Every night you turn on the news, there’s something new to worry about – the Zika virus being the latest. In the drug and alcohol arena, the Heroin epidemic is getting a lot of attention now that it’s taking center stage in the presidential race.

While this coverage continues to raise awareness of a national epidemic, people are ready for more than talk, they need solutions based in science and research.

We recently spoke to Tom McLellan, former Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who says that, “people are tired of hearing about new problems, they want solutions.” He goes on to say that as a parent:

  • You CAN help your kid avoid problems with drugs.
  • You CAN recognize the early signs of an oncoming addiction.
  • You CAN prevent addiction.

McLellan describes a sobering thought: Imagine that the local high school offers a public meeting on the topic of “ways to get your kid into college.” Chances are, it would be standing room only. However, if that same facility was used for “how to avoid and/or overcome substance abuse,” nobody would come. Why? For the first scenario, parents WANT to plan for their kid’s college, in the latter, nobody wants to plan for drug abuse. But just because we don’t want it, doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

Some parents are “okay” with the idea that their kids might try smoking or alcohol. Some even think that there is nothing you can do to stop it. But the truth is, using drugs isn’t a rite of passage. And there are solutions. They begin with you.
Believe or not, studies show that 80% of teens say that the most influential people in their lives are their parents. Stop waiting for someone else to get through to your kid. You have a voice.

Okay, so now what? If you’re like most parents, you probably feel ill-equipped and alone. That’s okay says McLellan. “I was an expert in the addiction field, and when my son was experiencing problems even I felt helpless. It’s normal. Parents have to reach out and get the help that is there.” And while the road is not an easy one, there is hope. Here are six points McLellan makes:

  1. First of all, McLellan believes that people throw the term “addiction” a little too freely. Research shows that it takes seven years for a full-on addiction to take root. Faster for certain drugs like Opiates but not overnight. Since addiction comes on over time, you can recognize the signs and stop it. Of course, the sooner you do, the better.
  2. It is important to note that addiction is not a character disorder; it’s a progressive illness brought about by changes in the brain. Despite what you may have heard or think, these behaviors can be changed.
  3. Understand that you have a right and you can learn valuable skills to speak into your kid’s life and work to change their dangerous behaviors. “Your kid is living in your house, he’s driving your car, eating your food and sleeping in a bed you bought him,” says McLellan. “You have a lot of power as a parent if you know how to use it properly and constructively.”
  4. “Don’t leave the drug prevention talk to your kid’s school. Schools only give drug abuse prevention in 8th grade for one semester and they think they’re done. This is not enough. Kids are still using and abusing.”
  5. Contrary to common belief parents don’t have to wait for their kid to hit rock bottom. We know waiting doesn’t work because that is why Heroin and prescription drug abuse is the leading killer of our children. They can intervene, strengthen their bond and change drug and alcohol behaviors of their teen or young adult.
  6. I wish that every parent would learn the communication skills that have been proven to be effective in changing their child’s behavior around substances. What parents do naturally often doesn’t work well, so it is critical that they take the time to learn the skills that CAN make a difference in saving the life of their child.

“Parents can help their kid avoid problems with drug use and Parent CRAFT can be very effective. That’s pretty simple. I don’t think people get that ‘shit happens’ but when something bad happens you have solutions.”

In addition to Parent CRAFT as a solution, McLellan strongly suggests DrugFree.org as well who are a fantastic resource for drug prevention. It will help start a conversation with your kids about the heavy topic in a more realistic, non-threatening way.

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