Teens, parents learn dangers of drugs

Tables offer information about the effects of smoking and drug abuse during the Partners in Prevention of Substance Abuse workshop for parents and students held at Lincoln Middle School.

ELIZABETH HAMILTON/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 2:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 2:18 p.m.

Teens and their parents learned about the effects of drug abuse and the programs available to them at a town hall meeting that featured break-out sessions for middle and high school students and special presentations for parents.

More than 200 Alachua County middle and high school students and their parents attended the 7th annual Town Hall Meeting organized by Partners in Prevention of Substance Abuse and held recently at Lincoln Middle School.

“This year, we are really trying to focus a lot on illegal drug use, especially cannabis (marijuana), and some of the synthetic drugs that are out there,” said Gregory Pelham, chairman of the PIPSA Coalition of Alachua County and a case manager with the Alachua County Teen Court Program.

The theme of the event was “Be Over, Not Under the Influence of Alcohol and Other Drugs.” It featured special presentations to the parents by Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, and Paul Wilder, program manager at the Meridian Healthcare Inc. Recovery Center for adolescent boys in Lake City.

The teen breakout sessions were led by Joe Johnson, a doctoral candidate in the counselor education program at the University of Florida who also is a licensed school counselor and co-founder of Future 4 Teens, a Michigan-based youth organization, and the Hippodrome Improvisational Teen Theatre in Gainesville.

Lewis-Younger spoke to parents first, providing a huge amount of statistics showing how the U.S. is by far the leading nation in the world in the consumption of opiates, which are narcotics used medically to relieve pain. She said the U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world's population, yet, it accounts for 80 percent of the world's opiate usage.

She also encouraged the crowd to call the Poison Help Line at 800-222-1222 if they suspect somebody is suffering from drug poisoning and to call 800-662-HELP (4357) to get help for people addicted to drugs. She also said it is important to call 911 instead of letting someone “sleep off” an overdose or severe intoxication.

The students had a chance to hear motivational messages from both Johnson and the Hippodrome theater. Johnson's message focused on the theme, “Remember What My Mother Said.”

“The overall goal was to try to help the students learn a little bit more about who they are, where they are and the dangers of drugs and alcohol that are out there against our young people in the world today,” said Pelham.

Damonte Flowers, a 16-year-old 10th-grader at Eastside High School, said the breakout sessions taught him to encourage his peers not to use alcohol and drugs.

“I thought it was worthwhile,” Damonte said.

Emonte Haynes, an eighth-grader at Westwood Middle School, said he took away a lot from the message delivered by Johnson and the Hippodrome group.

“He (Johnson) said his mama told him that this is not his world, but he can be whatever he want to be in it, and she told him not to take things for granted,” said Evonte, 15. “They (the Hippodrome group) talked about how people fall out from drinking too much and suffer panic attacks from smoking too much marijuana.”

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