Idle Hands

What factors have lead adolescents into a pharm frenzy?


     "Education is the key," Quinn says. "You have to educate the kids and start young — elementary school or junior high — and go from there. Let kids know how bad it is, what's really in it, the things it can do to you, and hopefully some intervention strategies. I just try to talk to the kids like regular people." Quinn's position at the school allows him to interact with kids every day. He says he does not talk down to them, and gives them a lot of what the ramifications will be with certain types of drugs — depending on what they've been caught with. Though the traditional drug education program excludes younger kids, some experts in the treatment and prevention industry are pushing to speak with younger kids.

     "Right now, we're fighting the hard battle of trying to get education down to the young ones, and it's very difficult," Parkinson says. "We're trying to prevent the disease and we have no vaccine. It'd be great if we did have a vaccine that if you took any of these drugs … it wouldn't give you any high. In the meantime, we have all of these kids at risk."

     NotMYkid's mantra is prevention through education. Parkinson believes treatment is not an effective solution to teen drug addiction alone. She and her colleagues believe that speaking to groups of students and presenting the problem and the consequences is the best way to tackle the stability prescription drug abuse has with today's teens.

     Parkinson says society is losing 150 kids a week to drug overdoses. She illustrates that if someone put that number of kids on a plane and flew it across the country and crashed, everybody would be upset. But the plane in this case is invisible.

     "We don't realize how many kids we're losing with this terrible epidemic and disease that's going on around the country," Parkinson says.

     But society could be on its road to recovery. This year, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) launched a national public awareness campaign, which began with advertising during the Super Bowl, and is ONDCP's first paid TV advertising targeting parents in two years, according to the organization. But that report card is still out. Some of the most recent statistics from organizations such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration are based off of data collected in 2006, and the more contemporary state of the issues is yet to be unveiled.

     But even if today's teens are doing a little more than smokin' in the boy's room, as the Motley Crue hit proclaims, that's no cause for losing hope in a rehabilitated youth. Even if today's kids are taking a page from the former bad-boy rockers' hit cover, the light could still be at the end of the tunnel. The Crue had its highest climbing album the year members got sober from their infamously wild and indulgent ways. So if Quinn, Parkinson and other industry officials are successful in their educational prevention endeavors, maybe teachers will be able to "fill kids up with their rules," and authorities will be closer to quelling more than just smoking in school.

Luring children to the candy jar

     In addition to the battle parents and law enforcement are struggling with between teens and prescription drugs, authorities have seen a rise in the drug dealers' efforts to market street drugs to a younger audience.

     In Florida, school officials were warned of candy-flavored drugs which have turned up across the country, according to officials. Florida's attorney general released an advisory to school officials and resource officers that described recent dealer innovations including narcotic-filled gumballs and flavored heroin and methamphetamines.

     Sandi Copes, press secretary for the office of the attorney general in Tallahassee, Florida, calls the statement a preemptive action, and stated the office had not received any reports that the drugs were infecting their area, but it had wanted to make authorities aware of the disconcerting development.

     In March, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported it had seized strawberry-, lemon-, coconut- and cinnamon-flavored cocaine as the result of a federal investigation in Modesto, California.

     "It is very unsettling for me, as a counselor and a professional in the field, to see the drug dealers now going after kids," says Joan Parkinson, director of adult education services for notMYkid, an Arizona-based nonprofit drug education organization. "That, to me, is unbelievable."

     Parkinson has been counseling for 8 years in the Phoenix area and has worked in substance abuse with adolescents and their families, as well as partnered with schools and resource officers in the effort to shed light on the growing drug problem.

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