Janesville65°

Heroin problem linked to parenting

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 16, 2009
— If you found out your child was drinking at a party, would you turn him in to face punishment under his high school athletic code?

Or, would you try to protect him and cover it up?


Mike McGowan said a Wisconsin high school athletics director recently told him there was a time when parents turned in their kids routinely, but he hasn’t had a parent turn in a child in 15 years.


We’ve raised a generation of children who never face the consequences of their actions, and it’s coming back to haunt us, McGowan told a packed conference room at the Rock County Job Center on Wednesday.


One of the ways it’s haunting us is called heroin, which has claimed at least 11 Rock County lives in the past year.


McGowan, a longtime addiction counselor and speaker, was invited to address the heroin problem by Rock County Partners in Prevention. About 150 people, many of them in law enforcement, social work, drug treatment or corrections, turned out.


“Kids need an adult,” McGowan said. “They don’t need another friend. Part of the problem is we have a generation of kids who have parents who are more interested in being their kids’ friends than in being their parents.


“It starts with alcohol, and it’s ignored,” McGowan said. “Trust me, it’s ignored.”


Then kids try painkillers that are so readily available, McGowan said.


Painkillers such as Vicodin are so routinely prescribed that many people either flush them—causing environmental problems—or hold onto them.


McGowan challenged his listeners to check their medicine cabinets. He’s heard from parents horrified to find the drugs had disappeared.


Kids crush and snort the pills. McGowan said kids know all about snorting; they start with the sugary powder in Pixie Stix while in middle school.


Pills can lead to heroin, which is chemically related to painkillers such as OxyContin or Demerol, McGowan noted.


McGowan held out hope.


He pointed to a strong anti-tobacco campaign that has produced a generation of youngsters opposed to smoking. Kids learn in school that cigarettes have rat poison in them, he said, and they want none of it.


He said an online series of police mug shots called “Faces of Meth,” showing the rapid-aging effects of methamphetamine, has had a big effect on the younger generation.


“Kids see that, and they say they don’t want to look that way,” McGowan said.


While permissive parents is a problem, sometimes a kid will become an addict despite good parenting, McGowan said.


One participant asked what to do about a young addict who wants help but can’t afford it.


McGowan listed treatment options offered by counties, in the prison system and others that offer sliding-scale fees.


And while an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is not treatment, it’s free, and it can help, McGowan said, adding that he was sure there was at least one AA meeting in Janesville on Wednesday night.


There are eight, someone called from the back of the room.



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