Sunday, Sep 23rd

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The Drug Resistance Toolbox

Stacey Williams, M.A, P.P.S.

Drug use and experimentation among adolescents is not a new issue.  On the contrary, for generations parents have been having the “just say no” talk with their children.  Unfortunately, based upon my experience, saying “no” just isn’t enough to help your teen resist the pressures of using drugs.  Your child needs to be armed with multiple levels of strength, knowledge, and willpower to resist the temptations to use drugs.  We need to help them put together a “Resistance Toolbox”.

Regardless of where you stand in the debate of the legalization of marijuana, we need to understand that it can create confusion in the minds of teens.  When I talk with kids, they often ask, “If pot is bad, why is it legal?”  This is a great question because it opens up an opportunity to talk about drug use in general.  What we all need to understand is that even legal drugs can be “bad” if they are misused.  I am honest with the students I work with (I find that is the best policy – they can usually tell when adults are lying!).  I tell them that many drugs are legal for certain medical conditions.  Just because a drug is approved for medical use doesn’t mean that everyone has the freedom to use it as they wish.  I tell students that using a drug improperly, not following the directions on the packaging or being under the care of a doctor, can cause injury or death.  Knowledge is the first tool kids need in their Resistance Toolbox.

Recently the daughter of a friend of mine, we’ll call her Mindy (although that is not her real name), told me about something that happened to her at school.  A friend offered Mindy a brownie that had pot baked into it.  Mindy felt very pressured to try the brownie.  Several of her friends were willing to try it.  Luckily both I and Mindy’s mom had several open, honest conversations with Mindy about this type of situation.  We helped her come up with a plan of what she would say and do in a situation like this.  Mindy said she was allergic to marijuana and walked away.  These are two more tools for the “Resistance Toolbox”: having a plan and removing yourself from the situation.

Of course that is not the last time that Mindy will experience peer pressure.  Statistically she is likely to be offered drugs many more times before she reaches adulthood.  Mindy knows that she can talk with us about these situations in her life and we will be open to hearing her side.  She also knows that we love her, even if she makes the wrong decision.  This is an essential tool for the “Resistance Toolbox”: a caring and supportive adult.

When she was faced with this difficult situation, Mindy had another helpful tool: her belief system.  Mindy’s family has always had open and honest communication about topics like drugs.  Mindy has grown up knowing that her parents don’t want her to put anything in her body that may harm her.  They model a healthy lifestyle.  Helping children develop their own healthy belief system and a strong sense of themselves, is one of the best ways to insure they will make the right choice when confronted with the wrong one.

As a parent, you can probably think of other tools that your child should have in their “Resistance Toolbox”.   You know your child best.  Think about what would help them resist temptation when it comes their way and help them acquire the tools they will need.

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