Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Have you heard your teens talking about “white lightning”, “Hurricane Charlie”, or the “Ivory Wave”? If so, they are not talking about moonshine, the latest tropical storm in the Gulf, or a bath with Ivory soap. They are talking about the new trend of using bath salts to get high. Yes, I am talking about common bath salts that are part of our relaxation rituals along with candles and a good book. Only our teens are smoking them and/or injecting them. One use can cause a cerebral hemorrhage or death.
Bath salts contain cathinone, which comes from a plant grown in Africa. It has a similar effect on the neurotransmitters in the brain as meth-amphetamines or crack. While some state and local governments are attempting to deal with the problem, there is no government regulation of this product at this time except that the manufacturer be required to label products using cathinone as “not for human consumption.”
When our children and teens entered the realm of getting high off of common household ingredients it should have been obvious to us all that we need to keep a closer watch on what they do and where they do it. If your bath salts are disappearing and you haven’t had a relaxation bath in ages, you have a problem. The same goes with the child who hates chores but suddenly wants to scrub the shower or the ones who think it necessary to take the air freshener in the bathroom every time they go. It is possible that they just want to bribe you or they have a sudden concern about bodily odors, but it is just as possible that they have discovered the high created by these chemicals. It is our job, as parents, to find out.
Some parents believe that if you talk about these problem behaviors with your teens, you are putting ideas in their heads. Do you think that an adult somewhere helped them figure out that bath salts could get you high? I would never have dreamed to smoke or inject bath salts. Our teens (and younger) have very curious imaginations with lead them to very dangerous places! Huffing, smoking or injecting bath salts, experimenting with family medications, misuse of ADHD medications – sooner or later all children and teens are going to at least hear about these things. All they are going to hear from their peers is how wonderful the high is or (in the case of ADHD medications) how their performance can be enhanced; what they need to hear from you is how and why it is dangerous. Permanent brain damage or death are serious consequences. Their lives – and yours – can be changed forever by the devastating effects of these practices. Can it be frightening to get the answers you don’t want? Of course it can. But wouldn’t you rather get those answers when you have the opportunity to help your teen understand why it is not an acceptable practice rather than from the police officer who comes to the door to notify you that your son or daughter is at the hospital?
Northern bath tissue has an unusual commercial that demands that is it “time to get real” about what happens in the bathroom. As parents, we would be much more positively productive if we declared it was "time to get real” about what happens in our children’s lives. You took great interest in toilet training your children because there was a benefit to you both financially (less money spent on diapers) and practically (less laundry and more time for other priorities). It is time we take that same interest in their everyday lives and how they spend their time – with whom and doing what?
We cannot expect our government to place limitations on everything on the market that can be responsible for potential damage to our children. If that were the case, almost every product there is would be under lock and key with special permission needed for its purchase. It is true! Do you know that it is even possible to overdose on water? It has even been done. But that it not my point.
My point is that we are called parents because – novel idea – we are supposed to parent. My dictionary’s definition of “to parent” is limited, in my opinion. It states that “to parent” is to protect and guard. I believe that parenting includes not only protecting and guarding our children, but also guiding, teaching, and raising them. Any good parent is going to protect and guard their child. It is a given. Most of you completely understand what I mean when I say that I would fight a grizzly bear for my girls. I might lose the fight, but they would have the chance to get away. This part of parenting is a great responsibility and it is a vital task. But if we leave off the other responsibilities – to teach, to guide, to raise – then we wind up with safe, but ill-mannered and “ignorant” children. (Remember, ignorant means lack of knowledge, not stupid.) We have to give them life skills, knowledge, manners, and a good dose of reality.
If you find that your child or teen has been experimenting with drugs – or household products used as drugs – then in all likelihood the benefits of a good talk – while definitely productive – will not be enough to get them turned around and back on the right path. You need to be ready to given evidence of what you state. Research that illustrates the damage of these practices is a valuable tool provided that it is not too technical. You do not want to talk over your teens head or you may as well not talk at all. There are many agencies that provide information geared towards teens in a format they can understand. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has a parent guide on preventing drug abuse. (http://drugabuse.gov/pdf/prevention/redbook.pdf) The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has some excellent pamphlets to be used to talk to teens and some excellent brochures targeted towards parents. (http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/parents.aspx) As with any presentation, visuals carry a huge impact. I learned a lot about the effects of salvia on YouTube. Unfortunately, there are videos of drunken teens, drugged teens, teens high on bath salts, all over the internet. I don’t recommend pulling up anything as you discuss with your teen, but if you will take the time to view a few on your own, you will no doubt find at least one that will make your point. I found one of a young man attempting to make a ham sandwich while high on salvia. His limitations were very obvious and his frustration was painful to watch. It made my point that salvia did not enhance and enlighten, but rather oppressed and confused. The point being that no parent should go into these conversations unprepared. There are always opportunities for you to impress with your skills to address issues on-the-fly. When possible, prepare!
The facts are that there are over 1000 household products that our children use to get high. It is the most common form of drug abuse among children 12-17 years old because of the ease of access. The damage that these products can cause your children range from hearing loss to nerve damage to brain damage and death. Damage occurs with the first use. These products are every bit as addictive as cocaine and methamphetamines. Every child is at risk, but the odds are that every child knows a child that has abused household products. Talk to your children and teens. Make a positive difference in their lives.