When you think about drug abuse… what do you picture? A dirty scene in a back alley with needles and meth pipes? You may be surprised to learn that the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States is not cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines. In fact, it is something that can probably be found in your own medicine cabinet.
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise, especially for teenagers who buy into the misconception that prescription drugs are safer or less harmful because they were prescribed by a doctor. These pills are now being sold through social media platforms and are being laced with fentanyl, which can have deadly consequences. In fact, Santa Clarita has recently seen a spike in fentanyl deaths.
The city of Santa Clarita has taken a strong stance on educating our youth and our families about the dangers of drug use. Since 2011, the city has hosted the hard-hitting Parent Resource Symposium, which started as Heroin Kills. Each year the award-winning symposium has taken on a different topic based on the current trends of drug abuse.
This year’s theme is “Chasing the High,” and it will focus on the dangers of prescription drugs and fentanyl. I encourage parents to mark their calendars for Friday, Sept. 23, at 5:30 p.m. to come to Santa Clarita City Hall, located at 23920 Valencia Blvd., to be part of this crucial event.
One of the biggest issues we face is the lack of awareness when it comes to teens misusing prescription medications. The misleading idea that teens can try drugs with zero consequences puts them in danger of drug abuse, dependence and the potential for an overdose. Today, our children face more than just the pressure of fitting in, but the influence social media has on drug usage. Children and teens are constantly bombarded with messages that advertise prescription medication use. This is why parents must stay informed and never underestimate that their child could fall prey to drug addiction.
What do parents need to know? As a parent myself, I know how important it is to have open discussions with your children about the dangers of drug use and the detrimental effects it can have on developing youth. More often than not, children and teens are experimenting with legally prescribed medication, many getting it from the medicine cabinets in their own homes.
One in four teenagers believe that prescription drugs can be used as a study aid, and nearly one-third of parents say that they believe that ADHD medication can improve a child’s academic performance even if the child does not have ADHD.
It is important that parents are educated on the impact of prescription drugs and the long-term effects on the developing brain. The dangers behind prescription medication include irregular heartbeats, lethal seizures, high body temperature, heart failure and slow brain activity. The abuse of over-the-counter drugs also increases suicide attempts and hospital visits for teens.
As parents, we can make a difference by having an open dialogue with our children about the dangers they may face in the world. Children who learn about the risks of drugs at home are 50% less likely to use drugs. I cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is for you as a parent to talk openly with your kids about the pressures and dangers they may face with illegal and prescription drugs.
Talking to your children about the risks of abusing prescription drugs is essential to ensuring their safety. At this year’s upcoming Parent Resource Symposium, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez will lead a conversation with local experts to provide the necessary resources and tips for keeping our youth safe and educated on the dangers of drug abuse.
I encourage every parent to join us and be a part of the change. Learn more about this year’s Symposium and Resource Fair by visiting DFYinSCV.com/Parent-Engagement.
Mayor Pro Tem Jason Gibbs is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected].