Specialists Speak Out
Local addiction specialists say the drug world is changing and drug prevention education needs to keep up.
Three area specialists spoke at a Turning Point meeting Wednesday night on "Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse." Many in attendance were parents and community members concerned about drug use among Marietta's youth.
Charlie Hasse, director of behavioral health services at the Center for Chemical Dependency at Marietta Memorial Hospital, said the world of illegal and legal drugs has changed since most parents today were children.
"Drugs are changing and it's important to get the new information out," he said. "More kids are using oxycotin and heroin and drugs like marijuana have become much more potent."
Teens and pre-teens are using common household items like cough syrup and nasal spray improperly to get a high, Hasse said.
"The drug of the year varies from one year to the next and it will probably always be that way," said Ray Stathers, program director at Recovery Alternatives. "It's important that a family discourages drug use no matter what it is. You can't turn on the TV without seeing an ad for a drug and it's confusing for kids who don't know what's acceptable and what's not."
Marietta Middle School Principal Mark Doebrich said he has seen an increasing number of middle school students improperly using prescription drugs.
There have been three instances this school year of students sharing prescription drugs or using them improperly, he said.
Last year, there were several cases of students using their parents' prescription drugs, Doebrich said.
"Parents need to know that there has been a huge increase in Attention Deficit Disorder medication and they're stimulants," said Hasse.
The discussion also focused on what parents can do to detect if their children are abusing drugs.
"Parents should be aware of where their children are and what they're doing," said Hasse. "If you see a change in behavior, change in friends or if you don't know where they are or where their money is going, ask them. You have to ask the questions and get specific in details."
It's also important to be aware of the use of gateway drugs, which may lead to more severe substance abuse, he said.
"People need to be cautious of substances we sometimes consider benign," he said. "Alcohol is often thought of as benign but it isn't. It's a coping mechanism that kids begin to use."
Anyone with concerns should make use of the resources in the community for more information, said Judi Smithchild, a licensed professional counselor.
"Aside from the physical symptoms, there are also symptoms you can look at for families," she said. "It's hard to see those because we think we're being good parents and doing what's good for our children, but it's so important."