Resources for Parents
Drinking and Driving PSA
While neither of these concepts is necessarily new, Smoking Smarties and Drunken Gummies are two current trends among today’s youth that have rapidly grown in popularity thanks to YouTube, social media sites and other popular online tween/teen hangouts.
If you are wondering how one smokes a Smartie or concocts a drunken gummy, just “Google” it. Then you, like youth across the country, will unfortunately have instant access to hundreds of instructional videos.
Know! the facts to share with your child to help curb curiosity and deter experimentation:
Especially popular among the middle school crowd is Smoking Smarties. The candy is not actually smoked, but it appears to be, as the crushed candy dust is inhaled and then blown out to mimic a puff of cigarette or marijuana smoke. The obvious drug reference is the whole point of doing it, and part of the problem with this “activity.” Youth are also reportedly snorting Smarties as well. Prevention experts say this practice may display a child’s willingness to engage in risk-taking behaviors and may be one step closer to experimenting with the real thing. The physical danger with smoking or snorting the candy dust is that particles (acting as shards of glass) can be inhaled into the nose, throat and lungs, which long-term, can cause infections, chronic coughing and choking.
Drunken Gummies are vodka-infused gummy bears, gummy worms or other gummy candies that pack a deceitfully, powerful punch. Because these alcohol-soaked candies are virtually odorless and unsuspecting, youth report sneaking these “treats” into the classroom, sharing them with friends at sporting events and even boldly snacking on them in front of their parents or other adults. In addition to the many risks associated with underage youth consuming alcohol, the danger with drunken gummies is the unknown amount of liquor contained in each piece of candy. Students may pop several gummies in their mouths without realizing how much they are consuming and dangerous intoxication levels can occur quickly.
There is a two-part lesson for us parents here: One, we need to monitor and be aware of what sites our children are frequenting online. And two, we must talk to our children about the health risks of these and other hazardous teen trends.
A Conversation About Prescription Medications
In a recent past Know! Parent Tip, we discussed the skyrocketing number of preteens and teens abusing prescription medications; Every day, about 2,500 American youth try their first pain pill (for a high). We also identified some general thoughts that reportedly cross young peoples’ minds when considering taking that first pill.
In this Parent Tip we take a closer look at the reasons youth give for experimentation and provide you with accurate information on medication abuse so that you can more easily frame the conversation to dispel the myths and decrease your child’s risk.
As with any persuasive conversation, it is important to discuss the topic openly and keep the mood relaxed, so that your child does not feel defensive or afraid to share his/her feelings.
You may also want to keep in mind this four-part formula to successful persuasion (PRIME for Life):
1. State the view you want to change.
2. Validate the reasonableness of the view.
3. Gently challenge with new information.
4. Replace with the new view.
YOUTH: I have heard so much hype over these pain meds. I just want to try it once. It’s not a big deal.
PARENT: With all the recent attention on pain meds, I can understand your curiosity. But it is important to know that even experimenting with these medications can bring about dangerous consequences. These pain meds (also known as opiates) can cause a number of short-term side effects like nausea, constipation, fatigue and confusion. Long-term use can lead to physical dependence and addiction on the drug. Once addicted, both the body and mind crave more of it…leading a person down a dark path. And if opiates are taken with alcohol, antihistamines (found in cold medicines) or other substances that slow the central nervous system, it can be a fatal situation, even with first use. So using medicines for a high is a big deal.
YOUTH: I know it’s not “ok” to use drugs, but at least it’s a medicine prescribed by a doctor, which is better than an illegal drug off the street.
PARENT: You‘re right on your first point, it’s absolutely not ok to use drugs (make clear your stance). And I understand why you would think a medicine prescribed by doctors is safer than illegal street drugs. But the fact is legal does not equal safe (reference the short and long term side effects of Rx pain meds in the above scenario). Medicines have a system which controls who can get them and when. That system is there for a reason: to protect us.
YOUTH: This medicine helped my friend’s mom with her back pain, so there is nothing wrong with borrowing a few pills to help with my ankle injury.
PARENT: While it may appear that your injury or the pain you are suffering is similar, there are many other things a doctor takes into consideration when prescribing a medication to an individual including: medical history, allergies and other side effects, a person’s weight for appropriate dosage, interactions with other medicines being taken, etc. By borrowing or sharing a prescribed medication you are risking making the health condition gravely worse for yourself or someone else. Bottom line - this is when sharing is not a good thing.
YOUTH: If a small dose of my prescription helped me feel good, a little more will make me feel even better.
PARENT: Familiarize your child with the Point of Diminishing Returns. To put it in youth terms, try this analogy. “You are hungry, you eat one cheeseburger, you then feel satisfied. If you eat two cheeseburgers or even three cheeseburgers, will that make you feel even more satisfied? No - You are more likely to feel overstuffed and sick (because you’ve hit the point of diminishing returns). The same holds true for prescription medication. Your doctor prescribes just the right amount of a given medicine to help you achieve the greatest results. Go beyond that amount and the side effects can be dangerous and at times, even deadly. More is not always better.
There are many different scenarios that could be discussed. We encourage you to come up with more. The important thing is that you are talking. Because talking with children about the risks of prescription drug abuse can positively impact their attitudes and empower them to make healthy, substance-free lifestyle choices.
For resources and information on combating prescription drug abuse visit The Generation Rx Initiative.
Sources: Prevention Research Institute: PRIME for Life for Parents, BusinessDictionary.com, DrugFree.org.
Information For Parents About Prevention
Research suggests that the most effective factor in preventing youth substance abuse is the involvement and awareness of a parent/guardian and members of the larger community. The Milford Prevention Council (MPC) has always understood this and seeks to design programs to work WITH parents, community members, and young people to educate them about alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse issues and teach effective strategies for prevention.