Your brain on drugs

Philip Whiteman
Neosho Daily News

Those of us alive in 1987, remember the commercial: "This Is Your Brain on Drugs." The campaign slogan was launched by Partnership for a Drug-Free America and included a total of three different televised public service announcements (PSA's). In my observation from time spent in Law Enforcement, people use drugs for many reasons: They want to stop feeling bad, perform better in school or work, to feel good or they want to fit in. Simply put, drugs enliven parts of the brain that make one feel good. Eventually, though, our brains get used to it. Then one needs more of that drug to feel the same as you did in the beginning -that feeling becomes your new normal. You feel awful, anxious, irritable, and sick with the drug. You no longer have that gratifying frame of mind. This is true if you use illegal drugs or if you misuse prescription drugs. There are abundant names for illegal drugs, most of which are slang terms or code words, and there is not enough allotted room in this column to share those. Those terms change DAILY, especially within our youth culture.

In an earlier column, I mentioned the last three years of my full-time police work, I was a School Resource Officer (SRO) for the Neosho School District. The staff in every school building works tirelessly to ensure that your children have a safe and healthy learning environment. The staff isfaced with the same challenges I had, keeping up with current slang and drug trends. 

According to WWW.GetSmartAboutDrugs.Gov: "Most kids grow dramatically during the adolescent and teen years. Their young brains, particularly the prefrontal cortex, which is used to make decisions, are growing and developing until their mid-20's. Long-term drug use causes brain changes that can set people up for addiction and other problems. Once a young person is addicted, his or her brain changes so that drugs are now the top priority. He or she will compulsively seek and use drugs even though doing so brings devastating consequences to his or her life, and for those who care about him." Youth are faced with numerous daily pressures and stressors. Some things never change in society, and one of those is the pressure a youth feels to be part of the crowd or to be "cool" if you will. Exhausted parents have asked me many times about what they can do to prevent their child from falling prey to addiction. I am in no way an expert in parenting, but I have many years of experience in dealing with drugs and how it changes lives. One thing I always tell those parents is to ask the hard questions. Check their bags, check their rooms. Children do have a certain level of expectation of privacy. However, due to their ages, immaturity, and so on, parents have a certain level of authority to decide the basic upbringing for their children. As minors, children may not understand the implications of choices made for their benefit. Parents must make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. One argument/question I would commonly hear from youth is, "what about my Fourth Amendment" rights? The Fourth Amendment protects persons from unreasonable searches and seizures from the government. A parent who enters his or her child's bedroom and finds contraband is not violating the child's Fourth Amendment rights. Remember, you are not alone in this. Ask those tough questions, speak to other parents, and learn as much information as you can because that will only increase your child's chances in life. 

Newton County Community Coalition Vision: A safe and healthy, drug and alcohol-free, youth community across all of Newton County.

Newton County Community Coalition Mission: We strive to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and other risky behaviors among youth through collaboration, education, empowerment, early-intervention, and community transformation efforts throughout Newton County.

-Phillip Whiteman is the DFCCoordinator/Program Director for the Newton County Community Coalition (Coalition). He writes a biweekly column for The Neosho Daily News.