Parent Education Event
Just Say Know: Uppers, Downers and All Arounders
View at http://www.redwoodptsa.org/parent-ed-series/video-presentations-of-past-events/
Jenn Epstein, Health Educator at Urban High School, gave an overview of commonly used drugs and how they are classified based on the effects on the central nervous system. She discussed Uppers (cocaine, amphetamines, ADHD medications such as Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Concerta and Dexedrine) and Downers (alcohol, opioids, Xanax and other anti anxiety drugs called sedative hypnotics), both of which induce euphoric feelings with uppers making the user excited and downers making them sleepy. Drugs classified as All Arounders include Marijuana, PCP, Ecstasy (or “Molly”) and mushrooms which distort perception and can cause illusions, delusions and hallucinations. She stated that Ecstasy is notorious for leaving the user with a flat feeling the next day and is especially bad for those with depression, which could last for weeks.
Jenn discussed the particular dangers associated with mixing drugs which is what causes the most overdoses and deaths and stated that alcohol mixed with anti-anxiety drugs can stay in the body longer and cause an overdose. Another common mix – the combination of Vodka and Redbull or other energy drinks cause kids to drink more alcohol because they don’t feel the “downer” effects of the alcohol.
Epstein repeatedly referred to the Tam District’s California Healthy Kid Survey (CHKS) Results regarding alcohol and drug use as “alarming” – for example that 18% of 11th graders have been “very drunk or sick after drinking 7 or more times”. On the spectrum of abstinence to experimentation to social and recreational use and habitual use – this is a level of “abuse” which can lead to addiction.
She spoke of the trends with edible marijuana and that legalization will further marijuana’s “okayness” with teens – the idea that marijuana is harmless. In Colorado, use by teens since legalization has increased by 20%, when nationally it has gone down 4%. She also cited the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana which is as dangerous as drinking but not often perceived to be so with teens. She called attention to a marijuana infused chocolate called “Kiva, which is very popular now. The problem, she explained, with edibles is that the THC content is absorbed differently and its duration and effects are difficult to dose – for example it can take up to 2 hours to feel it and the high lasts longer.
She spoke about how at Redwood, teens are reportedly using a lot of unprescribed ADHD medication and if they do not have an imbalance of dopamine and epinephrine, use of ADHD medication creates one. Potential side effects are a dangerously high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, panicky-anxious feeling, tremors and seizures.
Dina Enberg of Muir Wood Teen Treatment Centers in San Rafael and Petaluma, commented from the audience that she is seeing a lot of use of “benzos” – Xanax and Ativan and she is also seeing Heroin use among 20-somethings. She stated that the kids she sees are “not afraid of needles anymore”. At a Parent Ed program last year, Jennifer Golick, Clinical Director of Muir Wood commented that they primarily see at their treatment facilities teens who smoke weed which is way more powerful than pot was years ago. She specifically cited “dabs” which are highly concentrated doses of THC (up to 90%) and which are being “vaped” through e-cigarettes and are virtually odorless. As a result, Muir Woods is seeing psychotic responses to marijuana. Golick also discussed opiates and benzos (e.g., Xanax) which can be purchased off the Internet and are cheaper than opiates. She said that 10th grade is the tipping point for most teens and that “stress” (academic and social) is the most common underlying cause of substance abuse among teens. Finally, she cited a common problem in parenting being “inconsistency” between parents and stressed the importance of parents being on the same page, whether married or not.