Category Archives: Health
As I walk around each day I feel a sense of hopelessness. It’s that same pinch of hopelessness in my heart from my parents’ divorce over a decade ago and I wonder if true love can last. It’s the deep and steadfast hopelessness that arises each time I remember that my brother is living on the streets and getting high on drugs every day.
I go to class and put on a close to perfect face, but inside I am just waiting for the phone call to hear that my brother has overdosed, and this time it’s fatal. If that day were to ever come, I would bake chocolate chip cookies for him one last time and put them right by his grave, along with a stack of baseball cards.
I try to talk to people about my feelings, but people just say, “I am sorry,” and they think it will get better.
Well I am tired of that answer! I am tired of feeling stuck and I am just waiting for this big piece of my life to fade away. If you have family or friends dealing with addiction to drugs or alcohol, I know you can relate.
So, I am here to encourage you…right?
I don’t have perfect little things to say and I don’t have the answers – if I did, I would take my own advice. But, what I do know is that you should find just one person you can talk to, such as an aunt, grandma, teacher, tutor, someone at Youth Outreach, or a friend. Even press into faith if you believe. I would encourage you find someone who will just listen and be there. And not say, “I’m sorry.” In my eyes, to say “I am sorry,” is for little things, like, “I’m sorry you missed class today because the teacher did something wild!” If you can’t find someone, then write. Write a page to whoever in your life is abusing drugs or alcohol. Then write clearly what you would say to them. I know this might sound silly, but trust me – it helps. After you write this letter, read it out loud and know that it is okay to cry! Next, take a thick black pen and draw over the things that really upset you. After, tear it up, go workout, and just allow yourself to feel what you feel.
Another helpful coping method is to find something that you love to do: cook, journal, maybe clean, or play music. What I have found important is to keep yourself busy in a healthy way. One of the things that I like to do is write poetry. Poems can take on many forms, so there are no rules and there is no pressure. It’s very therapeutic. Here is piece I wrote that reflects on hopelessness in a hopeful way.
It has its perks and it rocks my boat. I swallow my words to not say a thing to anyone about anything, so I will stay on the path of rowing
I sit on a boat and I look at how calm the water is on top. Do I dare look below to see all the hurt that I have seen
Would I be able to look back up
Why is it so hard for me to keep my mouth to myself
I start to think about things that I could do to maybe have control for once
I glance at the idea of what I could breathe in and then I remember all the people around me that are at the bottom of the ocean because of taking that first dirty creation
They have no way of swimming up because every time they try and take a breath it’s filled with more dirty water and they can’t float up
The question becomes how could I save the people in my life that are treating their bodies as a miserable disguise
I wonder if these addictions will fly away
A family is by a simple definition to be healthy and to love
Is the definition for people that are surrounded in dirty water to just breathe in
I can’t imagine becoming one of them
I see how their life will never go back to being who they once were
If that was the case, it would be broken hearts and deep desires to let anything in
Do I have hope
I want to believe that I do
I can jump in with a lifejacket
I can swim with goggles and make eye contact with them
I can keep breathing underwater and wave them to come up
Then, when I have no more air I can come back up
My lifejacket is God
and the people around me
They are holding me so tight that nothing is stopping me
I know that God will never leave me so my security is solid
But how do I keep my own dignity from hurting the people that are a part of me
Life is a journey and no one can say life is easy
It they do, they are either blind or life is blinding them
So, I say to you dear people that are living a life full of life
Don’t think that you can’t make a change, a difference, or have a new way at looking at life
Trust that you have the boat with lifejackets and that you can steer in the direction you choose
You will always have the people that are breathing in dirty water
a part of you
But you and whoever is not a part of the dirty water will be in your boat
So, look up and see the leaves changing
Have hope that you are hope
Know that you are
Although it’s not one of the most used drugs out there among teenagers, more and more teens have been experimenting with meth the past few years. In a recent nationwide survey, 1 in 33 teens said they have tried meth. The average age they first tried it was 12 years old. Even for those who haven’t tried it, the majority of teens said they think they could easily get it, and they would probably try it if they did. About 1 in 6 said they had a friend or family member who has used meth.
So, what is meth?
Methamphetamine is also known as speed, chalk, Tina, ice, glass, and many other names… it can be swallowed, smoked, snorted or injected. It’s a stimulant drug, so it boosts your mood, increases your feelings of well-being, increases your energy, and makes you more alert. It can be a white powder, or in crystal form. It’s completely man-made. It’s often made in big, illegal superlabs that make it in huge quantities… or sometimes, people just make it at home using stuff from the store, like kitty litter and batteries. Yeah, the chemicals and garbage in kitty litter and batteries go into people’s bodies. Gross. Because of all the toxic chemicals used, every 1 pound of meth made also produces 6 pounds of waste. Explosions are VERY likely to happen at meth labs.
Sometimes, doctors do prescribe meth for patients with ADHD, but in VERY LOW doses. And it’s very rare that they would prescribe it, because of how dangerous it is.
Meth causes chemical and molecular changes in the brain, causing problems with movement and thinking. Some of these changes remain long after meth use has stopped.
Here are the effects of meth use…
- Feeling very awake and active
- Fast heart rate, irregular heartbeat
- Higher blood pressure
- Higher body temperature
- Possible heart attack/stroke
- Increased risk of HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis
- Anxiety and confusion
- Problems sleeping
- Mood swings
- Violent behavior
- Psychosis (hearing, seeing, or feeling things that aren’t there)
- Skin sores caused by scratching
- Severe weight loss
- Severe dental problems, known as “meth mouth”
- Problems with thinking, emotion, and memory
Like all other drugs, meth is extremely addicting. The first time you try it, you have an amazing high… so whenever you use it, you want to reach that same high. But your body becomes tolerant to it, so you can’t. In order to reach that same high, you need more, and then the next time you need more, and then the next time you need even more, filling your body with more and more garbage each time… dangerous garbage that could kill you.
If you have use meth, even if you’ve only tried it once or twice, you need to get help and stop immediately. If you have a friend who uses it, you need to tell somebody and get them help immediately. Tell your teacher, school counselor, parents, coach, or another trusted adult. Or you can call 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-662-HELP if you aren’t sure what to do. Meth is serious stuff, and it’s extremely dangerous. Just look at these people who used meth… you don’t want to end up like them.
Let me tell you some statistics so you understand the severity of youth homelessness in America.
- approximately 50,000 young people in the U.S. sleep on the streets for 6 months or more
- estimated 550,000 unaccompanied youth are homeless longer than one week
- 39% of the entire homeless population is under 18
- 1 in 7 young people will run away from home
- the average age a teen becomes homeless is 14 years
- teens 12-17 are more likely to become homeless than adults
- 50% of youth who are homeless said their parents either told them to leave, or knew that they were leaving and didn’t care
When we talk about homeless youth, we’re talking about young people age 24 and under, although most of them are about 14-17. A lot of kids become homeless when their families become homeless, but most of them are either kicked out or run away.
Youth run away or are homeless for several reasons. Sometimes it has something to with their involvement in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems. Many homeless kids were foster kids, but they aged out and were discharged with no housing or income support. Sometimes they are being physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused at home and they eventually decide to leave. Sometimes there is some kind of severe family conflict going on, whether their parents are addicts, or abuse each other in front of the kids, or something else that’s unhealthy. Sometimes these youth are neglected or even abandoned by their parents.
Obviously, unaccompanied homeless youth are much more likely to get mixed up in bad things than other kids. Their experiences are also different than those of homeless kids who live with their families. Although those kids still have some tremendous issues and things to deal with, at least they have family by their side; unaccompanied youth are all on their own.
These kids, on their own and on the streets, are vulnerable to a range of awful, negative experiences, including exploitation and victimization. Because of their age and circumstances, they aren’t usually able to (legally) make enough money to meet their basic needs; so many, many homeless youth trade sex for money, clothing, and food. They also steal, and are much more likely to engage in criminal behavior and get involved in the juvenile justice system. They’re also often severely depressed, understandably so, and they drink and do drugs to mask the pain.
Homeless youth also have a hard time getting an education, because of the school system’s legal guardianship requirements, residency requirements, and requirements for proper records. Not to mention, sometimes kids just don’t have transportation to school. A lack of education certainly makes it harder for these kids to get on their feet and take care of themselves.
Isn’t it sickening when you think about it? Did you realize how many kids are homeless in our country, and not only how many are homeless, but how many are homeless BY THEMSELVES? Can you believe some of the circumstances these kids are in? Can you believe that a parent would kick their child out of their home, knowing that they have nowhere safe to go? Isn’t it awful imagining what they go through out there?
We cannot continue to allow this to happen to youth in our country. This is happening to far too many kids, and it shouldn’t be happening at all. We need more programs with emergency shelters available to young people. We need a health care plan designed specifically for homeless youth so their needs can be taken care of. We need programs that will help these youth regain stability, and especially programs with staff who are trained to break through their walls of fear and cynicism. We need to help these young people get an education, and help them find jobs so they can support themselves and gain skills they need to be successful. We need to educate our community so everyone is aware of what’s going on. We need to coach parents to be GOOD parents and take care of the needs of their children, rather than throwing them out on the streets and abandoning them. We need to take care of the children in our country.
Here at Youth Outreach in Newberg, Oregon, we offer a variety of services to runaway and homeless youth in Yamhill County.
- We have a Safe Shelter program, in which we offer emergency shelter for youth ages 11-17 who run away, are kicked out, are homeless, or maybe just need some time away from their parents. We have a 24 hour hotline the youth can call in case they need shelter after hours. We pick them up wherever they are, and take them to stay with a family in our community, where they’ll have a warm bed and food to eat.
- For youth ages 18-21, we have a Transitional Living Program for those who are homeless or kicked out. We set them up in an apartment for up to a year and a half (at no cost to them), and we help them find a job, save money, go to college if they’d like, and accomplish whatever other goals they have so they can be successful.
- We have a Street Outreach program that allows us to reach youth in our community. Every day, we send a team of three staff/volunteers out to tell youth about our services. We go downtown, to parks, and other places where youth often hang out. We carry a backpack full of food, toiletries, socks, and anything else a homeless youth may need.
- We recently started a Jobs Program. We have a Job Development Specialist who is available to help teens who need help finding a job, creating a resume, or practicing interview skills. She has monthly “Jobs Workshops” where she goes over different aspects of what it takes to get a job.
- In downtown Newberg, we have a Teen Drop-In Center that is designed to keep teens off the streets and in a safe, positive environment with adults who care. We have board games, video games, pool, fooseball, and other activities. We plan fun parties and events. We give the youth snack everyday after school, and have food bags available for homeless youth who come in. We have Study Hall twice a week, and offer free tutoring. We also offer peer support groups and prevention classes every month, and discuss things like safe dating, teen drinking, how to quit smoking, etc. Our drop-in center is open until 9 pm, giving teens a safe place to hang out even after dark.
The goal is to completely end youth homelessness by 2020. It’ll take a lot of work, but we need to get these kids out of danger and give them a better life.
You’re hanging out with your friends at your house, and your parents are gone. You’re bored. You guys wanna do something kinda different and fun, a little rebellious. You can’t get any alcohol because you aren’t 21, and you don’t know anyone who is that would buy you some. Weed is pretty hard to get a hold of if you don’t know any dealers. But, you could always go through your parents medicine cabinet… There’s definitely something in there that can get you high.
That’s how easy it is, and that’s why so many teens take prescription drugs.
Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a medication that was prescribed for someone else and/or uses it for something other than what the doctor intended it for. So, like taking pills that are supposed to be for your mom, or taking Adderall to help you get through a late night study session.
After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older. Teens get it from friends and relatives, and most of the time they steal it.
A lot of people use prescription drugs to get high because they believe them to be safer than street drugs. They figure that if doctors give them to people, they must not be bad and do any harm. But the reality is that they are VERY DANGEROUS if taken in the wrong way. When doctors prescribe medicine, they consider all kinds of things like how healthy the person is, their height and weight, how old they are, how much they should take, how often they should take it, what other health issues the person may have, and all kinds of things. You can’t just take a random amount of some random medicine and expect that to be okay for your body.
So what exactly are the effects of taking prescription drugs?
- Difficulty breathing
- High body temperature
- Fast heartbeat
- Slurred speech
- Shallow breathing
- Lack of coordination
- Changes in your mood, perceptions, and behavior
People also take prescription drugs to commit suicide. So, it’s pretty scary that if you take it to get high, you could accidentally take too much and it could kill you.
There are different types of prescription drugs that teens take for different reasons. Opiois, like Vicodin and Oxycontin, are painkillers. Depressants, like Valium and Xanax, are used to help you sleep or relieve anxiety. Stimulants, like Adderall or Ritalin, help people with ADHD focus. Or, you could take any of these to feel high. People even take too much cough and cold medicine to get high.
Think about it. Taking these drugs is so, so scary. You really don’t know what it could do to you… it’s so easy to overdose with these. Also, it’s illegal. Do you really want to throw your future away and get in trouble with the law? Just for a “high” feeling that won’t even last that long? Is it really worth it?
These drugs are also super addicting. People don’t think they’re as addicting as street drugs, but they are.
If you’re taking prescription drugs, you need to stop. You might even need to get help. If you or a friend have a problem with prescription drug abuse, tell a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, coach, or counselor. You can also called 1-800-662-HELP or 1-888-4-AL-ANON, and they’ll tell you what steps to take to get over your addiction. Take action and make a change before it’s too late.
So if you’re a high schooler, you’ve probably heard of hookahs. And it is possible that you have used one or know someone who does. Hookahs are water pipes that people use to smoke tobacco.
The thing about hookahs and the specially made tobacco (shisha) that is smoked through them is that they are marketed to be safer than smoking cigarettes. They’re not. People argue that smoking out of a water pipe filters toxins; this has been tested and proven false. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, a water pipe smoker can inhale as much smoke in one session as a cigarette smoker would inhale by smoking 100 or more cigarettes.
There are some non-tobacco products that claim they can be used without the harmful effects of tobacco. This is false advertising. The CDC says that both tobacco b and herbal versions of shisha “contain carbon monoxide and other toxic agents known to increase the risks for smoking related cancers, heard disease and lung disease.” Another reason people believe hookah to be safer than cigarettes is the amount of nicotine in the tobacco is supposedly less than cigarettes, but the Mayo Clinic states that there is about the same amount of nicotine in both.
In short, hookah is not the way to go. Not only does it have the same risks and consequences of cigarettes, but it is disguised to be safer. Don’t trust the false advertising of companies who want to get you addicted, hook, line and sinker, so you become life-long customers to a product that will do serious damage to your body.
If you need help overcoming an addiction to nicotine, talk to your friends and family, or a trusted adult, and get their support in helping you quit. You can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for additional help and support from people who work with you to be able to stop.