Prescription drug abuse among Placer County youth two times the national average

Centers for Disease Control calls it an epidemic
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
The Coalition for Placer Youth has a simple, but powerful message they are taking to parents in Placer County. Teens identify parents as the number one influence in their lives and research shows that children who learn about drug risks from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use alcohol, according to the non-profit organization aimed at empowering the community to reduce substance abuse among youth. That simple statistic stands in stark contrast to another more sobering statistic. In Placer County, 11th-graders abuse prescription drugs at two times the national average. Alan Baker, a parent volunteer and co-chair of the steering committee for the coalition, has been helping to spread the message for over four years now. “Placer County was kind of a leader in prescription drug abuse,” Baker said. “The usage rate and abuse rate is two times the national average. Affluence is part of it. Part of it is kind of the character of our county. It’s prescribed by doctors, so it is kind of the character of our county that it must be okay. Affluence really drives availability. It’s the Vicodin sitting on the counter, or the Oxycontin in a neighbor’s house.” The coalition has hosted prescription drug take back events and campaigns for families to lock up prescription drugs. The last take-back event, which was secured by Roseville police officers, yielded 9,000 pounds in prescription drugs. “We are asking them to do two things. Take the ones you don’t need and dispose of them,” Baker. “We are asking people that have prescription medicines in their hose to actually lock them up.” Baker said even if you trust your own children, their friends, your neighbors or burglars, could be targeting your prescription drugs. He said the culture in Placer County needs to shift, so that society as a whole becomes committed to ending the prescription drug epidemic. “(The Centers for Disease Control) officially established it as an epidemic. They haven’t called it an epidemic before,” Baker said. “If you see someone smoking they will sometimes get dagger eyes. All of a sudden there is that social pressure and peer pressure to not smoke. We need that to arise about prescription drugs.” Tom Grayson, the founder and executive director of Golden Sierra Life Skills, has been working in alternative high schools and with youth to teach them about where drug abuse can lead them. He agrees that parents play the most influential role in their children’s understanding of drugs. “I believe if they did talk with their children and had a relationship with them they would probably be the best influence on them,” Grayson said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, well that’s not true. It takes a home. It’s like sending out children into a lion’s den with pork chops around their neck and expecting them to come back alive.” Grayson said simple things, like nightly family dinners and once a week family meetings can help keep parents tuned into how their children are feeling. Aside from the impact it can have on a child’s future, Grayson said early drug abuse can keep teenagers brains from developing. He said parents and teenagers need to realize even marijuana has a negative impact on the brain. “You have reduced the dopamine in your brain and you don’t even know that you’re a corpse walking around,” Grayson said. “You will never ever reach the first high, ever. The real language has to be told to the people — the real situations. We can’t sugarcoat it.” Some of those real situations include young men and women selling their bodies for drugs, dying or ending up in prison. When it comes to prescription drugs, he said parents need to monitor their child’s use of them, even for prescribed reasons, and doctors need to become more aware of the cycles prescription drug addicts are in. Baker said he compares an addictive prescription drug out in the open to a deadly weapon. “That’s just like leaving a loaded gun on our counter,” Baker said. Reach Sara Seyydin at _______________________________________________________ Brad DeHaven shares his advice for family members, and especially parents, of prescription drug addicts. • Send them to a treatment center as far away from your house as possible. Brad said parents may be tempted to baby or smother their children, which is counterproductive for recovery. Getting them away from drug friends and sources is also important. • Pick a center that will keep your addict as long as it takes. Brad said like any disease, it makes no sense to say complete recovery will occur by a certain day, be it 30, 60 or 120 days down the road. • Get treatment as soon as possible. Brad said parents need to start looking at their children through the eyes of a stranger and accept how bad the problem really is so they can get help. • Drug test them. When in doubt, Brad said drug tests will tell you the truth about if your child is using. _______________________________________________________ Need help? If you, or someone you care about, need helps with prescription drug, or other substance abuse, here are some resources. Coalition for Placer Youth: Rx Drug Addict: Golden Sierra Life Skills: Narcotics Anonymous: Full Circle Treatment Center (based in Roseville): Alcoholics Anonymous: Narconon International: _______________________________________________________