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Family counselor discusses teen drug use

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Video by Renata Williams

In the past five years, alcohol use among high school seniors dropped from 43 percent to 39 percent; however, among the same group surveyed, marijuana use increased from 19 percent to 23 percent, Jeremy Duke, M.A., said a few weeks ago.

The Parent Teacher Association brought in Duke, a counselor who focuses on teenagers with substance abuse problems, to speak. In order to counter these recent trends, school officials try to educate parents as well as students on how to deal with the issue. For two years, Duke worked here as an outreach counselor, specifically with drug and alcohol-abusing kids.

He holds a Master of Art in Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri—Columbia and is a licensed professional counselor.

On April 17, from 6-7 p.m., Duke gave a lecture to approximately a dozen parents at an event sponsored by the PTA on the drug and alcohol issues among high school students, how parents can notice the problem and how they can help their children quit.

“Boredom is the real deal, and it is the feeling of not being engaged in stuff, almost like depression for kids,” Duke said. “ When they look to fix that, drugs work; they really do, and the opposite of bored is not just being entertained. Actually, the opposite of bored is getting involved in something that you can succeed at.”

Duke’s advice to teenagers is to find something they like to do, and to do those things with friends and family. He said this solveds many substance abuse problems.
He said going to the movies or playing computer games is not the definition of getting involved.

“I knew a kid who really was struggling [with drugs], and he started playing guitar and found [out] that he liked it. He would spend hours and hours [playing it],” Duke said. “Although it could feel as though he was wasting his life playing guitar, it actually really kept him away from drugs.”

Duke said a logical long-term approach to the problem is to find out why the teen is bored or stressed and to go about fixing those problems. However, he said consequences provide temporary and short-term solutions, but never provide long-term help.

“Take it seriously when people get bored and be creative about finding things they can engage in,” Duke said. “What are they interested in? What do they want to pursue? Often times they will pick things [parents] don’t like, but what [parents] are interested in isn’t nearly as important as their support in doing what the kid wants.”

Substances parents most commonly encounter are alcohol, marijuana and synthetic marijuana, which is much more potent. The most frightening drugs, Duke said, are cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, which are also the least encountered by parents.

“As far as the number of kids who accessed guidance regarding drugs and alcohol, [Duke] said four out of every 10 kids have tried it,” Kelly Anderson, a guidance outreach counselor here, said. “Many times it may not be a specific substance abuse issue [to a student] but it can be an issue that involves drugs and alcohol with their family or friends.”

By Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi

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