Recently, Texas followed the lead of several other states by banning K2, Spice, and other synthetic marijuana products. These designer drugs, marketed specifically to teens, accounted for about 600 calls to the Texas Poison Center Network since January of last year.
As the mother of a teenage son, I’m grateful that my state has taken action by banning these substances in order to protect our young people. However, we can’t rely solely on legislation or the criminal justice system to safeguard our children. From now on, K2-using Texas teens (and their parents) could face up to a $4,000 fine and jail time. But punishing a kid won’t solve the issue of why he or she was using in the first place. He may need counseling, mentoring, or treatment.
If we continue to tackle the drug and not the cause of adolescent substance abuse, we’ll never address the problem. There will always be a new synthetic drug. Just look at the recent to-do about “bath salts”—kids who want to alter how they feel will always find a new way to get high.
While it’s important to be aware of the latest drug trends, we must also focus our energies on prevention, education, and early intervention. Parents, teachers, and other adults must help teens learn to manage uncomfortable situations without turning to mind-altering substances. It’s also critical to identify youth who are at risk and pay attention to their behaviors.
Sometimes, we forget that it’s not just the kids who are visibly acting out who may have a problem. When I was 16, I was hardworking and reliable, so my family never suspected that I was using marijuana and other drugs. Fortunately, I got the help I needed and entered recovery by the time I was twenty-four. However, I still believe that if a school counselor or another concerned adult had taken an interest in me, I might have been able to get back on track sooner. When it comes to helping kids in need, the best tool to protect our kids’ futures isn’t the law; it’s us.
Director, Phoenix House Academy of Austin
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