To all you parents of middle-schoolers who didn't think you needed to attend the Kane County sheriff's drug-awareness presentation Tuesday night, the parents who did have a message for you:
Get your heads out of the sand.
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The seminar, which had room for 50 people, attracted about 20. And all of them were parents who have -- or, tragically, had -- at least one child who is an addict.
Kane County Undersheriff David Wagner noted he was "preaching to the choir" with much of the information dispensed. But Lea Minalga, a drug counselor and founder of Hearts of Hope, told the group that refreshing their knowledge is one of the ways to fight drugs.
The group heard from Carrie Brummel of Batavia, a 2003 graduate of Kane County's drug court program. She dispelled stereotypes of how kids become addicts, and at what age. She started using pot and alcohol in middle school, and first tried heroin at age 15 while maintaining straight-A grades and being a cheerleader. She did it to fit in with older kids she hung out with.
"It was a group of overprivileged, immature kids. It was something to do. (Their) parents were at work and busy, and not really being on top of things," Brummel said.
"Even if your kids aren't using drugs, they know somebody who does," Minalga said.
She suggested that parents consider testing their kids for drugs, even if they don't think their child has a problem.
"If you drug-test your teens it gives them a good refusal skill to use," she said, like an excuse to give to their friends.
She also urged parents to search teens' cars. And one woman asked the sheriff whether he would rent out the department's drug-sniffing drugs, so she could clear her house of hidden drugs and paraphernalia before her daughter returned from jail.
Two of the women attending had lost sons to heroin overdoses. One was only 17. His mother, who asked her name not be used, said people need to stop making assumptions about what kind of child uses heroin. Her son died in "a mansion in St. Charles," she said.
The undersheriff discussed what age to talk to kids about drugs; parents in the room suggested preschool. He said get rid of leftover painkillers, such as the Vicodin you got for a root canal, because research is showing middle-schoolers are increasingly starting drug use with prescription drugs.
And make it clear you won't tolerate "experimenting" with marijuana, tobacco and alcohol, he said.
"Don't minimize the risks associated with these products, because we know what comes after these," he said.
Wagner pointed to a new form of hydrocodone, Zohydro, coming out, which may become a problem. Up until now, most hydrocodone was combined with a nonaspirin pain reliever; people who took it a lot could end up with liver damage from that substance. But the new drug is pure hydrocodone, and even though it is in a time-release "tamper-proof" capsule, experience has taught him, and the parents in the room, that addicts will likely find a way to open that capsule.