Addict. User. Druggie. Junkie. What comes to mind when you read those words? Perhaps an image of a person lying in the street gutter with needle tracks in their arms, or a tattooed, hardcore criminal or a prostitute willing to do anything for her next fix.
Maybe some addicts do look like that, but others look like our teenage sons and daughters, the suburban mom who drives the carpool or the person next to you in the pew at Mass.
Opiate abuse is alarmingly on the rise and it’s likely that you know someone – whether family member, friend, fellow parishioner, friend of your child’s, friend of a friend – who has been caught up in this terrible cycle of addiction.
Attorney General Brad Schimel spoke to about 200 principals from primarily Catholic schools around the state in mid-February, sounding an alarm about the dramatic increase in drug use – specifically heroin use – and the deadly consequences that follow.
He warned that no community is immune from this scourge. In fact, drug use is showing up in every school district, including among students who are active in sports or are excelling academically.
His statistics are sobering, including the fact that there were 163,000 opiate addicts in the state in 2013. And, he warned, an even bigger storm is on the way for the state as more users move from prescription painkillers to heroin.
What is a parent to do in the face of this epidemic?
First of all, be informed. Find out what you can about the dangers of drug use and how what we might consider non-threatening prescribed medications such as painkillers can lead to abuse and addiction. Our story by Bill Kurtz on Page 7 covering Schimel’s presentation to the principals is a good place to begin educating yourself. Not only does he paint a grim picture of the scope of the problem, but he offers warning signs and some practical advice.
And, of course, keep the lines of communication between you and your child open so that he or she will feel comfortable talking with you and so that you will know what is going on in his or her life.
That’s also the message panelists discussing teen dating issues offered in another of our featured stories. In “Love equals respect,” on Page 6, Amy Merrick reports on a presentation offered in January at St. Mary’s Visitation Parish, Elm Grove. A panel of experts, including representatives from local Catholic high schools, the Waukesha County Sheriff’s office and the Women’s Center in Waukesha, discussed a topic that might surprise you as much as it did me.
According to loveisrespect.org, each year, more than 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse in a dating situation! Just as my eyes were opened by the alarming statistics surrounding drug abuse, likewise, I admit, I was surprised to hear about the issues involving abuse in teen dating.
Being a parent these days brings worries I never envisioned. It’s certainly our role as parents to be aware and educated about situations that our children may face, but also to provide for them the groundwork and confidence to help them in the face of these challenges.
Our story also offers practical tips and resources for parents on how to help your teen navigate these years and ways to teach them that true love does equal respect.
On a lighter note, don’t miss Jeff Wenzler’s touching piece about a recent date he had. Everything was perfect: his date was beautiful, the symphony was glorious, the evening was everything he hoped for and more! His column, on Page 4, will leave you with a warm feeling in your heart, convinced of the existence of true love!