|San Rafael principal Garth Johnson discusses kids and drugs.|
San Rafael Junior High recently held a meeting for parents and the community on the new and changing face of drugs in the community. School principal, Garth Johnson and school counselor, Christine Hunt organized the meeting. They are organizing quarterly meetings on topics which will be a benefit to the parents whose children attend junior high.
The first meeting featured the showing of a video entitled, The New Face of Drugs. Also attending the meeting were two counselors from the Four Corners Behavioral Health in Castle Dale. Emery County when compared with the state average has a higher incidence of drug use among young people.
Drugs are easily accessible and come in a wide variety.
Ecstasy is now being mixed with other drugs including meth. Prescription drug use is up. Meth is now being put into pill form and made to taste like candy. It is becoming a cleaner drug. Meth use in the past has been a dirty drug which had to be snorted or injected. Meth use has become an epidemic. Prescription and over the counter drugs are also being abused at an alarming rate.
Parents can reduce drug use by becoming more aware of whats going on and learning what to look for. Principal Johnson told the parents assembled that the DVD shown is available at Smiths along with a book.
Jennifer Thomas and Kari Alton brought to light some statistics regarding drug use in Emery County as it compares to the state average. Alcohol use in the junior highs is 200 percent of the state average and 158 percent at the high school level. Use of marijuana is 195 percent of the Utah average in Emery County junior highs and 170 percent of the state average in high school with 16 percent of youth in grades 9-12 admitting they smoked pot in the last 30 days. The statistics come from the Utah Substance abuse archival data for 2003. Emery Countys divorce rate is 128 percent of Utahs average rate of divorce and unemployment is 7.5 percent according to Emery County Government data for 2005.
Thomas said Emery County has been chosen as a target area to receive funds to combat tobacco use in the county.
Thomas also reported that on average when drug testing new miners that seven out of 10 test positive for drugs.
Alton described pill parties that are taking place where various pills are dumped into a bowl and everyone takes something not knowing what they are getting.
Inhalants are also a big concern and problem among the younger kids in junior high and into the elementary schools. The dust-off product which contains canned air for dusting electronic devices has been used by these younger students. Dust-off users are in danger of dying from this use as the product suffocates the user by paralyzing the lungs.
One audience member said a new thing she has learned is that you place a milk jug over fresh cow manure and then leave it for a couple of hours then inhale the gases for a temporary high. Also magic markers and whiteout products are sniffed by kids. Some kids seem willing to try anything, she commented. It was reported that inhalants are among the highest cause of first time deaths among users.
Thomas said that tobacco is often a gateway drug and that helping prevent its use will hopefully prevent kids from going onto other drugs.
There were 300 students questioned to prepare the statistics and they were last years eighth graders. The countys high use of meth was mentioned and the new meth pills contain five times the dose of regular meth. Ninety percent of meth addicts do not get better.
Alton reported that marijuana use is up and going to the lower grades. They described marijuana as a family drug with use sometimes spanning an entire family.
It is sometimes said of the county that there is nothing else to do but have sex and drink and do drugs, but Alton feels that is a cop out and that people using just use that as an excuse because there are a lot of things to do here besides participate in those questionable activities.
The survey also looked at protective profiles and risk profiles for the drug related behaviors. Students were questioned on different aspects of behaviors. Rewards for prosocial involvement where students are recognized and rewarded for their contributions was extremely important in students being drug free. Also participation in positive activities, family attachment, religion, belief in moral order and other factors seemed to have bearing on whether a child becomes involved with drugs or not.
Alton said some of the kids she works with do not get support from the parents, in some cases the parents are contributing or using with the children and do not consider the drug using behavior to be a problem. Some of the parents are supportive and interested in getting their kids off drugs. It is alarming when you see parents not influencing their student to do their best, said Alton.
Thomas told of parenting classes held at Four Corners to aid parents to enhance their skills. She encouraged parents to spend positive time with their children. You should say something positive to your child every day encouraging positive behavior. You should have a fun activity at least monthly and quarterly you should spend one on one time with each of your children. On average parents only spend seven minutes each week with one on one time with their children. Family dinners are important and celebrating family with a vacation once a year; place emphasis on the family and its importance to your children. These things can make a huge difference, said Thomas.
The Emery County school district has a referral program where students can visit Four Corners for four free visits to gain help.
One other program Four Corners offers is working with seniors who are off track to graduate and they can earn credits by being in a summer school program.
Principal Johnson mentioned the 40 assets that kids need to succeed. They need support and caring adult relationships. They need parental involvement in school and in thei lives. Even if all the factors are in places sometimes kids will still take drugs. Peer pressure will win out even after weve done all we can do, said Johnson. Drugs with Pokemon and Mickey Mouse are being targeted to younger children. We hope to have a parent meeting quarterly to help our school and community to help get our kids raised, said Johnson.
Your kids will be exposed to drugs at some point, said Johnson.
Alton said to be aware that students can use their lunch money to buy pot and the key is to be involved.
Thomas told the story of one student who had a fight with her parents that took a handful of Ibuprofen. That was her response and situations like that are frightening.
The schools have counselors that are responsive and ready to help students with problems and can refer them to people who can help.
Hunt said, This is not a losing battle. Dont work with fear, but work with hope. We can go after these problems with hope and determination. We cant ever give up hope where our children are concerned.
Principal Johnson also expressed his need for parent input on topics for future meetings.