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April 12, 2007

Prevention Or Intervention

Not long after David died from inhalant abuse Marissa and I became involved in what we came to think of as substance abuse "prevention and education" work.  And while there is no question that our efforts exact a heavy emotional price from us at times, on balance we derive an incredible amount of fulfillment from sharing our story with others and by doing so honoring David’s struggle with addiction.

Recently however I have reconsidered the word “prevention” when used in the context of our substance abuse work because it implies that somehow one can be inoculated from the abuse of drugs and alcohol like the chicken pox or the measles.  I have come to believe that we can never totally prevent substance abuse and that our efforts would be better directed toward strategies to “intervene” when it does occur or when a young person is predisposed to addiction.  I fear that the concept of “prevention” can create a false expectation of hope in parents and the public at large; that somehow we can stop all addiction from occurring and when we fail to do so the resulting emotions are despair and hopelessness.

There is already too much hopelessness and despair when it comes to families and addiction because of stigma and denial…we don’t need anymore thank you.

April 12, 2007 at 11:07 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 04, 2007

Girls and Huffing

If you have read my blog over the past couple of years you might have come away with the impression that the  abuse of inhalants or "huffing" is a problem only among young teenage boys.  However a recent report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is now showing that girls ages 12 to 17 are increasingly more likely to sniff or “huff” dangerous substances such as nail-polish remover, glue and computer duster.
The agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services examined inhalant use between 2002 and 2005. The rates of use stayed about the same over that time, with 4.5 percent of the 12- to 17-year-olds surveyed saying they had used inhalants within the past year.
While use among boys appeared to drop slightly, however, from 4.6 percent in 2002 to 4.2 percent in 2005, use among girls increased from 4.1 percent in 2002 to 4.9 percent in 2005.

My friend and colleague Harvey Weiss, who is the executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition in Chattanooga, Tenn., said in an interview recently reports for sometime now have been showing that girls appear to be abusing inhalants as much as boys, “but it just seemed not to be getting the attention that it ought to.”
The study, released March 15, also indicates that girls appear to be abusing substances different from those abused by boys. It found that 34.9 percent of girls who abused inhalants used glue, shoe polish, or toluene, a solvent found in nail-polish remover, compared with 25.8 percent of boys.
The study found boys were more likely than girls to have used nitrous oxide, or “whippets,” to get high; 29 percent of boys reported using that method, compared with 19 percent of girls.

The recent death of 16 year old Tenille Pickett who drowned in her family's hot-tub after inhaling computer duster is a grim reminder that huffing, like addiction, is no respecter of age or gender. 

April 4, 2007 at 08:15 AM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 03, 2007

NPR This I Believe Essay

I believe that in death our 16 year old son David is making a difference with his life.

In 2000 my wife and I discovered that our younger son David had a serious substance abuse problem.  David was a loving, charming, and thoroughly convincing young man and we believed him when he promised he would stop.  For a time we thought we could handle the problem with home drug testing and close supervision.  But we were wrong and finally enrolled him in a substance abuse treatment program.

After months of counseling support we finally felt that it was safe to let David have a little more freedom.  So on a warm sunny Saturday in early June, 2001 David got up, mowed the lawn without us having to remind him, and asked if he could go swimming with friends. We agreed, and made plans to meet later that afternoon to go to a movie. But later that day we got the call that is every parent’s nightmare.  It was the mother of one of David’s friends. She said David had been swimming in their pool, had inhaled the propellant in a can of computer duster to get high, dove under water, and didn’t come up.  The paramedics were there administering CPR but they had yet not been able to revive him.  David was rushed to the hospital, but after 30 minutes of continued efforts and the doctors’ assurance that all that could be had been done, we stood next to David’s lifeless body, holding hands, tears streaming down our faces, and asked the team to stop.  And they did.  David had died from sudden sniffing death syndrome a deadly side effect of “Huffing”.

David’s death changed our lives forever.  We had become members of a club that no parent ever wants to join.  Since David’s death we have come to believe many new truths.  We believe in the power of the disease of addiction and that a consequence of continued substance abuse can be death. We believe that by sharing the story of David’s struggle we can educate others about the perils of Inhalant Abuse.  And we believe that although his is a story of tragedy it is also one of triumph, of loss and of recovery... of grief and of hope.

Two weeks before David died; we had a suspicion that he was using inhalants to get high.  When we confronted him about it, he denied it vehemently, declared that he knew how dangerous it was, and vowed that he would never do something so stupid.  Exasperated, we asked “David, why are you doing this, what do you want to do with your life!”  And with all the earnestness of his 16 years shining in his eyes, he replied “I WANT to do something with my life.  I WANT to make a difference.” 

We have come to believe that in death David has given us the gifts of hope and recovery that have enabled us to help him make that difference.

April 3, 2007 at 06:00 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack