Last night MCCPTA hosted a forum on teen drug and alcohol abuse in Montgomery County. This is a very real problem here, and the dialogue began last night. Too many lives have been lost or tragically altered to continue to pretend that we don’t have a problem, but what will it take to get people—parents and community leaders—to acknowledge it and come together to address it?
The forum members included Board of Education members, MCPS principals, Montgomery County Police, a treatment specialist from Medstar Montgomery Medical Center; the most riveting presentations came from P.R.O.T.E.C.T. (Parents Reaching Out to Educate Communities Together) members from Fairfax County.
Ms. Taylor Gibson, an adorable young woman with a pixie haircut and an infectious smile, is a 23 year old felon and recovering heroin addict—you would never know it by looking at her. Mr. Greg Lannes lost his daughter to heroin. Her picture stood in the front of the room—she was beautiful, and now she is gone. Mr. Greg Richter has a daughter who is a recovering heroin addict. He talked about how no one wanted to acknowledge that their kids could be involved in this, even when they were—we have to change the culture and talk about the realities. Many of our kids are using alcohol and drugs, and we need to face it. Thankfully he still has his daughter.
The statement that keeps ringing through my head, if i recall correctly, that was made by Robert Roth of MedStar Montgomery. He said that the problem isn’t that kids are addicted to drugs and alcohol, they are addicted to intoxication. That is a very scary reality.
This made me start to look at my life. Why do I drink? Although it is perfectly legal, what example am I setting for my kids if I come home and have a glass of wine to help me relax after a long day at work? Perhaps I am addicted to intoxication?
51% of households don’t see marijuana as a problem drug, even though it is a gateway drug to cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs. Marijuana is available to kids in most high schools in our county—I’m not making this stuff up. A story was told last night of a kid getting pot from his mother’s boyfriend—and the mother didn’t know the boyfriend smoked, so the child wasn’t concerned about being ratted out by him.
The statistics about drug use in kids under 15 is alarming. As reported by WUSA middle school students were recently arrested in Gaithersburg for alcohol possession, and a 14 year old girl blew a .17 on the breathalyzer, twice the legal limit. Children under 15 who use alcohol have a much higher likelihood of becoming alcoholic and/or using hard drugs.
The Partnership at DrugFree.org is a great resource for helping parents learn the facts about what kids hear about drugs.
I am only just beginning to understand how serious this problem is in Montgomery County, and with my involvement as Co-Chair of the MCCPTA Health and Safety Committee I am not insulated from it. Please open your eyes and talk to your kids. We need to have courageous conversations. Go with your gut instinct if you think your kids are using alcohol or drugs. Don’t say, “they wouldn’t ever…” because statistically speaking, they probably are.
We need to change the culture in our county from one of denial to one of proactively making sure that when we say that we don’t have a problem, that we have it backed up with the resources in place for prevention, intervention and, probably most importantly, rehabilitation.