Pubdate: Thu, 08 Sep 2016
Source: Nor'wester, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016, Transcontinental Media
Page: 4


It's back to school time and, for many parents, that means serious
discussions with their children about the many challenges that can
arise in the schoolyard and the classroom: bullying (both on and
offline), peer pressure, test anxieties and other stress, budding
sexuality, alcohol and drugs.

In the case of the latter category - drinking and drugs - many of us
might be tempted to tell our kids, "Just don't do it." But is that a
realistic approach? Let's face it, our children, and older teens in
particular, are prone to experimentation. Many of us did it and many
of them will do it. It's a fact of life.

"Research indicates that youth are not only more likely than adults to
engage in risky substance use, but also to experience greater harm
from that use," says the Cross-Canada Report on Student Alcohol and
Drug Use. "This can negatively impact their health, academic
achievements, safety and, especially in the case of impaired driving,
the lives of others. From 2000 to 2007, 47 per cent of all drivers 19
years of age or younger who died in traffic fatalities tested positive
for either alcohol and/or drugs."

That's a frightening statistic, but then again, knowledge is power.
And now might be the perfect time to have a straight talk with teens
and tell them what they need to know about the risks of using alcohol
and drugs.

"What we want people to be more aware of is some of those kids are
going to chose to use drugs," Tree Walsh said last week.

Walsh is a harm reduction manager in St. John's with the Aids
Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador and she was talking
specifically about drugs, but the same can be said for alcohol.

Both substances can kill you. Just telling kids to say no is not
effective. In Atlantic Canada, there have been dozens of deaths from
fentanyl use alone in the past decade.

Just as you would warn your child about the perils of surfing the net,
so, too, should you tell them about the pitfalls of drugs and drink.
Too many young people are lost each year to alcohol poisoning and
accidental drug overdose. And even if using doesn't kill them, it can
have long-term effects.

"Early experience with alcohol and drug use and hazardous patterns of
drug-using behaviour during adolescence are serious risk factors for
developing longstanding problems that continue into adulthood,
including dependence and chronic disease," the Cross-Canada Report
warns. "Further, it appears that substance use in adolescence - while
the brain is still developing - is associated with an increased risk
of mental health disorders."

Let's talk frankly to our kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol
and let them know that they can come to us for the information they
need to stay safe.

It might be the most important lesson they learn this year.
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MAP posted-by: Matt