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By Valorie Dassel, LCSW – January 7, 2020

Parenting in this era can be overwhelming. There are many opinions and parenting styles that can be argued. 

However, when we are facing drug and alcohol use among our teenagers, there must be an “all hands on deck” approach. It is a community issue that requires parents and adult mentors to communicate clearly with our teens while understanding both sides of the coin.

There are clearly reasons why our teens engage in risky behaviors, and it is important to acknowledge this while at the same time educating them on the severity of the risks. Visit websites such as drugfree.org and youthfirstinc.org to educate yourself on how to talk to your teen about drug and alcohol use. 

The following are some tips to guide substance use conversations with your teen:

  1. Ask your teen open-ended questions about the dangers of vaping, drinking and drug use. Use this conversation to guide discussion around the consequences about the things they care about in the “here and now.” Points to bring up include how substance use may affect their relationships and reputation. These are things they do not feel invincible about. They may do something that is embarrassing and have to deal with the social consequences at school on Monday morning. They may do something that they regret and consequently hurt a relationship or friendship. It is also helpful to aid in connecting their athletics and academics to substance abuse. If they are tired and hungover on the weekends, they will not feel like studying or practicing. 
  2. Be open with them about substance abuse issues in their family. According to the Genetics Science Learning Center of Utah, scientists estimate that a person’s genetics account for 40-60% of their risk of developing an addiction. Sharing family history and stories aids in the development of decision-making based on risks specific to them.
  3. In addition to genetics, individuals who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc. are at a higher risk to abuse substances. The website dualdiagnosis.com is a good resource to help teens connect their emotional struggles to how they may self medicate with substance use.
  4. Clearly share your expectations and the consequences they will receive at home if they are found to be drinking, vaping, smoking or using drugs. It is important to create a relationship that allows the teen to share their struggles or experiences while also being aware of the consequences if caught using. 

Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends. Share with them your values and that you do not approve of them drinking, smoking/vaping or using drugs. There are parents who mistakenly feel they are protecting teens by allowing them to drink or use substances under their supervision, as they feel it is a safer alternative.

Developmentally, teens are beginning to individuate from their parents, which gives them the sense that they can make their own decisions and act independently. Educate yourself and others that this concept inadvertently gives them permission to drink/vape/drug on their own.

Remember that we as parents can educate and guide, but our teens will be the ones who make the decisions. It is our responsibility to keep them as safe and as educated as possible.  Most importantly, be there when they fall and help them back up.

By Salita Brown, Project Manager – Oct. 8, 2019

Addiction…overdose…death…all of these serious consequences have become synonymous with opioid use.

Opioids are very powerful drugs that have received a lot of news coverage lately. However, through all of the coverage the reason opioids have become so addictive has gotten lost.

So, what exactly is an opioid?  Why are people addicted to them?  According to the Mayo Clinic website, mayoclinic.org, an opioid is a broad group of pain-relieving drugs that work by interacting with the opioid receptors in your brain cells, meaning an opioid can temporarily control your brain.

Opioids trigger the brain to release a signal that lessons your perception of pain and increases your feeling of pleasure. This feeling of pleasure, though temporary, has led to repeated overdoses. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently reports 130 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses.

This crisis is one that everyone can help combat, even if you think it does not affect you directly. One of the easiest methods to combat this problem is proper disposal of unused medications.  All unused/expired medications become quite dangerous when found by the wrong person. This is especially dangerous when medications find their way into the hands of a child.

In order to help prevent this issue it’s best to get those medications out of your home. You might think you need to go to your medicine cabinet and flush those unused pills down the toilet or maybe throw them directly into the trash. You are not entirely wrong, but both of those disposal methods require a couple more steps in order to be effective.

So, what exactly is the proper means for disposing of your expired or unused prescriptions? One option is to bring the unwanted medications to an authorized collector.  An authorized collector will simply take the medications, with no questions asked, and properly dispose of them for you. To find an authorized collector near you, please call the DEA Office of Diversion Control at 1-800-882-9539.

Another option is to flush your unused medications down the toilet. However, before you rush to flush all of your medications, please be advised that not all medicines are recommended for flushing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of medicines approved for flushing that can be found by checking their website at www.fda.gov.  If your medication is not on the approved list, you can always take it to an authorized collector or utilize the next option.

The Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) is now providing Indiana fire departments with safe drug disposal pouches to distribute across the state. Drugs can be emptied into the pouch, and when water is added, chemicals in the pouch dissolve the medications safely. Contact your local fire department to request a safe drug disposal pouch to dispose of medications properly.

The final disposal option is to throw the medications in the trash. Proper trash disposal requires that the medication be mixed, not crushed, with an inedible substance and closed firmly in a container or plastic bag. If you choose to dispose of the medication in its original pill bottle, it is recommended to scratch off or remove any identifying labels.

Now that you know the proper method for disposing those unused prescriptions, take time to rid your home of them in a safe manner.  Proper prescription medication disposal may not solve the opioid crisis, but it certainly will not worsen it. If anything, safe-proofing your home for your loved ones is an excellent reason to properly dispose of unused/expired medications.

By Diane Braun, Jan. 22, 2019 –

When asked which of these is a symptom of alcohol overdose, which would you choose?

  1. Irregular breathing   B.) Confusion    C.) Vomiting   D.) All of these.

The answer is D, all of these.

January 22-27 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW).  The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has been sponsoring National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week since 2010 to educate youth and shatter the myths about substance use and addiction. 

NDAFW happens every year in January and is a week-long series of educational events that link teens with scientific experts.  Since its inception, NDAFW has continued to grow, with more than 2100 events held throughout 50 states and 35 countries last year. Activities focus on general drug use or on specific trends of concern in individual communities.

NIDA has produced a wide variety of resources for organizers of events and promotional activities, including resources for parents and educators. Classroom activities specific to the week and other year-round lessons on drugs and alcohol, including lesson plans, are available on the NDAFW website. 

Free booklets with science-based facts about drugs and alcohol are available and include NIDA’s most in-demand teen publications. New this year is the “Opioids: Facts for Teens” booklet.

An on-line chat with National Institute of Health scientists and science writers is available on Thursday, January 24 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm EST.  Teens in schools around the country can submit substance use questions in an anonymous forum.  Registration is available on the NDAFW website. In previous years, more than 50 schools participated with more than 10,000 questions submitted.

Youth can be curious about substances they see and hear about on social media. Misperceptions can happen when they only follow certain views.  Making sure your child’s questions are answered is vital to keeping them safe. 

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recommends:

  • Always keep conversations open and honest.
  • Come from a place of love, even when you’re having tough conversations.
  • Balance positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.
  • Keep in mind that teachable moments come up all of the time — be mindful of natural places for the conversation to go in order to broach the topic of drugs and alcohol.

Take this opportunity to educate yourself and your child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Begin a dialogue so they will feel free to come to you with any future questions or concerns.

By Katie Omohundro, LCSW, and Jenna Bowman, Courier & Press, October 24, 2017 –

Every fall communities and schools around the country honor a week known as Red Ribbon Week, sponsored by the National Family Partnership.

Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 to raise awareness of drug abuse and drug-related violence.  Although Red Ribbon Week is now a popular time for theme days and assemblies in schools, it started due to a tragic event.

Enrique “Kiki” Camarena joined the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because he wanted to make a positive impact in the fight against drug abuse.  Unfortunately, in 1985 Agent Camarena was taken and brutally murdered by drug traffickers.

In response to Agent Camarena’s death, people in his community began to wear red ribbons to honor his memory.  Because of anger and concern about what drug involvement was doing to their community, groups gathered to raise awareness, and from these groups Red Ribbon Week was born.

Not only does Red Ribbon Week honor the memory of Agent Kiki Camarena, it continues the battle against illegal drugs and helps educate communities about the associated dangers.

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention and awareness program in the United States.  Raising awareness on this topic is increasingly important, because studies now show that 10.6 percent of youths 12-17 years old are currently using some form of illicit drugs.

This year Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated from October 23-31.  The theme for this year is “Your future is key, so stay drug free.”  The theme encourages youths to think about where they want to be in life and how staying drug free will help achieve their goals.

The purpose of the week is to educate and get the conversation started on how to say no to drugs.  Participating in Red Ribbon Week activities provides the opportunity for students to join together and take a stand against illegal substances.

A dedicated group of students at Evansville’s Thompkins Middle School has worked hard to plan a great Red Ribbon Week.  They will be sharing statistics during the morning announcements to educate their schoolmates on the dangers of drug abuse.  This group helped find the information and statistics for this article. They did an amazing job planning the week!

Thompkins Middle School will look slightly different during this week because the students will be dressing up for theme days to actively demonstrate that they are saying no to drugs.  Thompkins will kick off the week with a “We are Head- to-Toe Drug Free” theme.  Later in the week, students will be dressing up in Hawaiian-themed clothing for “Lei off Drugs” day!

Thompkins Middle School will not be the only school getting into the spirit for Red Ribbon Week, so be on the lookout for activities at a school near you!