Drugs are a big issue in American society today. On one hand, we have media and television advertisements warning everyone about the evils of drugs. They talk about the "war on drugs" and show pictures of "This is your brain on drugs". On the other hand, pharmaceutical advertisements suggest taking drugs to feel better when you have minor illnesses, headaches or pain, physical dysfunctions, allergies, depression, anxiety, etc.
With so many mixed messages about drugs, it is not surprising that most elementary and middle school children are confused and have little accurate knowledge about drugs. Most can tell you that "drugs are bad for you" and they know they are supposed to "just say no to drugs". Most children can tell you that beer and cigarettes are bad for you. Some know that marijuana and meth are drugs. Almost all think that medicines are not drugs.
A drug is any substance or chemical other than food that affects how the body functions. This includes alcohol, marijuana and other illegal drugs as well as ingredients in cigarettes, household and industrial products and some food and drinks. Most of today's illegal drugs, such as heroine, morphine, cocaine and amphetamines were originally developed or used as medicines.
Most Americans use drugs responsibly. Only a relatively small percentage of the population develops drug-related problems, dependency or addiction. Unfortunately, those people who do abuse drugs affect not only themselves, but many other people as well. Family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers can be hurt by someone else's drug abuse.
When any member of a family abuses drugs, it can cause serious problems for everyone. In one scientific study, 10% of adults ages 18 to 55 reported that their spouses, partners or children had been or were addicted to alcohol or other drugs.
It's not only people in direct contact with drug abuse who are affected by it. The cost of drug abuse in the U. S. is enormous. Individuals, families and society all pay for drug abuse in one way or another. Health and medical problems, accidents, loss of employment, legal problems, financial difficulties, school failure, relationship conflicts, emotional distress and death are just some of the results of drug abuse.
Prevention of drug abuse begins at an early age. Parents can children learn to use drugs responsibly by teaching them:
- the difference between legal and illegal drugs
- medicines are drugs
- legal drugs can be dangerous if misused
- the difference between "good" drugs and "bad" drugs is often how or how much it is used
For more information on drug abuse, or other questions or comments, call the Trinity Child and Adolescent Program at (515) 574-6596.
This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.
Reprinted with the permission of the Community Action Network. © Community Action Network, All Rights Reserved.
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