On Wednesday, Nov. 6, the Northampton Area School District and the Center for Humanistic Change teamed up to teach parents about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and social media. A series of presentations and lectures, focusing on everything from vaping to the Safe2Say app, were held at the high school for interested parents and community members.
The Center for Humanistic Change’s presentation on current drug trends raised a lot of interest, questions, and even concerns among parents. Although the presentation focused on the dangers of hookahs, edibles and opioids, many parents in attendance were concerned about vaping, which has grown in popularity among young people.
According to the CHC, vaping pods are not only cheap (99 cents in some convenience stores) but smoking some pods, like the Juul, is the equivalent of smoking over 40 cigarettes.
Despite common advertising ploys, vaping does not involve water vapor. It involves aerosol. All pods contain nicotine, as well as chemicals like arsenic, lithium, acetone, and sometimes THC. Over 1,500 young adults have been sickened by vaping, and over 30 have been killed by vaping’s toxic fumes. The CHC warned that new vaping products are being released nearly every day, and they are not regulated because the FDA cannot keep up.
Talk of opioids also raised questions. About 85 percent of the world’s opioid use is in the United States. Prescriptions have quadrupled in only 10 years. According to the CHC, 80 percent of addicts start with a prescription.
Just as new vaping products are being released, new opiates are also being released at an alarming rate. One includes Kratom, which is a powder still available in convenience stores.
The CHC took some time to educate the public on Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. All first responders are now carrying the life-saving medication, as are an increasing number of teachers and even retail workers.
Should a loved one experience an overdose, the CHC encouraged people to call 911 and not perform CPR unless instructed to. That is because some opioids can be passed through the skin or even the air, which may result in the Good Samaritan overdosing as well.
The CHC had a mock teen bedroom on display for parents to explore. The bedroom featured all of the areas and devices teens may use to hide drugs or alcohol.
For many parents, it was a somber reminder that the tragic headlines in the news are not far from home.
“Do not think that it is not going to happen here in Northampton,” one parent said. “No one is exempt.”
Another CHC presentation focused on the dangers of social media. With 63 percent of Americans using Facebook and 500,000 new users being added each day, Facebook and other social media sites can present physical and mental dangers to teens and young adults.
The CHC reported that there are 81 million fake Facebook profiles online, which can lead to dangerous catfishing, abuse, or “grooming.” In fact, over 30 percent of 9 to 19 year-olds report receiving sexual messages online, according to the CHC.
Meanwhile, sites like Instagram and Snapchat are leading to a direct increase in depression, isolation, and self-esteem issues. Snapchat is the most popular app for cyberbullying, because messages disappear within 10 seconds. Children who are bullied are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, fail school, and have ongoing health problems. Meanwhile, parents should be aware that simply taking away the phone wouldn’t stop the problem. The CHC warned parents that most cyberbullying is tied to in-person bullying. Sites like Net Nanny, SecureTeen, and Teen Safe can allow parents to monitor and restrict social media use.
What else can parents do? They can block adult content, establish phone-free zones, check browsing history, and keep their children busy with other activities. Meanwhile, they should also be leading by example and limiting their own phone and social media use.
“If we do not help them step back from it, they won’t,” said the CHC spokeswoman.