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Speaker Urges Parents to Pay Attention to Drug Use Signs
Written by Ernie Quatrani, Correspondent

            From experiences on the streets of the notorious Badlands of Kensington to the emergency room to rehabs to homeless shelters to prisons to her own house, Deb Delp has the credibility of a frontline soldier in the raging battle against drug abuse. 

            The nurse, mother, teacher, coach, author and anti-drug crusader had a warning for families and educators in her presentation "Don't Be an Ostrich" last week at St. Mark's Church in Pennsburg: It is far better to know the signs of drug abuse than it is to pretend it cannot happen in your family or to your kids.

            "Good kids make bad choices," Delp said to the audience. "I can't stress that enough."  There is no one-size-fits-all profile of a user or an addict.  "Not knowing what's going on in your house can prove to be deadly," Delp warned.

            She emphasized her points with several tables stocked with implements used by substance abusers. Obvious paraphernalia like bongs, needles and pipes were displayed side-by-side with drug-adapted items like aluminum foil, whiteout, toilet paper tubes, dryer sheets, whipped cream, Gummi Bears, Pam, gum, mouthwash, nose drops, matches and Pez dispensers.

            Delp was caught off-guard in her own family several years ago, learning after the fact that a family member had been using for "one-and-a-half to two years" before she caught on.

            "I don't think I was in denial; I think I was in the state of being oblivious. I knew there was something going on, but I didn't know exactly what it was."

            Delp cited food allergies and contact problems as examples of the many excuses users might offer to explain abnormal behavior or appearances.

            "We love our kids; I mean, we want to believe them. If they're using and their lips are moving, they're lying."

            According to the students in the classes Delp taught, the No. 1 reason for trying drugs was "curiosity." Consequently, her strategy as a teacher evolved to make sure that her students knew what the consequences of curiosity were "for your mind, your body, your future and legally. So, we're going to remove that curiosity right now."

            Delp urged parents to "talk to your kids about how to handle a situation" and to trust parental instincts. If something feels wrong it probably is.

            "Listen to what is said and what is not being said. Also look at their body language," she said.

            Education at home and in the schools must begin sooner rather than later. In Delp's opinion, "You've got to start at the age of 10 and 11. This is what's out there; this is what it can do to you and so forth. You've got to remove that curiosity factor with education."

            Ignoring warning signs can have serious consequences and not just for the user.

            Delp read a list of comments made by parents she has worked with. They described physical issues such as high blood pressure, feeling of guilt and anger, a reluctance to talk to family and friends, and a fear of being judged.

            Parents of users often find themselves making excuses for the behavior or appearance of their children and feel shame. It can be difficult dealing with friends whose children seem to be living perfect lives, who are getting into college, while they are trying to get their kid into a rehab, she said. Many friendships, relationships, and even marriages have dissolved because of the stigma of addiction.

            But that isolation is often self-imposed. Even in families where other children are high- achieving and low-maintenance, moms and dads might focus solely on the addict as a reflection of their parenting.

            One of the first places families can put up a defense against drug abuse is at the medicine cabinet in the home. Delp explained the practice of what she called "pharming."

            "They [users] will go into your medicine cabinet; they will gather up a bunch of stuff. They will put it in a bag. They will pass the bag around" without knowing what the drugs are and how they might interact, creating a huge problem for medical personnel if the experience leads to the emergency room, she said.

            Leftover drugs might include legally prescribed oxycodone. Many unsuspecting victims got started on the road of addiction by taking heroin's legal cousin, oxycodone, a temptation too dangerous to leave in a medicine chest. Police departments or pharmacies can tell you how to safely dispose of unneeded medications.

            Upper Perk Police officer Jamie Lavin, who was in attendance, described heroin as one of three types of drugs "out of control" in the Valley. The others were methamphetamines and pills.

            "Heroin is a scary drug," Delp explained, "because heroin acts very quickly. If you mainline it, it takes six seconds, and you could be dead." She described the death of a high school age student found at his computer with a needle protruding from his arm. A good kid who made a bad choice.

            PRO-ACT and Project Live Upper Perk sponsored Deb Delp's presentation. For more information on PRO-ACT, and other organizations, and to view video of Delp's talk, go to 





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