids about drugs isn’t nearly as important as talking with them (three-month-olds excluded). Ask questions. Find out what their thoughts are. Showing you have faith in them, and respect for them, will help them to feel that way about themselves. And that will do far more to keep them off drugs than all the facts and numbers you can find.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Hey Abby,

I am aware of that problem actually. It is actually quite common. Parents should never get accusatory, even if their child really is on drugs.

I am just coming down from pretty much finishing all my hard shit for the semester and will get to writing about the sort of conversation that is effective.

A tease...Rather than being accusatory, parents should try to empathize with the potential curiosity their child might have in drugs (not the three month old kind, or even the preteens). I mean hell, even those among us who didn't do drugs (people - not me) were usually at least curious about it...