‘Not my kid’

Many teenagers experiment with drugs and al­co­hol and when they do, it is a game of Rus­sian Roulette, a par­ent warns

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERESA WRIGHT

Mar­garet Smith says she thought her teenage son was sim­ply go­ing through a re­bel­lious phase in high school when his marks be­gan to slip.

He was skip­ping school, of­fer­ing no ex­pla­na­tion.

Then one night, Smith — whose name The Guardian has changed to pro­tect her son’s iden­tity — got the phone call ev­ery par­ent fears.

Her son had been rushed to hos­pi­tal with al­co­hol poi­son­ing.

“He was binge drink­ing near the Con­fed­er­a­tion Trail. He and a friend passed out cold and were left there by the rest of the group who were afraid of get­ting into trou­ble,” she told The Guardian.

“One kid stayed be­hind and called the am­bu­lance and then took off. Both my son and his friend got out of the hos­pi­tal the next day. We thought he must have learned a very valu­able les­son, but he didn’t.”

Around the end of Grade 12, her son was ar­rested at school for drug use. He had be­come ad­dicted to opi­ates and was found snort­ing pills in a car at lunchtime.

“He put in 12 full years of school but did not grad­u­ate be­cause he missed so many classes,” the mother lamented.

“My aca­demic, French-im­mer­sion band stu­dent be­came a high school dropout.”

She found out later it all be­gan at the age of 14, when he be­gan us­ing al­co­hol and mar­i­juana, hid­ing it from his par­ents.

Her fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ences mir­ror re­sults con­tained within the Prince Ed­ward Is­land Stu­dent Drug Use Re­port, re­leased last week by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

The sur­vey shows al­co­hol has been the pre­dom­i­nant drug of choice for P.E.I. teens over the last nine years and con­tin­ues to be the No. 1 drug used by youth in the province.

The re­sults de­rive from the Youth Smok­ing Sur­vey – a Health Canada spon­sored class­room sur­vey com­pleted by stu­dents in Grades 6-12.

The most re­cent re­sults from 2012-13 show 39 per cent of stu­dents from Grades 7-12 re­ported con­sum­ing al­co­hol in the last 12 months, and of those who did, a whop­ping 81 per cent said they en­gaged in binge drink­ing.

The re­port notes P.E.I. stu­dents “have a cul­ture of binge drink­ing that ap­pears to be­gin at the Grade 9 level.”

Dr. Carolyn San­ford, pro­vin­cial epi­demi­ol­o­gist with the chief public health of­fice, says high lev­els of binge drink­ing are not ex­clu­sive to teens in P.E.I.

“We know that we live in a cul­ture in this province of binge drink­ing and we see higher heavy drink­ing rates among adults as well as our kids,” she said.

“Us­ing al­co­hol re­spon­si­bly is one of the pil­lars of our pro­vin­cial well­ness strat­egy.”

A to­tal of 24 per cent of stu­dents in Grades 7-12 re­ported us­ing drugs other than al­co­hol or to­bacco, sim­i­lar to re­sults in pre­vi­ous years.

Mar­i­juana was the most pop­u­lar non-al­co­hol drug of choice at 21 per cent, fol­lowed by painkillers at 10 per cent.

Eight per cent of stu­dents re­ported us­ing to­bacco.

The re­port noted a strong link be­tween sub­stance use and low self es­teem as well as lower grades.

It also shows stu­dents say they tried these sub­stances for the first time at the age of 14 or 15.

Smith’s son is now in his early 20s and is over two years in re­cov­ery from a se­ri­ous ad­dic­tion to pre­scrip­tion drugs. Look­ing back, she says par­ents should never as­sume their child would not try us­ing drugs or al­co­hol.

“The three most dan­ger­ous words are ‘not my kid.’ Many chil­dren experiment with drugs and al­co­hol and when they do, it is a game of Rus­sian Roulette,” she said.

“The more you know the more ef­fec­tive you will be, which might pre­vent a large down­ward spi­ral.”

The re­sults of this sur­vey are based on self-re­port­ing. There is po­ten­tial for stu­dents to ex­ag­ger­ate or deny cer­tain be­hav­iours, in­clud­ing sub­stance abuse.

GUARDIAN GRAPHIC

A new re­port says 21 per cent of Prince Ed­ward Is­land teenagers re­ported us­ing mar­i­juana. Al­co­hol is the most preva­lent drug among Is­land stu­dents.

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