April 3, 2007 in City

Expert answers questions

The Spokesman-Review
 

Substance abuse prevention starts at home, but anyone can play a role.

As executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council since 1993, Linda Thompson runs several programs that seek to prevent and recognize substance abuse problems. In a live chat Monday she also emphasized that people can help with prevention by being good role models.

She said the top three drugs plaguing youth and adults in the Spokane community are alcohol, methamphetamine and marijuana.

Below is an edited transcript of the chat. To read more, go to spokesmanreview/ourkids/chats.

Q: How does substance abuse impact children?

Thompson: That’s such a big question. A baby born to a mother who is using alcohol or illicit drugs, even tobacco, may be mildly to severely affected by her use. The range of effects on newborns not only costs the child a healthy start, but the medical expenses cost all society.

If a parent is addicted, children can suffer physical and mental abuse by a neglectful or violent parent. One example would be alcohol use, which is a depressant and can bring out anger and therefore violent behavior. Methamphetamine causes the user to lose sight of the fact that they are even responsible for their child. They are focused on getting their next drug fix.

Q: What are some of the most obvious signs of substance abuse?

Thompson:

“Withdrawn, depressed, tired and careless about grooming,

“Hostile and uncooperative,

“Relationships with family members, co-workers or friends deteriorating or changing,

“New friends that seem different than the people they would normally be drawn to,

“Loss of interest in hobbies and favorite activities,

“Eating or sleeping patterns changing,

“Red-rimmed eyes and/or runny nose, but no cold,

“Missing money or valuables from home or workplace.

Q: Could you please talk about how to (and when to) approach families in which you fear alcohol or drug use is an issue? If a child is in school, is it better to approach the school (counselor or teacher) than to approach the family?

Thompson: Open communication is always the best. If you’re close to the family, then speak up in a gentle, caring way to find out if anything is happening to understand what’s caused the change in the child you are concerned about. If the child is in school and you’re not close to the family, contact the counselor or student assistant specialist with your concern.

Q: What can the community do to get involved in prevention, personally or with organized groups?

Thompson: Anyone who is a Little League coach, a Sunday school teacher, a community center volunteer, a high school parent working in the booster club snack booth or a mentor to a child is part of the prevention of substance abuse and violence among our young people. We know … the more opportunities, skills and recognition we give our young people, the more they will bond to their families, schools, communities and peer groups. By sharing healthy beliefs and clear standards with our kids, we reach the goal of healthy behaviors for all children and youth.

Thompson: I want to end on a positive note. Many, many parents are doing a great job raising their children. They are involved with their kids; they love unconditionally while providing fair discipline; they talk to their kids’ teachers and most of all take good care of themselves so they can be good role models.

Each one of us can reach out to someone who may need some extra help. Because it truly is “Our Kids: Our Business.”


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