ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com)- There are certain talks one has with a child: the Stranger Danger talk, the sex talk and, now, the alcohol and drug talk.
According to officials with the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, it is never too early to discuss the appropriate situations alcohol and some drugs would be allowed.
“You can start these conversations in Kindergarten,” said Nichole Dawsey, the Director of Prevention Services at the NCADA. “It is important to start with drugs that are legal because kids know and understand there are certain times and ages when you can use them and alcohol.”
Dawsey suggests finding teachable moments in each day. Whether a song comes on the radio or a television show references drugs and/or alcohol, Dawsey said those can be times to discuss what it means to be a grown up. First, she said to explain prescription drugs. Elaborate on why they are appropriate for a person when she or she is sick and when a doctor puts a specific patient’s name on the bottle.
Then, a parent can transition into discussing alcohol.
“I would suggest really talking first and foremost about alcohol and setting boundaries,” Dawsey said. “What’s okay, what is not okay. Setting consequences...I don’t think there’s anyone who starts with heroin. They start with alcohol, they start with tobacco, they start with marijuana.”
Although some parents might think if they discuss these substances, kids will be interested in trying them. However, Dawsey said that is not the case. Instead, remind a child he or she has power—especially the power to decide whether to try something.
“They have the power to go to school, the power to make their bed,” Dawsey said. “They might have a consequence if they don’t [do something], but they have a lot of power.”
Parents also have a lot of power in recognizing whether their child is issuing a substance.
Though she admits there is no such thing as a “normal” teenager, there are warning signs in which a parent needs to pay attention.
“If suddenly they start becoming really lethargic, if their friends start changing, if their hygiene changes, maybe the start wearing a lot of cologne or they are not wearing any sort of perfume,” Dawsey says, “it’s a change in their behavior, a change in their pattern.”
Those are the initial warning sides. Once someone turns into a habitual user of alcohol, prescription drugs and/or illegal drugs, their thoughts get jumbled, their speech gets slurred and their pupils change size.
Even though a parent has the drug talk with their child, Dawsey reminds parents that they cannot always trust their kid’s friends. Before people come over, check the medicine cabinets. Lock up any prescription drugs and flush any old or unused medicine down the toilet.
“There are a lot worse things that go down there [than unused medicine],” Dawsey laughed.
While she and other NCADA officials do not suggest using scare tactics, they do offer staggering statistics.
In 2007, less than 100 people in the area died from a prescription painkiller or heroin overdose. NCADA officials came up with that number after tracking deaths in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, Madison County and St. Clair County. That number has steadily risen in the years since. In 2012, 320 people died. In 2013, 340 died. Of the 340 deaths in 2013, 75 to 90 percent of them were under the age of 25.
If you have questions or concerns about your child and possible drug use, you can contact the NCADA website at http://ncada-stl.org/.