Drug of Denial─Awareness and Impact: Part 2

Youth Matters
Editor’s note: This column (the second in a three-part series) is sponsored by the Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. Columns will appear periodically with the goal of informing parents and the community about issues that impact local young people and their families.
Drug of Denial─Awareness and Impact: Part 2
By a Los Alamos Parent
After becoming aware of the recreational drug use and binge drinking by our son, the scholar and athlete, we overcame our denial and started to look into treatment options. There are limited options for residential rehabilitation treatment in New Mexico and fewer still that are covered by insurance.

We wanted to send our son to a place that focused on adolescents and substance abuse. We didn’t want a place with people who had a history of physical or sexual violence or were court-ordered to be there. With the assistance of a health-insurance representative, we identified a facility that met those requirements.

After identifying the facility, the next concern was how to safely get our son there. The treatment facility made recommendations and we hired an intervention escort service that provided transport via car since any hostility displayed during transport would result in an airlines removing him from a flight.

The traumatic experience of having two large men enter your home in the middle of the night and escort your child to a treatment facility was heartbreaking beyond words and something we never thought we would have to do. Nothing prepares you for this. We wondered if our child would be safe. We wondered if the treatment would be effective. We wondered if we had made the right decision.

There is a biannual survey of New Mexico High School students that shows results consistent with our experiences (www.yourthrisk.org). The survey asks students about their risk behaviors. In the areas of alcohol and drug use for high-school students in Los Alamos County, results from 2011 show that 30 percent are currently drinking alcohol regularly and most started before the age of 13.

More than half of those students are binge drinking and about one third of those students also admit to driving under the influence. Marijuana is the local drug of choice with 25 percent admitting to current use and most also started before the age of 13. Improper prescription painkillers are the second most used drug at 12 percent. Less than 8 percent of the students surveyed used ecstasy, inhalants, cocaine, methamphetamine or heroine.

Three-quarters of surveyed students recognize that their parents think that marijuana use would be very wrong; one third admit that there is great risk from regular marijuana use. Approximately two-thirds of surveyed students indicate that alcohol and marijuana are easy to get in Los Alamos.

Evaluation of these behaviors as a function of resiliency factors shows that there is a higher frequency of binge drinking and driving under the influence when parents lack clear rules and standards for teen’s behavior and appear disinterested in the teen’s school work, and the teen thinks that their parents don’t believe in their future success and the teen lacks plans for college or other post-graduation goals.

 For improper prescription painkiller and cocaine use, similar resiliency factors apply with the addition of correlation with a lack of clear rules in school about what a student can or cannot do.

We thought we had more than adequately made clear our expectations to our son regarding no drug and alcohol use. Our son would likely agree that we had. We don’t abuse substances and rarely drink, even socially. We have consistently tried to promote a healthy lifestyle and loving family. We also have consistently shown interest in our son’s academic success by helping him with his homework, attending school functions, and regularly monitoring his progress in PowerSchool.

We have tried to be role models for our son by demonstrating a positive work ethic and showing good judgment in life decisions. We have told our son that we have similar expectations for him and have been saving for his college tuition costs since before he was born.

What we know now is that you can do everything right. You can set appropriate expectations. You can model successful behavior. You can assume all these things are effective and everything is fine. You can also be wrong.


About JJAB–The Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) funds and organizes programs that have a positive impact on youth, families, and the community. Our board is made up of parents, judges, teens, government leaders, and representatives from numerous community organizations. JJAB offers a comprehensive set of resources for families in Los Alamos. When youth are in trouble, we step in as early as possible. We organize positive activities for young people and provide powerful leadership opportunities. JJAB is here to facilitate meaningful support for youth and their parents. More information about JJAB and its work can be found at www.losalamosjjab.com.