Category Archives: Drugs

“I Am a Homeless Youth. I Am the Future.”

Runaway and homeless youth are not bad kids; they’re just kids in bad situations.  It’s important to remember this, because one of the great obstacles to stability these young people have to overcome is the stereotype that they are willfully homeless, or that their homelessness is simply a consequence of poor decision making.  But we all know nothing is ever that simple.  Consider the following:

  • Approximately 1.7 million young people call the streets home every year.
  • Children under 18 account for 34% of the homeless population in the United States.
  • Every year, approximately 5,000 homeless young people will die because of assault, illness, or suicide while trying to survive.
  • About 80% of homeless youth (aged 12-21) use drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate to deal with the traumatic experiences and abuse they face.
  • Over 50% of young people in shelters and on the streets report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn’t care.
  • Of youth who run away, 41% have been abandoned by their parents for at least 24 hours and 43% have been beaten by a caretaker

Young people become homeless for a variety of reasons, but the most common is family dysfunction.  This can be anything from abuse to addiction to mental illness, all resulting in parental neglect, which forces some youth to fend for themselves – and in extreme cases to provide and care for their own parents and younger siblings.  Imagine if you had to become the head of your household tomorrow; how long do you think you could sustain?  Even families with little to no dysfunction are vulnerable to sudden homelessness, because they may be at the whims of the country’s economic climate – joblessness affects people from all walks of life, and families move into shelters by the hundreds every day, unable to find affordable housing.

Another reason youth sometimes leave their homes is sexual abuse.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 21-40% of homeless youth have been sexually abused prior to running away.  And the victimization doesn’t necessarily stop there; many young people on the streets are too young for traditional employment and must resort to trading sex for money, food, clothing, or a place to stay.  Similarly, some youth who “age out” of the Foster Care system are dumped into society with no economic or emotional supports, and often look to misdemeanor crimes to survive – either to temporarily get money, or to be put in jail where they will at least have a bed and a meal. Many homeless youth are then never able to transition into the workforce, let alone finish their high school diplomas, when the only earning potential they see for themselves is within the underground economy.  This is part of the cycle that turns homeless youth into chronically homeless adults.

Below is a sample from a survey done by the National Network for Youth in 2013, which asked thousands of homeless young people nationwide to characterize the homeless youth experience based on their stories by offering insights that could complete the sentence, “I am a homeless youth. I…”

…am no different from other youth. I simply don’t have a safe place to live.

…may come from a poor family, or my family may have money.

…may come from a city. But I may also come from a rural town, suburb, Indian reservation, border colony, or foreign country.

…may have traveled miles from home, but I may also have traveled just a few blocks.

…sometimes act tough because that is a skill I developed to survive without a safe place to live. But, I know to behave differently if you give me positive attention.

…may have left on my own because it was safer for me to get out. But I also may have been kicked out of home because my family didn’t understand or accept me.

…may get caught up in the wrong crowd for self-protection. But I am not violent or a gang member. I’m just hanging on the street because I don’t have another place to go.

…usually just have too much stress and competing priorities to operate at the same pace as my peers with safe places to live. I am not dumb or unmotivated.

… need to take care of getting a safe place to live and a source of food and clean clothes before I can focus on finding a job or completing school.

… want to work to support myself. But I probably need some help building work skills and help finding a job, just like any other young person looking for a first job.

… want to wear clean clothes and take regular showers. If I look grungy, it’s because I don’t have regular access to these basic things.

…may use alcohol or drugs or have a mental illness. But if I do, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to get help.

…can still take care of my own child and be a good parent but may need some help in learning how since I may not have had a good role model in my own childhood.

…may be reluctant to ask for help right away because I may not trust you. So please ask me first if I need help. And be patient while my trust in you strengthens.

…have dreams and goals. I can succeed in life despite the hardships I have faced.

…am not disposable. I am a human being. Be happy I am alive. I am the future.

Many of the things mentioned above are why organizations like Youth Outreach exist.  We work to protect those who can’t always protect themselves, despite being incredibly resilient and strong.  We have two programs to help youth who don’t have anywhere to stay, whether they’ve been kicked out, run away, or their family has become homeless.  Safe Shelter is available to kids ages 11-17, and provides short term shelter with families in the community who’ve volunteered to be host homes.  The Transitional Living Program (or TLP) is designed for youth ages 18-21 who need help getting started and learning to live independently. YO has two apartments located in Newberg and McMinnville where youth can stay while they look for a job and save some money. We also have programs that work to prevent youth from running away in the first place.  Youth Outreach has a Drop-In center that is open until 9 pm on weeknights, where teens can find a safe and positive environment, with everything from peer support groups to Christmas parties.  Youth can spend their time getting help with homework, learning about things like dating abuse, working with us to find a job, or just hanging out and playing pool as a way to stay out of the rain.

If you encounter someone who is in need of assistance, or ever find yourself in a tough spot, give a us a call.  Anytime.  Day or night. 1.866.538.8023.  We can help!

Water

 

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.

 

Water

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

Now what

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

and

right

down

under 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

not alone

The Truth About Meth

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.

Prescription Drugs Are DANGEROUS

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?

  • Sleepyness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paranoia
  • High body temperature
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Slurred speech
  • Shallow breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Changes in your mood, perceptions, and behavior
  • Death

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.

Hookah: Hook, Line and Sinker

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.