Substance Abuse Panel Focuses on Issues

Substance Abuse Panel Focuses on Issues for Parents and Students
Posted on 05/11/2016

On April 26, middle and high school parents, joined by many of their children, attended a panel on the topic of teen drugs and alcohol.

On April 26, middle and high school parents, joined by many of their children, attended a panel on the topic of teen drugs and alcohol.

Speakers included Mt. Hebron Middle School Student Assistance Counselor (SAC) Dr. Ben Brennan, Montclair High School SAC Hugh Witter, Detective Kim Nelson Edwards, the School Resource Officer at Montclair High, Nadia Kwaja, a counselor at the COPE Center for counseling, outreach, prevention and education, and Ben Selesnick, a former Montclair High student, currently a sophomore at Fairfield University.

Brennan began the evening showing national data on drug and alcohol use: 20% of 8 th graders have used alcohol in the last year, 40% of 10 th graders, and 60% of 12 th graders. Marijuana use is lower, but approaches 40% for 12 th graders and about 25% for 10 th graders.

Panelists went over what draws students to substances, which is often the desire to be comfortable socially, and the negative consequences such as falling grades and absenteeism, mood and mental health issues. Use of alcohol and marijuana in young teens does long term brain damage, and the younger a person begins using, the more likely they are to become addicted. The importance of having activities such as sports, art, and music as ways for teens to keep busy was emphasized. Parents’ were reminded to stay engaged and to make sure their views on drug and alcohol use should be shared with their children, as well as clear consequences for use.

Detective Nelson-Edwards reminded parents they need to call the shots. She asked, “Are your kids paying you rent? If not, then you get to tell them what they can and cannot do."

Kwaja offered information about steps that can be taken if drugs and alcohol are a problem in a child’s life, including group and individual counseling, outpatient rehab, or ultimately inpatient rehab.

Selesnick spoke candidly about his own experience with drugs, which led to his dropping out of school his sophomore year before attending rehab. He has since been clean and sober for almost five years.

The evening was presented by the Montclair Health and Wellness Partnership, Sister to Sister, and the Montclair School District.

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