Keeping kids safe

Advice offered on how to keep children healthy and away from drugs

Paula Felipe, of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, and Dr. Alex Stalcup, of the New Leaf Treatment Center.

Paula Felipe, of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, and Dr. Alex Stalcup, of the New Leaf Treatment Center.

Photo By shannon rooney

Parents today have more to worry about than just alcohol and cigarettes, although those vices remain areas of deep concern. Now parents also have to agonize over new “designer drugs,” such as bath salts, which are starting to show up in Butte County.

In an effort to educate parents about how to keep kids healthy and safe, Partners4Health presented the two-hour symposium “Kids Living Shorter Lives?!” last Saturday (Oct. 27) at Chico’s Enloe Conference Center. Partners4Health is made up of representatives from the Butte County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion and Butte Youth Now Coalition.

The high attendance suggested the community wants information on the several topics discussed. Raul Raygoza of the Butte County Public Health Department welcomed the crowd and said, “I encourage you all to take a role in this and bring it to your households.”

The symposium allowed parents and others to listen to people who are working in the community to deal with a range of issues, including childhood obesity, that if unaddressed could lead to the current generation of children living shorter lives than their parents. If this happened, it would be the first time in decades the lifespan trend reversed.

Perhaps the most compelling talk of the two-hour symposium came from Dr. Alex Stalcup of the New Leaf Treatment Center in Lafayette. Stalcup has worked for close to a decade in Butte County, helping social services, public health, law enforcement and schools get on the same page in addressing the epidemic of the abuse of prescription and other drugs and what parents can do to help addicted children.

Stalcup framed his talk with hope, saying he’s “optimistic about the [scientific] understanding of alcohol and drugs and our [current] interventions with them.” He emphasized science and medicine have stepped up and provided the needed information, teasing apart “what addiction is and how to treat it.” Studies done in the last decade give us a lot of reason to be hopeful, he said.

Stalcup gave an overview of drug and alcohol issues in Butte County, taking note of the long-festering methamphetamine problem. Meth is still one of the most toxic drugs in Butte County, he said, with 50 percent of drug addicts seeking treatment naming meth as their primary drug. He also discussed the “pleasure/reward” centers in the human brain and how drugs act upon them. “Addiction is a disease of pleasure,” he said. Where kids are concerned, “Addiction is a pediatric disease.”

For the past several years, Stalcup said, there’s been a growing problem locally with opiate addiction in the form of prescription drugs, such as hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Norco) and others. He mentioned Adderall (a prescription drug commonly used to treat ADD and ADHD), and said there are “lots of Adderall sales all the way down to the fifth or sixth grade.” He also covered MDMA (Ecstasy) and cannabis, saying the Northern California medical-marijuana culture that has sprung up has unfortunately normalized the use of cannabis among young people and minimized the drug’s potentially deleterious effects, in spite of new evidence of the drug’s addicting nature.

“People who create drugs are constantly coming up with new designer drugs,” Stalcup said, one of the most disturbing of which is bath salts.

“It’s a new problem,” he said. “I hope we can get ahead of … the problems bath salts are causing.”

He said there are more than 190 forms of bath salts, and the people who create them “tweak molecules” and come out with new ones literally every week.

“One gets made illegal, and the cooker (drug maker) just comes up with a new variation,” he said, “or they just repackage the same thing (they had made previously) and sell it.” He said bath salts originated in the Horn of Africa, derived from a stimulant plant called kaht, and they’re “hitting the U.S. like a wave.” This “new horror of drugs,” Stalcup said, can be purchased—legally—in Chico, and there are no existing ways to detect bath salts by urinalysis.

In closing, Stalcup repeated his optimism in science’s and medicine’s strides in addressing the disease of addiction, and he praised a drug called Suboxone, used now to treat opiate addiction, as “a gift from god.”

Other symposium speakers included Elizabeth Newton of KLEAN (Kids Leading Everyone Against Tobacco), who shared a PowerPoint presentation titled “Tobacco Through the Lens of Our Youth: A Photovoice Project.” Butte County Behavioral Health representative Ryan Gulbrandsen presented “Parent and Athlete Committed,” while Kelly Doty of the Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion shared “Know Your Environment,” information for families who want to learn about nutrition and exercise.

Butte County Sheriff’s Office representative Paula Felipe discussed “Internet Safety by Butte County Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Unit, Cyber-Safety and Kids.” Butte County Office of Education’s Bruce Baldwin talked about ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and suicide prevention intervention and said there are upcoming trainings for people interested in becoming suicide prevention community caregivers. To register, call 891-2850.