Know the signs of juvenile drug abuse
Richard "Doc" Rioux · August 25, 1996
Don't fool yourselves. The time for denial is over. Our kids are at risk for drug and alcohol abuse no matter what school they go to or what neighborhood they live in. It's not just a problem of the inner cities. The scourge is in our suburbs, in your neighborhood school. To say your children are not in danger is to make the problem worse and to expose each of them to a potential calamity.
Angela is 22 and went to several schools including Taft High. "My stepfather died when I was 11. My real father left me when I was 3. My baby sitter smoked grass. I started drinking at 12. Image is everything. I wanted to be accepted."
Wyman is 21 and from Michigan. "I started using drugs at 14. Dad took me out when I was 18, and we got drunk together. I got hooked on marijuana and sold it so that I could keep using. I've been around the world and done lots of things."
Darren is 20 and attended Hart High School. "I started using pot when I was 15. My dad was a hippie. My mom married four times. I had no good role models. Drugs came first and my family second. You can get anything you want in school. Different groups of kids run with different drugs."
Andrew is 21 and attended Palmdale High School. "Dad and mom smoked marijuana. I began at 16. It was cool to do weed. You get in where you fit in. I did six months in state prison. Dad was an engineer."
These stories are being repeated in towns all over this country. The Clinton Administration, which cut funding to fight drug use, just reported teen drug use up 78 percent since 1992. The use of marijuana, speed, cocaine and LSD is on the rise among kids at an alarming rate. The causes are many, and there's plenty of blame to go around. But this column is not about blame. It's about stating the problem in real terms and making some observations.
Why do kids use? The reasons include drug use in the home, parents who are never around, divorce, peer pressure, easy access to drugs in schools, and the influence of contemporary music styles like TECHNO, RAVES, THRASH, GOTHIC or DEATH ROCK. Teens want to be cool, accepted by friends, and/or escape boredom, neglect, abuse and loneliness. Music lyrics seduce them into using, into believing drug use is the "in" thing to do.
What are the signs of addiction?
Angela: "Watch out for isolation, changed eating habits, loss of weight and body odors. Speed smells bad. It comes out of your skin."
Wyman: "If you see bugged eyes, erratic sleep patterns, kids not coming home . . . you've got problems."
Darren: "Look for ditching school, pale skin, glassed-over eyes, not talking."
Each of these young adults doesn't want to use drugs anymore. They are sick of the fear, deception, dishonesty and craziness associated with keeping an addiction going. When I talked with them, they seemed relieved to be in a recovery program where they said they were cared for and safe. We might learn something from their observations about the growing use of drugs among teen-agers in America.
Angela: "We need to reach kids as early as kindergarten. Parents must be close and loving but not try to be friends with their children. It all starts in the home. Kids who use drugs are missing something at home. Drugs open the door to hell."
Wyman: "You need to educate kids about drugs before they start using them. Tell them the truth. Practice what you preach. You can't teach in a classroom filled with stoned kids."
Darren: "The only way to stop drug use is to prevent it. Every elementary school should have drug education classes for kids and for parents."
Andrew: "We need to build more treatment centers. Normies (non-addicted people) need to get to where we're at. Recovery is good for everybody. Treatment doesn't happen in prisons."
There isn't a family in America untouched by the use of drugs and alcohol. There isn't a junior or senior high school in America -- including the Santa Clarita Valley -- where a teen can't buy narcotics on campus. Marijuana use often begins in the sixth grade. Don't ever think your 11-year-old won't experiment with alcohol, marijuana or LSD. Be on guard. Don't be foolish!
If an army from another country invaded the United States and began capturing and killing our teens, we would rise up as a people in anger and declare war -- a war we would wage until we won an absolute and total victory. America is losing thousands of its young people to illegal drugs every month. We must commit ourselves to a total war on illegal drug use. We must rescue our children from the cemeteries of addiction appearing in our towns.
If you want a panel of young people or a drug abuse counselor to address your group or association or PTA or Board of Education concerning drug use and solutions to it, simply call me at the Los Angeles County Rehabilitation Center at 805-269-0062. We wish to help.
Dr. Richard Rioux is a resident of Stevenson
Ranch. His commentary appears on Sundays.
© 1996, THE SIGNAL -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED