Managing substance abuse can be tricky business, particularly when it involves someone you love, and even harder when that person is young.
Opportunities for assistance with managing substance abuse in minor children is available, said 4-H prevention coordinator Denise McIntyre. McIntyre manages prevention programs focused on substance abuse prevention in the schools, community intervention through parenting classes, and other outreach programs like All Stars.
Parents with children who have substance abuse concerns can sometimes find themselves in situations where they don’t know where to turn. Here in Sampson County, there are resources specifically designed to assist families with those needs.
“Our (classroom) programs are for third grade and up,” stated McIntyre. “We have several curricula for our students, and all of them are evidence-based.”
“For elementary students, we teach them to look at ads and billboards so that they can see what (the companies) are trying to get them to buy,” explained McIntyre. This gives the students in the third through fifth grades a glimpse of consumer awareness, allowing them to be better equipped to identify the ploys companies use to promote items that are not good for them.
“For example, we tie into looking at movies with alcohol in them, and how it is sensationalized,” McIntyre detailed further.
“Older students learn about self esteem, focusing on being aware of the dangers of drugs,” said McIntyre. “We discuss each different type of drug, too.”
“The main three we focus on are the gateway drugs — marijuana, tobacco and alcohol,” added McIntyre, who has been involved with the substance abuse prevention program since 2007. “It’s more than teaching them to say ‘no’; it’s more guidance and accountability. We want them to know if you use this (drug), this will happen.”
“I have a regular schedule with the schools, and right now I am working with the Blazing Stars Academy in the Clinton City elementary schools,” McIntyre stated. McIntyre is teaching two classes, and the program is being offered every week through the first of May. The program is further enriched through the students’ participation in special projects and fun stuff, she said.
Outside of classroom instruction, there are also parenting classes available. Those classes, which are often recommendations of DSS, are there to benefit displaced children who have been taken out of their home or just returned.
“We focus on good choices and habits, and teach parents how to assess risks,” explained McIntyre. The classes are designed to assist with reintegrating children into the home.
“The curriculum lasts three to six weeks, depending on the number of lessons,” said McIntyre. Lessons last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, and sometimes there will be more than one lesson in a session.
For some students, when lessons are learned the hard way, intervention is an option that parents often turn to. The All Stars program, which is centered on youth, is for students in the teen court or on juvenile probation that have substance abuse concerns.
“Recommendations to the All Stars program can come through teen court, a judge or court counselor,” detailed McIntyre. “I meet with them every other Saturday.” They meet up for two hours, in a group setting, with their focus on evidence-based curriculum as well. Some of them have used a substance on a trial basis or are at risk to do so, she added.
“We use educational prompts, videos, and drunk driving glasses in those classes,” she said. The goal is to get the participants to feel comfortable enough to walk away from bad situations or substances when they are around their peers.
“I also do a report on how they are doing and recommend followup if need be,” McIntyre added. Recommendations can include further classes, drug tests, or other services.
McIntyre is a certified substance abuse consultant, and she can also teach other classes like drunk driving courses. Even in those classes the material has to be evidence based to allow the participant to get credit using the service.
“I have had a lot of training,” she added, pointing at her certificate hanging in her office.
She said that she has seen a tremendous impact on the community and that more people know about their services than when she first started. Even now, when she encounters students she had in classes years before, she finds that the students are still retaining the information.
“I was surprised that they still knew the answers,” divulged McIntyre. “Anything we can do to cut back on substance abuse is best.”
Cutting back on substance abuse can also come from the older generation, she explained.
“Recently we have branched out into the elderly,” said McIntyre. She has been going to the senior citizen sites and explaining to the seniors that throwing medicine away improperly or flushing it is not the right way to dispose of it. Flushing medications put the drugs into the water system which is dangerous considering that there isn’t a way to remove them from some water systems, like wells.
“Old or unused medications should be taken to a drop off site or disposed of through something like Discard Rx,” McIntyre pointed out. Discard Rx is designed as an easy way to destroy old medications at home safely and efficiently. She recommends destroying those unused medications at least once a year, using appropriate disposal methods.
“People hold on to medications sometimes, even when they don’t need them,” said McIntyre. “If you had strep throat two years ago, that medicine will not be good two years (later). Also, medications are dosed by things like height and weight, age, and fitness, and those things can change.” She said what used to be the right dose might not be later, and it could be dangerous if a dosage was too high.
Discard Rx can be picked up at Walgreens, which McIntyre said is the only drugstore locally that she knows of that carries it. All you have to do is put the medication into the bottle, add hot water, put the lid on tightly and shake it. The chemicals in the bottle make the medication dissolve, plus make the medications safe to discard in the trash.
For more information about any of these programs, for either individuals or groups, please call Denise McIntyre at 910-592-7161.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.