A drug crisis is sweeping America and it's killing our children.
Parents be warned. We have now entered the culture of ''Pharma-geddon.'' Kids are sneaking pills, drinking alcohol, and using illegal street drugs at an alarming rate. Even heroin, once considered the last outpost on the way to junkie-town, is now disturbingly common.
Sadly, today's young people, obsessed with pop culture, may soon head further down this road. Teen mega-sensation Miley Cyrus shamelessly allowed herself to be videotaped smoking from a bong -- not with marijuana, but salvia, a powerful and newly popular hallucinogen.
Almost all drug addicts, as I continually remind my children, start out the same way. They experiment with alcohol and marijuana as teenagers. Unfortunately, no one can tell which teenagers will hold the line at experimentation, and which will become full-blown addicts. Parents like to think, "Not my child. My child is too busy, too smart, or too into sports." This kind of thinking is a mistake. Denial can kill your child. Yes, kill.
I have seen the dangers of drugs first hand. I've sat next to my children at the funerals of wonderful young people whose lives were lost to accidental overdoses. Teaching children to ''just say no," crossing our fingers, and saying a prayer is not enough. Nothing compares to the grief of losing a child. We owe it to children to do everything in our power to protect them.
An alarming new report by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that one in five teens -- 20 percent -- is now abusing prescription drugs. Parents of teenagers must remain vigilant and should never assume they can slack. When our children were babies, we didn't question whether they would fall down the stairs or put a fork in a light socket. We baby-proofed the house. With teenagers, our job as protectors does not end. We must still anticipate the possibility that a teenager will use poor judgment. It's a teen's nature to test the boundaries, and it's our job as parents to stay hot on their heels and catch them before they fall.
Turning a blind eye is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. As parents our first line of defense starts at home by keeping prescription medications and alcohol locked up. It's much harder to monitor children outside our homes but thankfully, there is a product that can helps us do just that. It's a simple to use, home drug-testing kit that can detect multiple substances including marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.
It is best to begin drug testing long before any drug temptation or experimentation ever takes place. Around your child's thirteenth birthday, pick up a dozen home drug tests and display them on your counter. Have a sit-down conversation with your child, discussing the dangers of drug experimentation.
Tell them how much you love them. Explain that you have a responsibility to do everything in your power to protect them -- including sending them to a lock down boarding school, if that is what it takes to keep them off drugs. Then let your child know that, starting right now, and continuing as long as you support them, you will be giving them random drug tests. This will shock them, annoy them, and perhaps even embarrass them. Good. They need to know you mean business when it comes to drugs. Assure them that this is not about trust -- it's about doing your job. Explain that clean tests will allow for more freedom, and will give you more peace of mind. Then give the test on the spot. It should come up clean, and your bold stance will give them plenty to talk about with their friends.
Give one of the follow-up tests on a day when your teen has a few friends over as witnesses. That way, when peer pressure tempts your child, it makes an easier out for your teen. ''No, it's not worth it. I get drug tested." Friends will know this is absolutely true. And, for goodness sake, don't stop when tests continually show up clean. That's the point. Keep doing it. Your teenager may still sneak and try alcohol and drugs, but if you do your job with consistent, periodic drug testing, your child will not travel down the road to addiction -- not while you're on duty.
Addiction is a lifetime commitment we don't want our children to make. It can be an uncomfortable subject to bring up, but drug education needs to start early. Once we fully comprehend the life-ruining effects of drug abuse, the awkward factor melts away. Armed with love and information, we can talk openly with our kids about addiction. It may be the most important dialogue we will ever have with our teens.