Photo by Kelly White
Oak Lawn Community High School's Teen Substance Abuse Awareness Program last Thursday night featured a model teen bedroom where parents were able to point out at risk behavior among teens that are hidden in plain sight.
Parents visited Oak Lawn Community High School last Thursday night and were taken on a “tour” of what could be described as a teen’s bedroom.
But the model room was designed to educate parents on the possibility of drug abuse, which could be occurring under their roofs.
The staff at Oak Lawn Community High School assisted in educating parents on substance abuse, from behavior to addiction, during the Teen Drug Awareness Night at the high school, 9400 Southwest Highway. The event was open to parents of high school students, along with parents from Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School and Simmons Middle School. The event was a collaboration between the Oak Lawn Community Partnership and Serenity Family Outreach.
“This event was inspired by our commitment to providing our families and students with ongoing education and resources to meet the challenges of adolescence in a supportive environment,” said Melissa Schumacher, social worker for Oak Lawn Community High School. “It is geared toward parents. However, we encourage all parents to utilize the information shared to engage in an open dialogue with their children regarding substance abuse.”
Andy Duran, executive director of LEAD (Linking Efforts Against Drugs) organization, led the presentation. LEAD is based out of Lake Forest and has been working to educate parents and community members for over 20 years.
“We need to think differently about the way we discuss these topics with young people,” Duran said. “Scare tactics do not work anymore. We tell our kids not to drink or not to smoke, but we don’t tell them why or how not to.”
The educational presentation featured the model teen bedroom, which parents were able to explore to identify possible signs of at-risk behaviors. Parents also had the opportunity to walk through the exhibit and participate in an interactive discussion on prevention and identification of warning signs of possible substance use along with a list of local resources.
Parents who attended said they were impressed with the amount of knowledge available, including Amy Cryan, of Orland Park, who also teaches Family and Consumer Science at Oak Lawn Community High School.
“I have two teenage boys at home and I work with teens every day, all day,” she said. “I came here wanting to know new things that are happening, along with preventable methods.”
Drug use is not on the rise among teens. However, it is still a major concern, LEAD officials stressed.
“Addicts get to a point where they need to have a drink or do a drug in order to just feel normal,” Duran said. “They have reached a point where they are no longer even getting high.”
Duran said low perception of harm, easy access, pressure, anxiety and depression are all leading causes of drugs among today’s teens.
Research from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey indicates that there has been a decrease in overall drug use in teens in 2016. However, the rate of marijuana use throughout the U.S. continues to be of concern for seniors in high school, according to Schumacher.
Duran also noted there is no difference in potency in medical marijuana versus street sold marijuana.
Nationally, prescription narcotic drugs continue to present serious problems related to overdose and medical emergencies. During the presentation, parents were encouraged to monitor their medicine cabinet at home, control access to medications that can be abused and be aware of common signs of teenage drug abuse. Some concerns of teenage drug abuse, according to research, are lying, making excuses, breaking curfew, staying in their bedroom, becoming verbally or physically abusive toward others, mood swings and stealing.
“The consequences of addiction can be so severe and we don’t want any teen or family to endure that, which is why we want to focus on prevention,” Schumacher said.
If a parent is concerned that their child may be involved in substance abuse, contacting the family physician and a certified adolescent addiction counselor in order to complete an evaluation and discuss treatment recommendations is recommended. Representatives from local community agencies said that services will be provided. If a parents needs assistance, they can reach out the school social worker for a confidential discussion and to gather resources.
Along with the presentation, there were representative from local community agencies who provide services to adolescents on hand to share information and provide support to parents.
“It has been said that one of the main deterrents to adolescent substance use is engaged parents,” Schumacher said. “This presentation helped parents feel empowered to be actively involved and aware of risk-factors at the beginning stages before the issue escalates. It is our goal that parents receive current information related to adolescent substance use as well as access to resources they can utilize if they feel their child needs support.”