Authorities say the signs of drug use are there, but you have to look for them
Courtney Pero grew up with no illusions of privacy. He knew that anything in his bedroom was subject to search.
These days, as a narcotics detective for the Plano Police Department, he meets with parents of children he suspects are using drugs. His message: Police your kids so I don't have to.
Frequently, parents have no idea their children are using, despite the clues.
Several empty Jim Beam bottles served as trophies in one 16-year-old's room.
"I didn't think that he was using the hard stuff," his mother told Detective Pero, who said police suspected the teenager was using heroin.
Police and school and drug counselors said they frequently encounter parents who are too busy to get involved in their children's lives. They are often in denial about what they see or are too liberal about what they allow.
When the Collin County Substance Abuse Coalition held a forum on drug abuse prevention in April at an expansive University of Texas at Dallas gymnasium, just three parents showed up.
The turnout could be only partially blamed on poor publicity, said Sabina Stern, Collin County substance abuse coordinator.
"Obviously there is no perception right now of a major drug problem among young people," she said.
That's a bad assumption, said Ms. Stern, who, with her colleagues, is seeing an increase in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine use among teenagers. She said prescription drug abuse is also rampant, along with marijuana and alcohol use.
Plano's heroin deaths in the mid-1990s were a wake-up call to parents, who read teenagers' obituaries that blamed drug overdoses and who flocked to a community forum that drew 1,500 people.
Attracting that same attention now is difficult, Ms. Stern said. "We've always said it takes something terrible."
Parents are not concerned enough about alcohol and marijuana use, she said. The marijuana some parents used as youths was not nearly as strong as the drug that students use today.
"I don't want to blame parents. We're all really busy. But I think we spend less time with our kids than we used to," Ms. Stern said.
Riley, whose last name is not being used because he is a minor, told parents at an education forum that he was drinking alcohol at 12, before switching to marijuana. By 14, he was using prescription drugs and "ecstasy." He said he and his parents were in denial about his drug problems.
"I'd tell them, 'No, I don't do marijuana.' When I've been shooting up heroin," he said.
Riley, a student at Serenity High School in McKinney, said parents should change their routines. Teenagers know what time their parents get home from work. If parents give drug tests each Friday morning, teenagers will adjust their use to pass the tests.
Cellphones, instant messaging and the Internet give youths easier access to one another and to the outside world. While parents perceive they can keep better track of their teenagers because of cellphones, the devices allow teenagers to easily lie about where they are, Ms. Stern said.
But technology also gives parents an advantage, Detective Pero said. On a recent visit to a family's home about their teenager's suspected drug abuse, he found evidence on the boy's phone.
Someone had sent him a text message asking for heroin: "Can you hook me up some brown?"
"It was going on right under [the parents'] noses," Detective Pero said.
He urges parents to follow the technological trail teenagers leave.
Plano Sgt. Terence Holway said teenagers' drug problems are almost always worse than what they will own up to. Parents should not slip into denial or complacency.
"If they don't deal with it, sooner or later we're going to deal with it," he said.
source mapt usa