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POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 31 COUNTY - Substance abuse among youth is still very much a problem in Canadian society and, for parents, the best weapon against drugs and alcohol may be knowledge. That was the message expressed on November 27, when representatives from Addiction Services, local police and the Bridgewater Home and School Association met with concerned parents and educators at Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School to talk about substance abuse. The local Home and School federation's role came out of a national movement initiated by the Canadian Home and School Federation (FHS). The program, called DrugWise Parents, ins parents to educate their parental peers with credible information about substance abuse and how to identify and avoid potentially troubling problems with their children. Ultimately, it is hoped some 12,000 parents across the country will participate in The DrugWise program. Sandra Himmelman, a trained facilitator with the CFHS's DrugWise Parent program, said an effective means of prevention of substance abuse is education and understanding the multiple consequences of drug use. "Basically, parents need to know and want to know," she said. "Youth have difficulty relating to long-term effects, [so] we want to emphasize short-term and, preferably, social consequences rather than long-term effects when providing drug-specific information." Despite recent and real concerns about drugs such as crystal meth and OxyContin, Ms. Himmelman said the most common problems associated with substance abuse in teens still relate to alcohol, cannabis and tobacco use. Scott Priske, a counsellor with Addiction Services who was invited to speak at the session, seconded Ms. Himmelman's characterization of substance abuse in Nova Scotia's youth. According to Mr. Priske, the last major survey conducted among Grade 7, 9, 10 and 12 students in Nova Scotia in 2002 indicates that 23 per cent of students had used cigarettes or tobacco products, 36.5 per cent had used cannabis and more than 51 per cent of students surveyed admitted to having used alcohol at least once in the year prior to the survey. “We know that they tend to overlop categories,” Mr. Priske said. “[And] we know that more students don’t use than do – and that’s a hard thing to convince them of, because they’re a peer group and ‘everybody uses.’” Cst. Christine Bonnell, the community liaison officer for Bridgewater Police, also walked through physical descriptions of drugs with the parents and educators in attendance. Cst. Bonnell explained that students can get access to dangerous substances through connections at school, over MSN and even at the mall. And, she said, that includes the harder and more dangerous drugs. “Crack and cocaine is very popular, and marijuanna is still, as well,” she said. “The problem with marijuanna and drugs is trying to convict them. If someboy comes and they’ve got alcohol on their breath...it’s pretty easy to prove that.” But, with drugs, she added, “It’s kind of hard to prove it if they’ve just had a little bit of something and there’s no odour.” Ultimately, Mr. Priske said, in order to avoid perils of susbtance abuse, it’s critical for parents to take an active interest in their children’s lives. “Although parents may sometimes feel they are not able to reach their teen, research shows that over the long term, they have the strongest influence on their child” PATRICK HIRTLE PHOTO Bridgewater Police community liaison officer Cst. Christine Bonnell talks with parents and educators who had many questions about how to identify specific types of drugs. As originally published By Patrick Hirtle - phirtle@lighthouse.ns.ca The realities of substance abuse in youth Home and school seminar helps to educate concerned parents, educators.

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