Pubdate: Mon, 23 Apr 2012
Source: Mitchell Advocate (CN ON)
Copyright: 2012 Mitchell Advocate
Author: Rita Marshall


Choices for Change gives "straight talk" at UTES April

Talking with teenagers can be difficult enough for parents, but once
drug use is involved, a whole lot can get lost in translation.

Jackie Parkin, a youth addictions counsellor at Choices for Change, 
gave the audience an inside look at teenagers' minds during "Real 
Talk: The 101 on Teens, Drugs and Alcohol".

The presentation was one of two free wellness workshops hosted at
Upper Thames Elementary School by the parent councils of UTES and
Mitchell District High School April 18.

Angry outbursts from parents and accusations aren't helpful, Perkins
said, but it's still important to be upfront with teenagers that drug
use is not acceptable. Otherwise, they won't get the message.

"Kids will say, 'Mom and Dad don't care about it' and I'm thinking, "I
bet Mom and Dad do care about it'," said Parkin.

It's also important for parents to be upfront with themselves about
the possibilities that their teen may be using. Mood changes, a change
of friends, slipping grades and unexplained gaps of time could all be
indicators of drug use, while finding a bong or other drug
paraphernalia is a pretty good sign something's up.

"I'll talk with parents who have found things and they don't seem
overly concerned," said Parkin.

Parkin said the "everybody's doing it" argument is still popular with

"I hear that on a weekly basis," she said.

Although experimentation is normal, not everybody is doing it, Parkin
said. Getting teenagers to realize that is a step towards finding new
friends and activities which don't include drugs.

Alex Wreford, an addictions counseling student doing a practicum with
Choices for Change agreed.

Wreford, also a former client of Choices for Change, said that many of
his friends did drugs just like him. Once Wreford had to perform
volunteer hours as part of probation related to a drug charge,
however, he discovered other teenagers whose interests didn't include

"Everybody's doing it" can include a teenager's own parents, and
Parkin said parents should take a look at the behaviours they're
modeling for their kids.

If parents' drug use was in the past, they should realize that the pot
they might have indulged in 20 or 30 years ago is very different from
what's available to teenagers today.

Wreford told the audience that not only is marijuana much more potent,
but it could be laced with crystal meth to get the user addicted to a
harder, more expensive drug.

Parkin said that while media attention has caused a decrease in
crystal meth use in Perth County, it's still a problem.

She added that some teenagers have misunderstood the message about the
dangers of crystal meth, figuring that if crystal meth is the really
bad drug, ecstasy and cocaine must be the safer alternatives.

She said the current trend among Perth County teens has been to use
more ecstasy and cocaine as a result.

Parkin said teenagers she speaks with also figure if a drug isn't
illegal, or might be decriminalized, the drug will be okay to take.

"They really grab on to that because they want a reason to use," she

Wreford and Parkin warned about currently legal drugs such as the
hallucinogenic salvia.

"I've never talked to a kid who's used it twice," said

And if your teenager is using drugs? Parkin advises parents to be very
clear with their kids about what dangerous consequences of drug use
they are worried about. Parkin said what's really concerning is what
teenagers do while they're high, like fighting, driving or having
unprotected sex.

"Kids don't always make that connection," she said.

Parents should also be ready to negotiate instead of pushing for
drastic or dramatic solutions, she said.

Choices for Change has counsellors available in all local secondary
schools to help youth, and Parkin said parents can call Choices for
Change at (519) 271-6730 anytime.

"Real Talk" was one of the first two sessions held at the UTES
Wellness Fair. Two sessions "Internet Safety" and "A Taste of Brain
Gym" were set for April 24 while "Kids Have Stress Too" and "Tasty
Meals on a Budget" are set for Thursday, May 10. 
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