Other Voices: Keeping kids off dope starts in the home
Violence and substance abuse seem to go hand in hand. We see almost daily in the news accounts of people being harmed in some way by people under the influence.
Whether it’s a drunken-driver plowing into a tree, a meth addict abducting a woman in broad daylight to the daily tortures so many children must endure due to their parents’ use of drugs, the connection between violence and chemical dependency is undeniable. To substantiate this, Child Protective Services reports that 70 percent or more of the cases they handle involve substance abuse in some manner.
During the 30 years Community Recovery Resources (CORR) has served Nevada County residents, our counselors have worked with thousands of people who have been physically, emotionally and spiritually damaged by substance abuse.
For so many of these people and for the community in general, it sometimes appears that there isn’t hope things will change.
On a clinical basis, hope would come in small doses. On average, someone entering treatment in a typical program only has a 25-30 percent chance for success. At CORR, this success rate wasn’t acceptable.
In 2001, the agency started a family program, in which clients would receive brief intervention individual and family therapy (in addition to traditional addiction treatment) to identify and address the problems and issues that were at the root cause of their chemical dependency. In this program, children affected by their parents’ drug abuse have also been treated.
Within a year, the success rates for CORR clients significantly improved. More importantly, clients were receiving the kind of help that addressed myriad problems: anger management, parenting skills, coping abilities and stress management … all factors that contribute heavily to chemical dependence and family violence.
Over the past couple of years, more and more attention has been given to substance abuse in our community, specifically methamphetamine. In fact, last April the Nevada County Grand Jury publicly stated that the manufacture and use of methamphetamine had reached epidemic proportions in our community.
This public exposure, and the emphasis on meth, is a good thing. However, as a community we need to dig deeper into the root causes that create meth makers and meth users.
In the recently completed California Healthy Kids Survey administered by the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, some startling issues came to light.
For example, 29 percent of the kids surveyed claimed they got their drugs at home, and 36 percent said that at home is where they accessed alcohol. These claims underscore the fact that, by and large, our culture has been fairly permissive when it comes to alcohol and drug use. In fact, from this same survey, 68 percent of high school kids said that accessing alcohol and marijuana was “very easy.”
Kids will do what the adults around them are doing. While it’s certainly not a crime to have a cool beverage after a long, frustrating day at work, the behavior does send a message to any children in the home that the remedy for a tough day is a cold beer, a martini, glass of wine, or even a few hits from a joint. To underscore this, according to the United Way Community Assessment in 2001, on any given day 35 percent of all Nevada County residents will use alcohol and/or drugs.
The point I’m making is this: Children who are scoring their dope and booze at home are being abused. Perhaps a hand isn’t being raised to them, but they are nevertheless being harmed. If they see mom, dad, brother, uncle, grandmother using something, they will follow suit.
The remedy? Modeling behavior consistent with building the right assets in our kids. It’s the best form of alcohol and drug abuse and violence prevention there could be.
While having a cool one after work is not abuse, think about the ramifications of taking that drink before you pop the top. If you do pop the top, at least then talk openly to your kids about the responsible use of alcohol and that use of any illegal substance, or any legal substance taken without a prescription, is never responsible.
As a community goal, all of us at Community Recovery Resources would love to see the violence factor removed from our community. We can begin by looking at our own families, and promote responsibility in our kids. That would be the best prevention exercise ever.
Jim Phelps is the development director for Community Recovery Resources. He currently serves as a member of the steering committee for the Coalition for a Drug-Free Nevada County.
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