Friday, April 1, 2011

Opening My Eyes

We did not talk to our son again for 2 days.  We called and the staff gave him permission to talk to us on the phone.  But, he did not say anything other than, “They took away my shoes and I have been sitting on a couch doing nothing for 2 days.” 
During the first few weeks the kids are in what is called the orientation phase. They are considered high risk and are kept under close watch. 
We tried to ask him how he was and told him how much we loved him, but he wouldn’t respond or say anything else.  He was very mad and was making himself feel hurt that we would do what we did to him.
We finally saw him 6 days after we left him there.  It was a group family therapy meeting.  He still would not talk to us. 
In that meeting we had our eyes opened when one of the kids in the group read his drug history in front of the group to his parents. 
The starter drug for him was spray air freshener. 
He went from there to marijuana and ecstasy.
It is disturbing that parents like us and all of the other parents in the group had no idea that our kids were doing these things.  How could we even imagine that it was dangerous to keep air freshener in our bathrooms? 
A few weeks later, I got a phone call from my son that got me thinking that maybe he had used other drugs, too.
At first I was just so excited that he even called me!  I thought he might be getting over being mad. 
But, then I realized that he was only calling to ask me to bring things to him.  This would be the pattern for phone calls through most of his stay there.  He would only call when he wanted something.  He asked for a hacky sack, more shirts and pants, something to do, and a pair of old shoelaces.
I was suspicious about the old shoelaces, since the staff takes their shoes away from them for the first couple of weeks for obvious reasons.  I thought that extra shoelaces would be a risk for kids who are already at high risk.  I asked him what they were for, but he said he would have to explain it to me when I brought them.  I told him that I would ask his therapist about that.
At our family therapy session, I asked her what she thought about the shoelaces.  She asked him what they were going to be used for and he said, “To tie socks to and practice ‘glow-sticking’.”
She said, “Absolutely not.  That is not a good idea at all.”
She did not explain why and I had no idea what ‘glow-sticking’ was.

But, I knew that I could find out easily enough on-line, later.  I was surprised at what I learned that night while I was doing my internet searches.  Glow-sticks are related to the use of Ecstasy or MDMA.  I learned that glow sticks are used while on ecstasy because when they swing them around, they enhance the brain’s reaction to light and music while “rolling”.
My son and his roommate wanted to practice the technique of swinging around glow-sticks?  Practicing something that kids do while using drugs—in rehab?  That is just crazy.
I have seen teenagers walking around with glow-sticks hanging around their necks like a necklace.  I didn’t know that parents should be suspicious of kids wearing glow-sticks around their necks.  But, ecstasy’s use is just as common in neighborhood basements as it is at raves.  Its use as a recreational drug is getting to be as common as the use of marijuana and cocaine.
I started to feel like I might have just found out more about my son than I was prepared for.  I was pretty sure that he had not ever had a chance to go to a rave, but if kids are using it in the basement of the house down the street, then maybe there was a chance that he had used ecstasy.
It made me sick.  I had another one of those deep, heart sinking feelings. 
If he really had used ecstasy, what was he thinking?  Well, kids who use ecstasy or any other drug don’t think that its effects will have any lasting impact on them. 
Ecstasy causes confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug cravings, anxiety, and paranoia.  These effects can last for weeks after taking ecstasy.  Just think about what the effects can be if the use goes on for a long time!  Physical symptoms during and after use can be muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, chills or sweating, and increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
Then, there is the long term brain damage.  Ecstasy causes damage to the parts of the brain critical to thought and memory.  It damages and degenerates neurons.  A neurologist said that even a few uses of ecstasy can lower a person’s IQ from high to low.  She said that ecstasy and other drug use is just as bad as a traumatic brain injury in a teenager’s brain.
I learned a lot by reading some quotes from kids about ecstasy:
“I love glow sticks while I am rolling on ecstasy.  I loop them on my clothes and wear them in my hair.”
“Glow sticks are best when you are coming down, with some marijuana on board, while you’re half hallucinating.”
“Your vision is altered, so a glowing stick moving around really fast looks so cool when you’re tripping.”
“Glow-sticks can be fun, but they’re so much better on LSD or shrooms.”
“I don’t have to be listening to techno music with a bunch of people twirling glow-sticks to roll.  I would rather be riding my bike through the night air.  All I need is a plastic straw to chew on to prevent my teeth from grinding.”
“It really intensifies your emotions.  Like, when you’re happy, you’re really happy.  And, there is the whole skin thing where everything you touch and everything that touches you feels really good.”
I also learned that some people call ecstasy the hug drug because of the desire that it creates to hug and touch, so sexual activity while using ecstasy is common.  Did I even want to go there in my thoughts as I wondered whether he had used ecstasy?  That was just too much to even think about.  He is 14 years old, and he could have had sex while on ecstasy?  Oh my gosh.
Many kids on ecstasy use pacifiers, straws, or suckers to keep their teeth from grinding while rolling.  It also causes an uncontrollable thirst, so they drink a lot of water while on ecstasy.  Kids have died from drinking too much water or from having a fever-like seizure if the environment that they are in is very hot.
There are many warning signs that parents may not have even known about.  They should watch for glow sticks, lots of water bottles, straws, suckers, or depression, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and nausea.  It is happening right in front of parent’s faces and they don’t even know they should be looking for it.  I trusted my son.  I was sure that he would never use drugs. 
Here is One final quote from a teenager about ecstasy:  “I was unusually happy and laughing at home around my parents and they didn’t even suspect that I had been using ecstasy.”
We heard that statement eight weeks after we admitted our son into residential rehab treatment.
From him.

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