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Apodaca: Find opportunities to talk with your kids about drugs

October 15, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

Several years ago, when my older son was in seventh grade, he casually mentioned that a girl who sat next to him in one of his classes was "always high."

We had spoken previously about drugs. I had warned him before he started middle school that in the years to come drugs and alcohol would be prevalent, and I discussed with him how to respond.

But when he made the revelation, I couldn't help thinking, "Already?"

I put aside my shock at his disclosure — and the nonchalant way he had announced it — and used the opportunity for a deeper conversation. I asked questions, assiduously avoiding any appearance of an interrogation that might have caused him to clam up.

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Other parents have no doubt had similar scenes with their kids, and have wondered, like me, whether we can ever do enough to counter the pervasiveness of drugs and alcohol, and media images that tend to glamorize, or at least gloss over, their use.

The problem was made abundantly clear by a recent report from Newport Beach police that heroin-related arrests are up dramatically, particularly among youth.

Cheap black tar heroin distributed by Mexican street gangs is increasingly being used at high-school parties in Newport, they said.

Other reports have underscored disheartening trends. In Newport-Mesa, 29% of ninth- and 10th-grade students, and 41% of 11th- and 12th-grade students, reported having had at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days, according to the 2010 California Healthy Kids Survey.

In addition, 79% of the district's 11th-grade students responded that it was "easy" to get alcohol.

Nationally, the trends are disturbing. A 2010 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found a steady increase in overall illicit drug use since 2007 among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders.

After alcohol and marijuana, the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications continues to be one of the biggest problems. One of the few bright spots is cigarette smoking, which has undergone several years of decline among young people, although the NIDA study indicated that the drop appears to have stalled.

Such statistics are hardly news to professionals, such as Vlad Anderson, a school resource officer with the Newport Beach Police Department who has worked at Newport Harbor High School and is currently posted at Corona del Mar High School.

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