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October 16, 2008

Parents can reduce drug risks

ANDERSON — For young adults born after 1982, popcorn has always been microwaveable, cordless phones have always been in use and appliances have always had remote controls.

As America has changed over the years, so has some of the dangers of modern life, said a nationally known expert on drug prevention.

Isabel Burk, director of The Health Network, spoke to about 40 people Thursday night as part of a daylong series of talks sponsored by Healthy Tobacco-Free Madison County and Saint John’s Anderson Center.

As technology has changed the home life of American families, many teens have become multi-taskers capable of doing homework while a TV is on or texting messages while attending events, Burk said.

“If they don’t get stimulation, what might they look for,” she asked. Audience members suggested teens might turn to drugs.

In 2006, Madison County teens were surveyed. In those results, 17.4 percent of eighth-graders reported using alcohol. Also, 23.1 percent of 12th-graders reported using marijuana, compared to 17.2 percent statewide and 19.8 percent nationally.

Madison County is not immune to new trends in drug abuse, said Wendy Cook, project coordinator for Drug Free Communities with Healthy Tobacco-Free Madison County.

Recent trends noted locally include pharm parties, where youth mix their parents’ prescription drugs with bowls of candy or taking the legal herb, salvia, which produces a near-hallucenogenic high.

Parents should look for mood swings in their child’s behavior or if they suddenly develop new friends, among other changes, Cook said.

“They shouldn’t be looking at the problem and saying it’s just a phase. They need to seek professional help,” she said.

Burk warned parents to be on the lookout for new drugs notably in the area of sports performance enhancement and caffeine.

Caffeine raises blood pressure and, among other physical effects, is a strain on the heart and blood vessels, she said.

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