BOONE COUNTY, IOWA — Drug culture terms and objects change quickly, often too quickly for parents to keep up with, according to the Boone County Project Substance Abuse Free Environment (SAFE) project.
The coalition created “In Plain Sight,” a display mockup of a teen’s bedroom, to teach parents how to look for clandestine drug abuse paraphernalia and accessories. And how to read between the lines when it comes to what teen’s say they are doing.
“One example is ‘pharm’ parties,” Diane Hinderaker, the director of Boone County Community Services, explained to a middle school parent back in February, according to the Boone News Republican.
Kids will say ’Mom, I’m just going to a ‘pharm’ or ‘pharming’ party, but it’s not f-a-r-m, it’s p-h-a-r-m, as in, pharmaceutical drugs will be exchanged and/or available. There are thousands of terms like this that change every month, so it’s tough to stay ahead of it,” she said.
Opioids Enter Drug Culture
In Iowa, underage and binge drinking rates exceed the national average, but prescription drug abuse is growing faster, according to the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy.
The state recently filed a lawsuit against five drug companies for fueling the opioid crisis by misrepresenting the addictive risks of painkillers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The “In Plain Sight” mockup included a display of drug culture devices used to conceal illicit substances like pills, marijuana or powders and alcohol.
Connecting Resources to Parents
Understanding all items in a teen’s room and where they came may be the first step in helping parents stay ahead of what kids are doing and discussing, and identifying substance abuse problems early on in their lives.
An Iowa State University 4-H youth development specialist also supported the drug culture education events featuring the teen bedroom mockup at Boone County schools in February and March, including parent teacher nights.
Being at schools when parents are there helps the SAFE Coalition reach parents beyond those that already attend regular meetings. According to Hinderaker, cooperation and enthusiasm from the county’s school districts was essential in reaching parents and providing drug culture education for early identification of youth substance abuse.
Slowing Alcohol Sales to Minors
The SAFE Coalition received a 10-year Drug-Free Communities grant for $125,000 per year for Boone County to focus on substance abuse prevention issues. The grant must be matched at 150 percent moving into year seven.
SAFE also runs a compliance check program, where minors enter licensed establishments and attempt to buy alcohol or tobacco products. The coalition reports that since the program began, the rate of alcohol sales to minors has dropped by 30 percent.
SAFE also performs free training for merchants through the Boone Police Department to help reduce availability of alcohol and tobacco products to minors.