Drug abuse program aims to warn parents

Will Rushton

A talk this evening on teen drug abuse will target parents and educators who might not realize how much their children already know about buying and using drugs illegally.

“Your Kids Know More Than You Do: Straight Talk for Parents about Teen Drug Use” is free and will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Handley High School’s Patsy Cline Auditorium in Winchester. The program is for adults.

Speaking on current trends in recreational drug abuse and what parents need to know will be Dr. Will Rushton, emergency physician and toxicologist from the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.

“This is a talk I give quite frequently,” he said.

Teen drug use is not necessarily worse than it was years ago, he said, but because of changing demographics it’s much more accessible to more teens who can buy drugs online in the United States and from companies overseas.

Accessibility floods the market with greater options, Rushton said, also allowing teens to easily buy drugs online legally.

“The variety of drugs has just really exploded,” he said.

Most prevalent in the Northern Shenandoah Valley are prescription drug abuse and synthetic bath salts, a drug Rushton said has nothing to do with Epsom salts.

Containing one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, “bath salts” is an amphetamine-like stimulant found naturally in the khat plant, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports through its website, http://www.drugabuse.gov.

“We’re still seeing a lot of the bath salts craze coming out,” Rushton said.

The drug shares compounds with methamphetamine and with ecstasy, and to get more of an effect, users will combine the drug with over the counter cough medication.

Still, Rushton said he wouldn’t necessarily call the state of drug abuse in our area a crisis.

“We don’t have hard numbers on it,” he said.

Prescription drug abuse is more of a crisis in southwestern Virginia, an area that Rushton said leads the nation’s crisis, but it’s still very much alive throughout Virginia.

“[It] is something every clinician [and] educator is dealing with throughout the state,” he said.

Most of his talk today will deal with hallucinogenic drugs and bath salts, which he said programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education or D.A.R.E. will need to start including if they’re going to survive against changing demographics.

In the past, he said, the D.A.R.E. program has targeted education on drugs like heroin or cocaine, which although devastating on lives are not increasing in prevalence among young people in the same way other drugs are.

“New drugs are flooding the market every month,” Rushton said.

It’s a scary trend he said has left The Drug Enforcement Administration scrambling to make new products deemed dangerous for the American public not legal.

Many hallucinogenic drugs are still so new that physicians don’t know yet how the chemicals will affect the brain.

They can have irreversible side effects. Some include long-term psychosis and paranoia.

Ideally, Rushton said, parents should aim to prevent teen drug use before it begins by knowing the risks and talking with their children.

“Really the best way is just open communication,” he said.

His goal in today’s talk is to make parents and educators more aware.

“It’s a tough topic to talk about,” he said. “[But] these drugs have very serious consequences.”

For more information, visit http://www.roadtorecovery.info.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com