Parents urged to attend drug education forum

ENCINITAS — In response to an increase in hard drug use among teens, the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth and Because I Love You, or BILY, will hold a drug education forum for parents at Seacoast Community Church at 7 p.m. Feb. 13.Following an hourlong presentation that will highlight drug trends and prevention strategies, parents can ask questions and share stories. Joseph Olesky, a substance abuse counselor with the San Dieguito Union High School District, is the forum’s featured speaker.“The biggest question we get from parents is ‘how has this problem gotten so bad?’” said Olesky, who has more than 20 years of experience as a drug and alcohol counselor. “And we have an answer for that.”

Olesky primarily attributes growing teen addiction problems to the spike in heroin and prescription pill use.

“Every generation has one or two drugs that define it,” Olesky said. “Right now it’s those two — probably throw ecstasy in there, too.”

Prescription pills have become the drug of choice for many teens because they are often easier to obtain than marijuana or cocaine. Seeking a high that’s similar to many prescription drugs, teens are increasingly turning to heroin, which is cheaper than Vicodin and Oxycotin. Because more high school students are using heroin, many teens no longer consider it taboo or a hard drug, according to Olesky.

“Heroin used to be a drug people graduated to after doing everything else,” Olesky said. “That’s not the case anymore.”

Olesky also cited the use of “Spice” and faux bath salts as cause for concern. As of the beginning of this year, businesses can no longer legally sell these synthetic drugs due to their potency and side effects. But many worry that teens may still find a way to get ahold of them online.

To help parents who might not be prepared to address drug issues, the forum will spotlight parenting techniques and intervention strategies.

“This time we’re not only going to discuss signs and symptoms, but we’re also going to talk a lot about interventions,” Olesky said. “It’s something many people don’t know how to approach.”

Olesky helped create the upcoming forum to connect with parents who normally don’t attend school-based drug presentations.

Olesky also runs READI (Recovery Education and Drug Instruction), a program unique to the San Dieguito Union High School District that’s received widespread acclaim since its inception more than seven years ago. Instead of a five-day suspension, which has been found to be ineffective, students who are caught with or under the influence of drugs can undergo a two-day drug education program and complete community service hours.

“We’re beginning to make a dent in the community drug problem with these programs,” Olesky said. “The forum is another step.”

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