Courageous Conversations: Talking to Your Kids About Heroin

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- We continue a courageous conversation on a quiet epidemic, the rise of heroin use in the Ozarks.

KOLR10 News is digging deeper with reports that aim to provide perspective and awareness. So far we've heard from recovering addicts and seen how heroin abuse can damage families and communities. Now, we want to speak to parents, with information that may help you speak to your children about this growing problem.

"Every time I see the news and somebody has been stabbed or shot, I pray that it's not my son. And I try to get ahold of him to make sure he's ok" says Tina May, mother of a heroin addict.

Tina May is a local business owner, and a mother of six. Years ago her then 14 year old son started experimenting with drugs. Today at age 21, May's son is hooked on heroin.

"I've seen him try to get off of it. Friends play a big part in this. If you can't get away from people still doing it, you're never going to be able to not do it" says May.

May says her own brother was hooked on drugs and committed suicide 10 years ago. Her children lived through that experience. And she spoke to them at length and in depth about the dangers of drugs. But even with her best efforts, her son still fell into addiction.

"The people that you meet that you're kids hang around with. Just because you meet them, that's not who they are. You don't know what goes on behind closed doors. Every once in awhile I will get a text message saying I love you mom. And its those times that I pray for because nothing else hurts as bad as something going wrong with your child and you are not able to get ahold of him" says May.

"It's okay to be honest with your kids. It's okay to tell them you're worried about them. It's okay to be concerned" says Jim Farrell, Director of Springfield Schools Police.

Jim Farrell is Director of Police for Springfield Public Schools. He's also a parent, and spent many years working in narcotics for the Greene County Sheriff's Office. Farrell says his office is seeing fewer instances of kids bringing drugs into Springfield schools because he believes students are more fearful of the consequences of being caught. Still, Farrell says they know some students are using off campus. As for talking to your children about drugs and specifically heroin, Farrell says start early.

"I've told my kids from day one, as early as they can remember. You're going to get opportunities in life to make choices. And they can make good choices or bad choices. But the real goal is to not make bad choices that impact them the rest of their life" says Farrell.

"One of the main things we know is that parents influence their kids behavior" says Rikki Barton, Community Partnership of the Ozarks.

Rikki Barton oversees drug and violence prevention efforts at Community Partnership of the Ozarks. Barton says prescription drug abuse often leads to heroin. And research shows three factors lead kids to experiment, curiosity, they want to feel different, or they fall into peer pressure. Barton says parents can help combat some of those factors by looking for prime opportunities to talk to their children.

"Whether you're watching a TV show and you see someone drunk or using drugs. Or a song comes on that talks about getting high, those are great times to bring up the conversation and talk about the consequences of that drug use. What it looks like to be at a party and be exposed to those things. What we're seeing is that heroin is coming in different forms now. They're selling it in a pill form. As well as the injection form that most people would be familiar with. So that gives it a different face that it's far easier to pop a pill than stick a needle in your arm" says Barton.

"Addiction is not just a family thing. My personal opinion, addiction, this heroin, it's a community thing" says May.

While Tina May suffers and watches her own son battle his own heroin addiction, she offers advice to other parents so that they might avoid her same pain.

"If i were to go back in time, I would get to know my son. I knew my son before. But really get to know him and figure out the things that are out of place. I don't think this is something that people should say oh my kid isn't old enough. Years ago i would've said my 8 year old isn't old enough to know about this stuff. But now I think she is" says May.

Community Partnership of the Ozarks has a video series called HELP. That stands for helping everyone learn prevention. It also offers pamphlets specific to heroin, that parents can pick up and use to start a courageous conversation with their children.

You’ll find the CPO office for the pamphlets at 330 North Jefferson in Springfield. Their phone number is 888-2020.

You can find the HELP videos here


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