The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

May 4, 2013

Seminar to help adults tune in kids’ drug risks

— “Ganja,” “Special K,” “Molly,” “K2,” “Skittles.”

All are code names that designate illegal substances youngsters may be using.

The Learning Lamp, in conjunction with Drug Free Pennsylvania, will give parents, caregivers and educators some straight talk at Central Cambria High School.

The free seminar, titled “Straight Talk for Parents,” will advise attendees of the latest information on substances to which children are being exposed and provide tips to prevent abuse.

The 1 1⁄2-hour talk, headed by Richard Miller of Drug Free Pennsylvania, is scheduled at 6 p.m. May 21 in the high school’s auditorium. It will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The easy accessibility of illicit drugs – on the street, between friends and even in the medicine cabinet at home – means children from a “so-called ‘good family’ ” are at risk, says a news release from the organization.

The mentality of “It’s not my child” is all too common, said Jill DuBuono, prevention specialist with The Learning Lamp.

“At some point, any child is at risk to some degree,” DuBuono said. “Unfortunately, kids are saying they first start experimenting with drinking between 8 and 12 years old and with marijuana around age 13.”

Those figures come from the most recent Pennsylvania Youth Survey. DuBuono said a lot of drugs are acquired through peers or in their own homes.

In Cambria and Somerset counties, DuBuono said sixth grade is a common period for kids to be approached by pushers.

Prescription pill abuse also has experienced a sharp spike in recent years – enough so that it’s evolved a kind of party game called “skittling.”

“Skittling” involves filling a bowl with random prescription pills.  Each kid takes a handful simultaneously, usually washing it down with alcohol.

“That’s just terrifying, because you don’t know what you’re taking,” DuBuono said.

According to a drug and alcohol fact sheet provided by The Partnership at DrugFree.org, parents have the most leverage in preventing adolescent drug abuse and addiction. But that requires vigilance and knowledge.

“As a parent of teenagers, I feel it’s very hard to keep up (with the ever-changing drug scene),” DuBuono said. “I think it’s ongoing, just like any type of education.”

 The early abuse prevention program that DuBuono is involved with, “Too Good for Drugs,” targets third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, teaching communication methods to resist peer pressure. It’s funded by a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant. In addition to receiving high marks from teachers and parents, the program has become a learning experience for the organizers.

“The kids make all these different names up and I go through the list of names in my curriculum and they’re mentioning names I’ve never heard of before,” DuBuono said.

DuBuono said The Learning Lamp hopes to take the “Straight Talk” program to other area school districts next year.

She is urging everyone to attend the May 21 seminar because the information is useful to everyone.

“Even if one person shows up, we’ll be happy,” DuBuono said. “Because it is something that’s important for parents to be a part of.”

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