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Kids on drugs: What to do?

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Frank Schultz
February 6, 2010

Suspect your kid is using drugs?


Carrie Kulinski, the Janesville School District's coordinator of drug programs and a longtime drug-abuse counselor, recommends a four-step approach.


The first thing to do is get educated, Kulinski said.


Maybe your clue is an empty pill bottle or a paper bag with rags in it in his room. Maybe it's a smoking pipe on the floor of her car. If you don't know what those things mean or the dangers involved, find out. See the list of resources accompanying this article.


Step 2: Talk to your kids.


“Parents are sometimes afraid that they will push their child away by talking to them about drug use,” Kulinski said. “The important thing to remember is that it is never too early or too late to take action …


“Parents are the most important part of a kid's life,” said Kulinski, who works with students who are struggling with drug abuse every day. “Your actions on their behalf can make a difference.”


Kulinski said the conversation should not take place when the parent is upset or rushed for time.


“This isn't an easy conversation. You may have feelings of anger or guilt, or you may feel you have failed because your kid is using. This isn't true,” Kulinski said.


“Tell your child what you have seen and how you feel about it. Be specific about the things you have observed,” Kulinski said.


Step 3: Set clear rules.


“For example: 'In this family, we don't smoke marijuana,'” Kulinski said.


Then make it clear that you will enforce those rules.


Step 4: If you have uncovered a drug or drinking problem, contact a school counselor or drug-counseling professional.


“The most important thing is for you to take action,” Kulinski said. “Look for community resources such as a counseling agency that can conduct an adolescent alcohol and drug assessment.”


Parents should not doubt the influence they have on their kids, Kulinski said. Research—including surveys of teens—has shown repeatedly that parents are the most influential people in teens' lives.


“Most kids say, 'That's why I don't use drugs, because I don't want to lost the trust and respect of my parents,'” Kulinski said.


“Take action to stop (drug use) as soon as you can,” Kulinski added. “It may be the most important step you ever take.”


Drug resources


Tips for learning


Information about drug abuse is readily available on the Internet or at the public library. Resources include:


-- Call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, 1-800-788-2800, and then press 2 and ask for the free pamphlets and fact sheets. Information can be mailed in a plain envelope if you request it.


-- Contact a school counselor or school district coordinator for alcohol and other drugs of abuse (AODA).


-- drugfree.org


-- teens.drugabuse.gov/parents


-- www.freevibe.com


-- www.nida.nih.gov


-- www.niaaa.nih.gov


Tips for talking


Teen drug-abuse expert Carrie Kulinski has these thoughts about having The Drug Talk with your kid:


-- Don't make it an interrogation. Don't threaten. Try instead to connect.


-- Tell your kids you love them and that you are worried they may be using drugs or alcohol.


-- Remind them that substance abuse can have serious consequences.


-- Tell them you feel concerned about them when they use drugs and that you want to keep them safe.


-- Don't forget you are also there to listen to them.


-- Tell them you want them to be a part of the solution.


-- Tell them what you will do to help them.


-- Be prepared for denial. Don't expect them to admit they have a problem.


-- After the talk, don't give up. Keep lines of communication open.


Professional help


Here are some organizations that can provide drug assessments and/or counseling:


-- Crossroads Counseling Center, Janesville, (608) 755-5260.


-- Genesis Counseling Services, Janesville, (608) 757-0404.


-- Janesville Psychiatric Clinic, (608) 755-1475.


-- Mercy Options, (608) 756-5555.


-- Rosecrance, Rockford, Ill., (815) 399-5351.



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