Tag Archives: drugfreeaz


Safety During School

Your teens are back to school, which means the stress of keeping them out of trouble during summer is over, right? Wrong. There are even more reasons to be concerned about what your teens are up to.

While most parents think “my kid would never do drugs, they know it is wrong,” the fact is that one in five high school aged teens are using drugs.  According to a study by National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 17 percent of high-schoolers have admitted to using drugs during the school day. The start of the school year does not signal the end of trying to keep your kids safe.

There are a variety of reasons why kids may turn to drugs.  Some common ones are:
For fun
To fit in with specific group of friends

It is important to talk to your teens about the risks that come with underage drinking and drug use. Most teens have a misconception that if they use the drug once, it won’t affect them – but that is simply not true. Our most seriously addicted adults today started using drugs or alcohol as teenagers.

So, how do you talk to your teen about this and avoid conflict?

Effective communication is at the center of any household and all parent-teen relationships. But a lack of communication can easily stir up controversy and cause multiple problems between parents and their teen.

Try and create deeper, richer conversations with your teen. As a parent, you’re modeling communication skills and this shows interest in your teen’s life, concerns and successes.

And, what if your teen is reluctant to talk?

Teens change both physically and emotionally during this time of their adolescence. While parents want, wish and hope their teen will talk to them about any concerns or issue they may be having, this is not always the case.

It’s important to try to avoid arguing with your teen, because as both of you get more emotional, it becomes harder to listen to each other. Help your teen feel comfortable by listening to their point of view before speaking, making eye contact and giving them your undivided attention.

Don’t linger on a certain problem; instead look for those opportunities to talk more to your teen and teach them how to handle risky situations and make safer choices.

Since the school year has just started, this is the perfect time to talk to your teens, and help them, and you, avoid bigger issues later.

For more information on ways to talk to your teen or learn about upcoming parent workshops or webinars visit DrugFreeAZ.org.


The Dangers of Inhalants

Parents worry about their teenagers experimenting with drugs on the street or at school, but many  never stop to consider their teen may be getting high from products found in their own home.

The facts:
•    Younger teenagers are finding that household products can provide a cheap high.
•    Inhalants are popular among the 8th grade crowd, due to their availability.
•    One in ten Arizona 8th graders  has tried an inhalant

So parents, what do you need to know?
There are three main types of inhalants: solvents, gases and nitrates. Inhalants can be found in a range of products, like paint thinners, glues, cleaning products, nail polish removers, gases, lighter fluids and aerosol sprays. These are favored among young teenagers because they are easily accessible and give off a mood-altering high.
Like many other drugs, there are different ways to get high off of inhalants. Teenagers usually sniff or snort fumes from containers, paper and plastic bags, spray aerosols directly into the nose or “huffing” from an inhalant-soaked rag stuffed in or over their mouth. The extreme side-effects from inhalants can occur on first use or after prolonged abuse.  Side-effects include increased heart rate, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, and slurred speech.  People who become long-term users of inhalants are more likely to suffer from brain damage, muscle weakness, chronic headaches, depression and loss of hearing or smell. Serious injuries can occur while someone is high on inhalants. A person can get high on these inhalants, and make poor decisions, such as driving, and can seriously injure themselves or another person.
The most common cause of death from inhalant use is known as “sudden sniffing death.” This can happen even the first time that someone tries an inhalant. Once someone inhales the toxic fumes, the heart beats quickly and irregularly, and suddenly stops. Other causes of death include asphyxia, choking (on vomit), suffocation (when a plastic bag is used to increase the amount inhaled) and suicide (from depression).
How to keep your kids safe:
Keep an eye on all household cleaners with harsh chemical smells. Also keep an eye out for disappearing glue, paint or aerosol sprays. Talk with your teenager to see if there is a change in mood or behavior.  Teenagers using inhalants will also have dilated pupils, extreme exhaustion, frequent vomiting and facial rashes and blisters.
DrugFreeAz.org offers parent workshops, webinars and other resources to help provide parents with the tools they need to keep their teen safe and substance free.

For more tips on talking to teens and information about prevention, visit DrugFreeAZ.org.


Daddy Duties: A father’s role in drug prevention

Let’s face it, the duties of a father are never-ending. Whether you’re a dad or the person that plays dad in your family, providing for and keeping your child healthy and happy are an integral part to fatherhood.

At times, daddy duties can be overwhelming but rest assured: fatherhood is more than the sleepless nights and being the occasional chauffeur to a pack of rowdy kids. Fatherhood is an opportunity to be a powerful influence in your child’s life.

As your child or children mature from childhood to their teenage years and later on into adulthood, they will need you to help, not just provide – but also to help teach them about life and guide them to make good decisions that lead to a healthy, happy life.

So, whether you are a new father or a parent to teens, you’re not alone in this journey. This Father’s Day, DrugFreeAz.org wants to remind fathers of their duty to their children and encourage them to make proactive parenting an integral part of each day.

So, where do you start?

If you look at parenting as a relationship, then the time and interaction spent directly affects the quality of that relationship.

Fathers should make spending time with their children a part of each and every day. Get to know who they are and allow them to get to know you. This means experiencing each other in as many situations as possible. Participate in the little things from bath time to homework and start forming a strong relationship at a young age. And because children begin to recognize their parents’ actions at this time, being a role model is important at well.

According to research from the Partnership at DrugFree.org, children are 50 percent less likely to become involved with drugs if their parents talk early and often about substance abuse.

Try initiating conversation during some father-bonding time; during a game in the backyard or while cooking dinner are perfect times to start conversation with your child. Take the time to talk often to your child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Use current events and other day-to-day opportunities to start the conversation. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about choices you made in the past.

Other teachable moments include using the following to start conversation:

•    Drug related current events
•    Television, radio and magazines
•    The drive to and from school
•    The drive to and from sports

When children become teenagers they are faced with pressure from their peers and society. DrugFreeAz.org recommends creating a family contract to help set rules, define expectations and keep your teen safe.

Use a family contract to help keep lines of communication open and expectations defined. Set up a contract with rules and discuss the punishments for breaking those rules up front. Also, discuss ways to avoid and handle potential drug and alcohol related scenarios that may put them in a bad situation.

Remember, it’s not a matter of if – but when – your child will be asked to try drugs and alcohol. Prepare your child by talking to them about ways to say “no” before the drug or alcohol-related scenario happens.

No matter how busy your life can get, it’s important to remember parenting is a full-time job. Whether you’re the breadwinner or a stay-at-home dad, being a proactive father and teaching your children how to make healthy decisions should be an important part of your every day.

DrugFreeAz offers parent workshops, webinars and other resources to help provide parents with the tools they need to keep their teen safe and substance free.

For more parenting tips, visit DrugFreeAz.org.


DrugFreeAZ.org's Tips To Keeping Teens Safe Into The New Year

Congratulations, parents! You have managed to make it through another year of parenting. But your job is not done yet. Teens will still need guidance as they face new challenges in the New Year. While parenting doesn’t come with a handbook, DrugFreeAZ.org has been providing tools all year long to help parents along the way.

To make sure 2013 gets off to a great start, here are some helpful tips from DrugFreeAZ.org to take with you into the New Year:

January: Resolve to be healthy

The New Year brings a chance for a fresh start and new beginnings. Reflecting back on those experiences from 2012 can help make you a better parent and bring you closer to your teen. DrugFreeAZ.org’s Time to Talk Toolkit can help get the conversation started with your teen.

February: Loved ones

Be patient with your teen, and remind them how much you love them. Support them, reassuring them that they can come to you for advice and guidance in challenging situations.

March: Spring Break

Spring break — it’s every teen’s favorite time of the year. With many planning trips and activities with friends, parents want to make sure their teen is making healthy decisions. Get involved and know their itinerary, including who they will be with and phone numbers where they can be contacted.

April: Prom and graduations

Prom and graduation season can be difficult for parents whose teens are often invited to parties. Make sure to talk to your teen about the dangers of underage drinking, and take preventive measures to ensure their safety.

May: Mom’s role in parenting

Work demands can make it hard for any parent to connect with their teen, but in the New Year, make more opportunities to connect. Take the time to bond with your teen by doing some of their favorite activities.

June: Dad’s role in parenting

Dads can find it challenging bringing up sensitive issues (drugs, sex, etc.) with their teen. Try to be more open with your teen this summer. Checking in with a text or phone call can help break the ice and make your teen more comfortable discussing sensitive topics.

July: Independence comes with responsibility

Teenage years are often a time of rebellion. Make sure to set rules and boundaries as a family. Teach your teen that independence comes with being responsible. Acknowledge their good deeds to help motivate them to continue good behavior.

August: Back to school

Back to school means new friends and new pressures. Make sure to get to know your teen’s friends. Don’t be afraid to ask who they are hanging out with, where they will be and what they will be doing.

September: Family dinner

Family dinner is a great time to connect with your teen and find out what’s going on in their life. Not sure how to start a conversation? Check out the DrugFreeAZ.org website to see sample conversations.

October: Don’t be tricked

Over the past year, prescription drug use has increased amongst adolescents. Secure and routinely monitor any prescriptions you may have. Also, properly dispose of any unused for expired medications.

November: Be thankful

Being a teen isn’t easy. Let your teen know how important they are in your life. Your teen will appreciate the simple gesture and knowing why they are so special.

December: Substance-free festivities

Actions speak louder than words. Be a role model for your child this holiday season, and talk to them about the dangers of alcohol abuse and drinking and driving.

For more tips on talking to teens and information about drug and alcohol prevention, visit DrugFreeAZ.org.

Photo: GivingTuesday.org

The Gift Of Giving Tuesday: Come Together For A Day Of Philanthropy

On Thanksgiving we feasted! It was then followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where shoppers crowd stores and the Internet for the best deals on all their favorite items. This year sparks a new tradition, one that’s giving these post-Thanksgiving holidays a run for their money. For the first time, nonprofits are creating a movement that reminds us that holidays aren’t just about good deals and lots of eating, but are also about community and giving back — challenging us to think beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

This Tuesday November 27, families, business and organizations will come together for a day of philanthropy known as Giving Tuesday. Instead of the traditional shopping sprees, they will spread a different message: one of generosity.

In this, the first year of Giving Tuesday, DrugFreeAZ.org will join nearly 2,000 other organizations looking to make a difference this holiday season in the lives of children and families all across the United States. By logging on to DrugFreeAZ.org, individuals can make individual donations and learn more about how they can get involved in bettering their local communities in Arizona.

Looking to get involved? Here are a view ways to support participating charity and nonprofit organizations:

Make a Donation
Give back to your community this year by logging on to GivingTuesday.org and finding a participating nonprofit organization or charity near you. From monetary donations to providing items of clothing to those in need, the site offers options on ways to donate to the organizations of your choice. At DrugFreeAZ.org, individuals can give back by making monetary donations that go directly back to the organization to help educate parents and children on healthy living.

Give Time
If you didn’t plan ahead for Giving Tuesday and have no money to spare, don’t worry; you can still participate. GivingTuesday.org is full of suggestions for kicking off the giving season with service. Volunteer at your favorite nonprofit or help a neighbor as ways to get involved and teach others the importance of giving back to their community.

Spread the Word
This national holiday has taken the Internet by storm, quickly becoming a digital phenomenon. Through social media promotion efforts, you, too, can get involved. People can follow both on Facebook and on Twitter to find out about events and actions that are occurring near them. Check out Twitter and follow the #GivingTuesday hashtag to learn about the importance of giving, celebrate a season of giving with other participants and share how you plan to give back this year.

No one person acting alone can solve the issues of tomorrow, but acting together, people can make a real difference in the lives of others and support nonprofit organizations and causes all over the United States. With Giving Tuesday upon us, individuals can turn the focus this holiday season from material things to giving back and continuing the great tradition of philanthropy and volunteerism in our communities.

For more information about Giving Tuesday and DrugFreeAZ.org, visit givingtuesday.org and drugfreeaz.org, respectively.

The Medicine Abuse Project

The Medicine Abuse Project Aims To Prevent Prescription Meds Abuse

Chelsea, Aaron, Ronnie, Kent, Joey, Courtney — this list of names unfortunately could go on and on. Each of these teens and young adults has been impacted by medicine abuse. Some have died, some have become addicted and some are in recovery. It’s a frightening fact that there are now more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than car crashes. And believe it or not, the No. 1 drug of choice among 12- and 13- year-olds is prescription medicine. Every day more than 2,000 teens abuse prescription drugs for the first time. The Medicine Abuse Project aims to prevent medicine abuse by 500,000 teens within the next five years.

We all must ask ourselves, “What’s in our medicine cabinet?” From old prescriptions to over-the-counter pain relievers, this epidemic has teens raiding medicine cabinets of friends and relatives for painkillers and other prescriptions as a means to get high.

Medicine abuse occurs for many reasons, but easy access is one of the main reasons — along with the perception among teens that medicine is safe to take because it’s prescribed by a doctor. To see what an impact medicine abuse has had on families, there is a compelling 11-minute video where parents and youth share their stories.

DrugFreeAz.org also has a prescription-drug prevention page with a local story of a mom who lost her son, Adam, to an overdose. Ask around; I bet it won’t take long to find a friend, colleague or acquaintance who knows someone struggling with a medicine abuse problem. DrugFreeAz.org supports the work on the Medicine Abuse Project and is doing what we can to stop this epidemic.

Here are some tips DrugFreeAz.org offers:

Lock it up

With the pressures from school, friends and easy accessibility to prescription and over-the-counter medication, teens may become curious and start abusing what’s around the house. To ensure your teen doesn’t get into trouble with prescriptions, lock the medicine cabinet or keep medications in a secure place.

Take inventory

Many teens do not understand the dangers associated with prescription drug abuse. Unlike illicit drugs, teens often feel prescription drugs are safer because they are legal and prescribed by a doctor. What they don’t know? Prescription drugs are just as dangerous, can be addictive and have side effects that are just as bad as those of illicit drugs. By not monitoring the medication, parents take a risk of their teen abusing medication around the house. Be a proactive parent and take routine inventory of all prescription and over-the-counter medications in the house.


Drug abuse of any kind is a parent’s worst nightmare. To help avoid potential drug abuse, communication is essential. It is imperative parents discuss the dangers of abusing prescriptions with your teen. DrugFreeAZ.org offers helpful ways to start conversations with teens. The more open the conversation, the more likely they will be honest about the things they are doing and any curiosities they might have about painkillers, prescriptions and other drugs.


When old or expired prescriptions and medicine are not being used, it is important to dispose of them to avoid trouble. Instead of disposing medications at home in the trash, parents can take prescriptions to drop-off locations around your community for safe disposal. Contact your local drug enforcement agency for authorized drop-off locations.

For more information about DrugFreeAz.org or the Medicine Abuse Project, visit drugfreeaz.org or medicineabuseproject.org, respectively.

peer pressure

Battling Peer Pressure as Teens Head Back to School

Lunches are packed, school supplies are purchased, and alarms are set. Yep, it’s that time of the year again — back to school. It can be an exciting time for adolescents entering middle school and high school — new friends, new challenges and new experiences. But with that also come tests, both in and out of the classroom.

Even when trying to do their best academically and socially, it can be hard for teenagers to resist peer pressure. With the pressures of wanting to fit in, many seek approval of their peers and begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Here are some steps parents can take to work with their teen on how to handle peer pressure as they return to school:

#1: Be in the know

Communicate with teens. Teenagers often get into trouble when they act without thinking. Talking about peer pressure can help prepare for a difficult moment with friends. Helping to avoid peer pressure isn’t just about making sure they know the risks involved; it’s about the parent being in the know as well. Parents should be educating themselves on the various stressors that teens might face daily.

From alcohol to prescription drugs, here in Arizona, more and more teens are experimenting at a young age. DrugFreeAz.org provides tools and lists the most popular substances here in Arizona, including the increased use of “synthetic drugs” and marijuana by teens. Parents should monitor their own alcohol and prescription medication to help curb access. One way to stay in the know is to attend a DrugFreeAz.org workshop or an AZ Parents Connect presentation. Our website lists all of our events and workshops. Another way parents can keep up to date on topics and trends is to join the DrugFreeAz.org Parents Club.

#2: Teach teens to recognize risky situations

Peer pressure is something that every teen will face in his or her lifetime. One of the best ways to deal with peer pressure is by working with them to recognize and successfully handle those types of situations. A high school student should feel comfortable saying “no.” But for some teens, saying “no” to their friends and to a “best” friend may be difficult. Talk to your son or daughter about different ways of responding to peer pressure.

Also, encourage walking away from unhealthy friendships built on peer pressure and those that can harm him or her. Develop a rescue plan with your child. Make sure to emphasize that you are available to pick them up or help them if they are ever put in a risky situation and will always prioritize safety over punishment.

#3: Provide positive parenting

Parents should help teens cope with peer pressure by encouraging positive relationships and becoming involved and supportive in his or her interests. When a teen feels confident, he or she is less likely to give in to pressure from others. Participation in after-school clubs and sports will help students avoid potential scenarios and form relationships with peers who share these positive interests. These activities can also occupy the time that teens might otherwise spend participating in negative activities.

Remember what it was like being a teen? With a new school year around the corner, teens will desire to be socially accepted when with new people or in new situations. Ensure a safe and healthy year by being an accountable parent and teaching the strategies needed to cope with peer pressure as the new school year begins. Remember we’re here for you. At DrugFreeAz.org, we’ll help provide tools for you at every step of the way.

For more tips and information about peer pressure, visit DrugFreeAz.org.

How father of nine feels about Father's Day

How One Father Of Nine Feels About Father's Day

A father of nine, Tom Wells, event chair for DrugFreeAz.org, shares just how he feels about Father’s Day

Mothers’ Day is a widely celebrated event every year. The radio, television, Internet and newspapers are chocked full of advertisements touting the wonderful things to buy mom for “her” day. Huge family gatherings with grandiose spreads of food, all in the spirit of thanking mom for all that she does to keep the family functioning flawlessly. And flowers! All this and more is deserved.

Fathers’ Day … not so much.

It’s interesting to me that the father figure is often viewed differently. I’m sure there are numerous sociological reasons why this is, and these likely lend credence to rendering the importance of the father in the home as “less important.” Not true.

As a father of nine, ranging from toddler to adult, our family has dealt with the challenges of life at every social level; preschool, grade school, middle school, high school, college and life as an adult — all at the same time. Yikes! Our three oldest birth children prepared us for the future to follow with our six adopted children. A very common thread in the lives of foster/adopted little ones was there was no father. Oh, he may have been unidentified and known but nearly always non-existent. This lack of a father in the lives of children can be a significant negative. So, now that I’m done ranting about being a man …

Of all the obvious questions I get from people about our family, the subject that comes up the most (understandably) is about social pressures, specifically related to drugs or alcohol use. Being involved with adoption and a great organization, DrugFreeAZ.org, for a long time, I apparently have the answers for that. Be clear; I don’t. However, I do know this: I have to be involved in my kids’ lives. It is the basis for everything I can and do bring to the table. If I’m not involved with the kids, nothing else is significant.

My involvement is why my influence, voice, feelings, guidance and opinions are heard and understood. My relationship with my children is no different than a relationship with anyone else. The more involved, the closer the friendship and the deeper the trust. There is a certain “given” about a relationship with one’s kids that I get — I’m the dad — but that “given” needs to be nurtured and strengthened just like any relationship. With my adopted kids, it’s really important that they know I care and that I’m there for them.

Ultimately, my wife and I can’t be with our children 24/7, nor should we be. My goal, our goal, is to provide knowledge and understanding to enable our kids to make a good choice when faced with doing so. Whether that choice involves sex, drugs, alcohol or just disrespect for others, if my kids don’t understand the consequences of a bad choice, it’s hard to imagine them making a good one.

It’s really scary — no, strike that — it’s intense in today’s world. Nothing like when I was a youngster. There are so many avenues and potential influences that it’s just not feasible to control them all. More importantly, educating myself on these potentials becomes critical. It’s not good enough to just be aware; I need to know why. I’m into social media because my kids are. I pick my battles wisely and focus on controlling what I can, trying not to be oppressive. But, sometimes I just have to be.

In the end, I’m comfortable that we are providing a road that is potentially a successful one. I’m really not a father, just a parent with a great parent partner. I understand that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are simply justified by their economic impact. I don’t need a day to be recognized for my efforts; my kids leading healthy and productive lives is all the recognition I need.

Keep kids drug-free

Keeping Kids Drug-Free: Use Digital Resources, Tools

Relate to your kids in their digital environment; plenty of online tools are available to keep kids safe and drug-free.

Facebook. Twitter. Foursquare. iChat. Google. Whether it’s via computer or smartphone, most kids these days are using the technology at their fingertips 24/7. Not only to talk to their friends (i.e. key influencers), but to learn about the world, what’s out there and what they may not have experienced yet.

While it’s encouraging to help build our children’s dreams and goals, every parent ultimately hopes that the path doesn’t alter to include drugs and alcohol. This is why it’s important to talk to our kids about what they’ve heard from their peers, what they know, why not to use, etc. And while good old-fashioned, one-on-one talks or family chats around the dinner table are tried and true methods to ensuring your children’s safety and future, why not relate to them in their digital environment, too?

Everything can be Googled, and everyone is on Facebook, so it’s important for us as parents to know what our kids’ priorities may be when going online. While parental controls have been the standard, and searching Web history isn’t rocket science, it’s about going beyond monitoring our children and taking time to start sharing with them and learning for ourselves.

This is where organizations, such as DrugFreeAz.org, have stepped in to provide different avenues of sharing information not only for parents, but for teens as well.

For example, DrugFreeAz.org’s Video Learning Center is an (free) online space for parents, teens and healthcare providers designed to prevent underage drinking and drug use before it starts. However, the videos don’t just focus on why drugs are bad, but rather feature Arizona parents and teens that have had their own life experience with drugs or alcohol, so that those utilizing the Center can learn from personal experiences of their surrounding community members.

The parent-targeted video series is designed to help parents understand why kids use drugs, how to talk with their child and how to help reduce their chances of experimenting with these substances. It also includes next steps for those parents that suspect or know their child is using drugs or drinking.

The teen video series gives viewers a look inside local teens’ personal experiences where they learn why some teens use, how they needed professional help to stop their use and how their parents and family played a role in getting their lives back on track.

In addition to resources such as the Video Learning Center, which allows us as parents to better relate to our kids and share with them stories of their own peers, there are also resources such as the DrugFreeAz.org Parents Club, which was designed for parents with children of all ages as a space where parents can share ideas, challenges and ways to stay ahead of trends impacting their children.

Membership costs $30 annually for two adults or $50 for two years and the benefits include:

  • Two online webinars each year (back to school and springtime).
  • Entry into the Facebook Parents Club group. This closed group allows an open forum for Club members to discuss important issues in their surrounding communities, share ways to interact with children regarding drugs and alcohol, share parenting strategies, and to learn about other drug- and alcohol-related issues.
  • DrugFreeAz.org’s eNews and invitations to events.
  • Weekly Table Talk email with helpful information from parenting experts, moms, dads and doctors. It features a Main Course section, which provides insight and guidance into raising healthy kids, as well as a Dessert section, which helps parents connect with their children in conversation — a great part of family dinner or a sweet way to end the day as a busy parent.

So while the traditional methods of prevention still ring true for many families and teens, it’s important to think of other avenues, such as those mentioned above, as additional support and ways in which to connect with your kids. It’s all about keeping up with the times and keeping your kids drug-free and living happy, healthy lives.

For more tips on talking with your kids and keeping them drug-free, visit DrugFreeAz.org.

Safe Summer

Tips For A Drug-Free, Safe Summer

Summer is the highlight of the year for most teens — no homework, sleeping in until noon, a fridge stocked with food and freedom. Many parents do not have the luxury to stay home and instead work full-time or go on vacation during the summer. With more free time, less structure and no supervision, it may provide teens with more opportunities to fall into a bad crowd, experiment with drugs or alcohol, or even get into other forms of trouble.

As a parent, keeping your teen focused on the right path is important. Because your teen is not yet an adult, their lack of maturity may make it hard for them to make good decisions. This is where parenting skills come into play. By taking the proper precautions of talking to your teen and planning ahead, summer vacation can be a positive and memorable growth experience for your teen.

The following includes a few ways to reduce the chance your teen will engage in unhealthy behavior this summer:

1.    Encourage teens to get a summer job or do community service

Summer activities can be a good way to get your teen out of the house. Activities like volunteering and having a job give teens the opportunity to gain real world experience while building character and independence. It also keeps them away from drugs and alcohol.

2.    Daily check-ins

Checking in with your teen periodically throughout the day is a good way to find out what your teen is up to. Don’t just text, call and talk with your child. By using the phone to call, a parent can tell if there is a change in a teen’s voice and often detect if there is something wrong.

3.    Know what is in your house

If you know you are going to be gone, secure and track all the alcohol and prescription drugs that are in the house. If items are made accessible while you are away, curious teens may be more inclined to experiment with those substances.

4.    Have open dialogue

If your teen feels like they can talk to you about their problems and their lives, and that you respect their feelings, they may feel more comfortable sharing their questions about peer pressure, drugs and alcohol. Open conversation allows parents to express their concerns about their teen’s behavior and discuss the risks involved with drug and alcohol use.

5.    Take care of their emotions

Teens today are under a lot of pressure at school and in their relationships. To make sure they don’t become too worried or stressed, teach them good techniques to handle stress. This will help prevent them from turning to risky behavior and harmful substances during times of stress.

6.    Know their friends

Once school is out, it is likely your teen will want to hang out with their friends more. An important task you must do is getting to know who your teen’s friends are and where they live. Many times, teens will leave out valuable information on who they hang out with. As a parent it is your responsibility to make certain who their friends are and who to contact if there is an emergency. This means getting to know your teen’s friend’s parents as well.

Teenage years can be as difficult for parents as they are for teens, who are eager for independence while their parents are trying to reign in their curiosities. Oftentimes, relationships can be strained as conversations turn into arguments. However, by continuing to engage with your teen throughout the summer and helping to encourage positive growth, parents can reduce the impact of peer pressure and curiosity and open the lines of communication with their teen. Following these helpful tips will help to keep your teen healthy and safe through the summer and well into the start of a new school year.

For more tips on talking with your kids and preventing alcohol and substance abuse, visit drugfreeaz.org.

Prevention Before Celebration: Avoiding Underage Drinking

Prevention Before Celebration: Avoiding Underage Drinking

It’s that time of year when the Arizona weather isn’t too cold or too hot, and we all remember why we live in this great state. While we may be celebrating this beautiful time of year, our teens will also be celebrating prom and graduation at parties throughout the Valley. It is a wonderful time in their lives, but it also poses a risk for those who can too often be tempted by alcohol and other drugs.

We’ve all heard the stories of children who suffer injuries — in the worst cases, fatal ones — as a result of getting involved in bad situations during their year-end celebrations. In order to help prevent situations like this from happening, it’s up to us to be there for our children and help them avoid these risks.

Although drug use has declined over the past four years, surveys show that one in three high school seniors were drunk in the last month and more than one in five used an illegal drug.

Although your teen is on the verge of independence, they do need to know you care, now just as much as ever.

There are many ways in which parents can help keep their teens stay safe and healthy, which are listed below, but DrugFreeAz.org has also created a new online portal called the Video Learning Center — for teens and for parents — to help parents understand why kids use drugs, what happens to those who do and how to go about getting help if a teen is using, as well as for teens to hear stories of other teens who have used and how they needed help to recover. All of the stories feature Arizona parents and teens who have had their own life experiences with drugs or alcohol.

With celebrations aplenty this time of year, many parents may also default to “if you’re going to try it, try it here,” thinking that if their children are drinking or doing drugs under their supervision it won’t get out of hand, or they won’t be susceptible to the same risks. Don’t be this parent. Enabling is the same as encouraging your teens to think these habits are normal and to continue drinking illegally or doing drugs.

Underage drinking can seriously damage adolescent brain development, compromise athletic ability and cloud decision making. A recent study has also shown that kids who start drinking at 16 years of age are three times more likely to develop alcohol dependence problems as those who begin at age 21.

Prom and graduation are amazing times in our teens’ lives; help them remember it, and help them live through it by utilizing resources such as DrugFreeAz.org’s Video Learning Center, or the tips below.

Tips to a Safe Celebration:

Reinforce expectations

Being an upperclassman has its privileges, but it also has responsibilities. Reestablish the rules and the consequences for breaking them. While it may be OK to loosen the reins a bit, it needs to be clear that drinking and drug use remains unacceptable.

Make each moment count

Teens only get one junior and senior year. Let them know that you don’t want them to miss out on things, or not remember things, because of bad choices like drinking or drug use.

Help plan

Know your child’s party plans, including who they will be with and phone numbers where they can be contacted. Establish a curfew, call-in times and give the option of calling at any time for help or advice, which includes picking them up if needed.

Provide safe alternatives

Don’t be the enabler. Plan chaperoned, alcohol-free parties; suggest other activities, such as miniature golfing, going out to dinner or to the movies — things that offer a safe and fun alternative to parties with drugs and alcohol.

It only takes a few minutes to talk to our kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and it only takes a few minutes for them to decide to say “yes” or “no.” Be preventative, and help your kids stay on the right side of the decision making process. Those few minutes of time it may take can change an entire lifetime of consequences.

For more information about preventing underage drinking or for tips on talking to your teens, visit DrugFreeAz.org.

Designer Drugs: From Faux to Fact

Designer Drugs: From Faux To Fact

While most parents may be used to hearing their kids mention the latest in designer jeans, something else that’s becoming a trend among teens recently are designer drugs. In this case, however, it does not have to do with the brand. Think of designer drugs as being similar to a Chanel knock-off or faux leather — still legally sold but a slightly altered imitation of the real thing.

Designer drugs are essentially synthetic versions of illegal drugs, which are created by modifying their chemical structure in order to sidestep laws against controlled substances while still producing the same desired effects of more dangerous illicit drugs — such as meth, heroin, LSD and cocaine.

The term designer drugs, originally coined by law enforcement during the 1980s, refers to a variety of drugs, including opioids, hallucinogens, dissociatives, stimulants, sedatives, cannabinoids and anabolic steroids. These new designer drugs, or “synthetics,” are most commonly known by teens as “spice” or “K2;” bath salts, which are stimulants, often go by other whimsical names such as “Star Dust.”

The side effects and risks associated with using designer drugs are endless as the chemicals themselves. Problems can stem from the toxicity or instability of the chemicals; the lack of skill of the “chemist;” and, as always, the amount ingested. Not only can these dangerous mixtures affect one’s muscles, nervous system, memory and brain, but as with all drugs, they can ultimately lead to death.

What could be the scariest part of all, these designer drugs come with the warning label “Not for Human Consumption” and yet people still ingest them.

Even more frustrating to those who work in substance abuse prevention is that despite laws put in place this year, including a ban on synthetic marijuana, such as “spice” and “K2” that was put in place by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and a federal ban on bath salts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), those who create and sell these drugs continue to modify the molecular structure and go around these bans. The manufacturers even pride themselves on having products that are DEA compliant.

This leads to the question of how to keep kids safe from yet another life-threatening substance. A good overarching message to kids is to avoid putting anything in their bodies that would change their feelings or emotions. Additional messages include letting your children know that it is impossible to know what these drugs contain, who made them or what you are going to get. Also, that getting high, no matter how, carries risks of making unsafe or unhealthy decisions. And finally, just because these synthetic drugs are legal, or labeled legal, doesn’t mean they are safe. Talking with your kids and having that conversation about the dangers of drugs, in addition to simply being involved in their lives by asking what they’re up to and taking an interest in their friends, is the key to help make you children aware of the dangers that are out there and how to avoid them.

You can schedule a synthetic or designer drugs presentation for parents in your community, workplace or school by contacting drugfreeaz.org. You can also view a webinar on synthetic drugs and get more information on helping to reduce the chances that your child will use drugs and alcohol at drugfreeaz.org.