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Parents learn how to detect teen drug use in Top Secret project

Jessica Wong and Cendee Palmer gave a seminar Feb. 13 to help parents seek out the subtle signs of substance abuse. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Deanna Weniger)1 / 2
Parents look over a mock teen bedroom for signs of drug use during a seminar Feb. 13 at Meadowview Elementary School. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Deanna Weniger)2 / 2

Gina Erickson, mother of a teen-aged daughter, shook her head as she listened to a talk Feb. 13 about how to know if your child is involved in harmful behaviors.

"I think it's interesting how inventive our teens are," she said, as the speakers explained how a pop can, a necklace and an eyeglass case could be used for smoking marijuana.

The program was put on by Jessica Wong and Cendee Palmer of the Hazelden Betty Ford foundation in Plymouth, as part of the Farmington Community Education's "Speaking of Kids" seminar series.

The two women spoke to a cafeteria full of parents at Meadowview Elementary School who were hoping to educate themselves on the subtle signs of substance abuse.

"We encourage you to go into their rooms and look around," Wong said. "The safety of our kids trumps their privacy."

The presentation included a mock teen bedroom which parents could walk through and guess which of the items scattered about the room could be signs of trouble.

The pop can could be used to store drugs, conceal alcohol or smoke marijuana. The chunky woven necklace with metal beads could be unscrewed to reveal a small bowl and pipe for smoking pot. The eyeglass case was a perfect place to conceal E-cig concoctions, including marijuana.

Parents learned about edible marijuana, in which the psychoactive portion of cannabis, called tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), is extracted, refined and put into candy.

The average THC dose in edible products is five to 10 milligrams in candy the size of one gummy bear. Overdose is a risk because the participant does not feel the drug high for up to two hours. Those in a hurry to get high can overindulge, Wong said.

The speakers encouraged parents to set boundaries and be clear about expectations.

"Teenagers are seven times less likely to use marijuana if their parents have told them they don't want them to," Wong said.

They also encouraged parents to spend time with each other and eat dinner together as much as possible.

Wong said the average family meal time in the 1960s lasted up to 90 minutes. Today's family meals average about 12 minutes.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is the nation's largest nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. With 17 sites, the foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions across the entire continuum of care for youth and adults.

The next seminar titled "Parenting and Working with Children in a Digital Age" will be March 6 in the Lakeville North High School auditorium. Pre-registration is required.

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