By MELINDA KAPALIN
For the Star Beacon
On January 8, 2014, Governor Kasich presented a speech to kick off the State of Ohio’s initiative of drug abuse prevention to middle school and high school students. The Governor encouraged parents, teachers, and community members to talk to students about the dangers of using drugs.
Research across the United States continually shows that parents are the first line of defense against underage drinking and substance abuse with their children. Reports show that when parents talk about the dangers of drugs and alcohol with their children, it reduces the risk factors by 50 percent.
To help parents, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has partnered with The Partnership at Drugfree.org to offer easy access to information through the website www.starttalking.ohio.gov. This website offers tips for parents on how to start conversations and also gives them accurate information on the types of drugs that are being abused.
This is an excellent resource for parents of middle school and high school children but it is never too early to begin the conversations about the dangers of drugs. Parents of elementary school children should take time to review the material and to be prepared to start conversations by 5th or 6th grade.
If you think that 10 or 11 is too early to talk to your children about drugs, you might be surprised that statistics show that recovering addicts reported an average age of 11 as the first time they experimented with substances. The earlier you talk about it, the better your chances are to prevent abuse.
Prevention doesn’t stop at the high school level. Today the fastest growing group of opiate and heroin addicts is 18-29 years old. Yes, they should know about the dangers of drugs by this age but young people are overdosing in record numbers. The number of overdose deaths in Ohio is currently higher than the deaths by vehicle accidents each year.
There is help for parents who have children who are graduating high school or are attending college at www.dontgetmestartedohio.gov. The website has facts and statistics but also has individuals who tell their stories about how drugs impacted their lives. It contains information about treatment resources for young adults too. This state wide initiative is vital to getting the prevention message out about the dangers of prescription opiates and heroin in order to prevent more deaths.
Don’t think that this can’t happen to your child. Don’t believe it isn’t in your neighborhood. This is a national public health epidemic that could affect your family. With the number of prescription opiates in Ohio is now at 67 pills per every man, woman, and child. The drugs are already here, parents have to talk about the dangers of substance abuse.
Families, business owners, and community health providers all feel the impact of drug abuse. In Ohio alone, fatal and non-fatal overdoses cost Ohioans over $3.6 billion dollars annually. There are 4 deaths a day in Ohio that are due to drug overdoses. For the sake of our families and communities we have to battle this epidemic together in every way possible.
Put down your cell phone, turn off the TV, close your laptop, and talk to your entire family about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs and all other illegal substances. Talk about what is going on in the schools, with their friends, and potential risk factors. Risk factors that might include friends using drugs and encouraging others or the dangers of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
Just start talking and don’t stop when your children roll their eyes at you or try to tune you out.
Keep talking and get more help at the websites for tips, ideas, and information. Remember, prevention begins with you.