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Seminar targets drug abuse

Parents learn how to spot signs of substance abuse in their children and how to address the topic.

March 11, 2010|By Joseph Serna

On top of the traditional concerns among parents that their children might abuse alcohol or illegal drugs, police and county health officials are saying prescription drugs are becoming a third avenue of abuse for kids.

In a seminar for community parents Tuesday night in Newport Beach, child experts, doctors and police profiled issues facing today’s kids and how parents can protect them.

“They need to make sure they keep an eye on their social activities. Know who their friends and parents are,” said Irene Umipig, a health educator with Orange County’s Community Services Program Project PATH.

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In the two-hour seminar, organizers said parents learned warning signs to look for in their child’s behavior that could indicate drug, prescription-drug or alcohol abuse. The consequences, police said, could go from expulsion, jail time to death.

Kids have a misconception that because drugs like Vicodin or Oxycontin are prescription, they’re safer, Umipig said.

“Instead of going to the liquor cabinet, which is closely monitored, they go to the medicine cabinet,” she said.

Children are also increasing their danger with alcohol in other ways than binge drinking — they’re now doing “extreme drinking,” which mixes stimulants like a Red Bull energy drink with alcohol.

“They’re now a drunk person who’s awake,” Umipig said.

Newport Beach Police Sgt. Steve Burdett said police deal with increased drug and alcohol abuse in the summer on the Balboa Peninsula, when kids fresh out of high school and into college party.

“It’s a big concern for us,” he said “We’re dealing with the party and the overdose aspect of it.”

A statewide survey of fifth-, seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders showed that many kids have used drugs or alcohol in the last year. Students’ answers were anonymous. The most recent results were from 2007.

Few fifth-graders reported using drugs, but 23% reported to have used alcohol at least once in their life.

Eleventh-graders had the highest number, with 70% reporting having tried a drink at least once, followed by half of ninth-graders.

More than 40% of 11th-graders also reported trying marijuana at least once.

More than half of high school juniors reported drinking alcohol within the last month.

More than 80% of middle school and high school students acknowledged that using alcohol, tobacco or marijuana was harmful.

The study argues that the numbers call for more education about the dangers of substance abuse at an earlier age to reinforce the message.

Umipig suggested parents should take every opportunity they see, such as TV shows or commercials, to broach the topic with their child.


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