Keeping kids off of drugs may be as simple as monitoring prescription drugs in home medicine cabinets, a psychiatrist told Laguna Beach parents at a recent PTA Coffee Break.
The panel discussion March 17 was titled “What Parents Should Know About Alcohol, Drugs and the Party Scene in Laguna.” Panelists included parents and students, who spoke at the Surf and Sand Hotel.
Dr. Edward Kaufman told parents the tight-knit Laguna Beach community generally encourages students to stay away from drugs. However, he warned parents to watch their children for possible signs of drug abuse.
“Don’t get too cocky about our Laguna bubble,” Kaufman said. “As much as we have protective factors here, we also have a lot of risk factors, like affluence and the availability of drugs.”
Kaufman gave examples of some students who became involved in substance abuse after dropping out of healthy activities, like sports.
“I very often hear a history of how they were involved in sports, and were pretty free of drugs,” Kaufman said. “And then they might have injured a knee, or what you might also hear from a child who has started to abuse drugs is, ‘The coach didn’t treat me fairly, and I quit.’ And I hear this so many times in students dropping out from their sport.”
Kaufman said that if a student drops out of these activities, parents should ask why the child quit. He also recommended that families keep a close watch on their medicine cabinets, in case their children are using prescription drugs.
“Your medicine cabinets are often gold mines for these kids,” Kaufman said. “We all know that the entry drug of choice now is very often prescription narcotics: codeine, Vicodin, Percodan and Oxycontin. There’s always drug of choice changes.”
Laguna Beach High School graduate Lorraine Carrol, recent college graduate Clark Olson and college student Alexander Olson shared their experiences at parties held by other students in Laguna Beach.
Carrol told the audience how frustrated she felt about teenagers who drove while intoxicated.
“I’ve known a few people who actually killed someone while driving or got killed,” Carrol said. “And it’s like, it’s so scary. It’s shocking.”
Clark Olson advised parents to know everything their children are doing and to spend time with them. He warned that there are still some kids who can think that they can do just about anything.
“It’s unfortunate, because in high school you don’t think about it like you do when you have a couple friends with DUIs,” Olson said. “Two of my friends in college have two DUIs under their belt and they’re looking at jail time. I think it cost, like, $10,000 for one DUI.”
Two parents said they know from firsthand experience that teenagers can hold a party any time they leave the house. Joe Ward, the father of three sons, shared his experience.
“My wife and I went away for an evening to have a nice dinner and we came by the next morning and at the house, there had obviously been a party,” Ward said. “And we spent the better part of that day meeting with all the parents of kids that were there, one of which drove my Mercedes and wrecked it.”
A mother of four who spoke on the panel, Chris Hunt, told the audience that she stays informed of any potential drug or alcohol abuse in her family by talking to the parents of her children’s friends.
“I get to know the other parents,” Hunt said. “You always know who to key into, because some moms know everything that’s going on. I do not hesitate now to pick up the phone and say, ‘OK, there’s a party on Halloween. What is the deal?’ Somebody’s got to know and they’re going to be able to tell me all the details.”