The greatest form of Terrorism is that of a predator stalking
a child. Drug abuse is such a Terrorist, for left unprotected,
a child is vulnerable to the dark and insidious powers of
drugs and alcohol. G-Ma Lori takes her grandchildren to
the Drug Enforcement Museum at One Times Square to tour
the world of drugs--the sober side. Matt, 8, and Sara, 6,
get a first-hand look at the often cruel and heartless appetite
of drugs to ruin lives. Join her on a journey of how to
explain to those you love why "Just Say No" is
an act of Vigilance.
“G-Ma, I don’t get it. Why is there a crashed car in Auntie’s
museum? I thought we were going to look at damaging medicines,
not damaged cars?”
Matt cupped his hands to form a pretend microphone, and,
in his eight-year-old stand-up-comic routine, flipped his
shaggy mop of hair, scrunched his brow much like a young,
deadpan Bill Murray and posed, awaiting my reaction.
my grandkids to the travelling DEA exhibit at Times
“Matt, Matt, Matt….” I bit. “The smashed car is a message.
It tells everyone that the guy driving it was taking some
of those ‘damaging medicines.’ He was taking illegal drugs
and smashed the car into a woman. He killed her and didn’t
even know it because of the drugs. It’s hard enough to be
a good driver here in New York City, but, if someone is
drinking alcohol or taking drugs, it’s REALLY hard to drive.
The smashed car is one of many warnings to young and old
about the dangers of drug use. So your remark wasn’t really
so funny, Mr. Comic.”
I thought a trip to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s
(DEA) traveling exhibit at Times Square was in order for
my two older grandchildren. Matt is my precocious eight-year-old
and his younger sister, Sarah, six, has wide eyes and soaks
up information like a sponge. They always like to visit
their aunt, our DEA daughter, who is in charge of the traveling
DEA Target America exhibit while it’s in New York.
Target America was created by the DEA Museum and Visitors
Center. It presents a global and historical overview of
the ravages illegal drugs impose on our society. I was impressed
with its section on the impact on children, drug-impaired
driving (the one Matt picked up on), the effects of drugs
on the body, the damages to our environment from the manufacture
of drugs, and the new part of the exhibit, the connections
between the illegal drug trade and terrorism.
Target America exhibit has been extended to June '05
Target America was originally scheduled to appear at One
Times Square, New York City, September 14, 2004 through
January 29, 2005. Because thousands of visitors flow through
it, the exhibit has been extended through June, 2005. It
cost $1.5 million. The funds for it were raised by private
In a DEA press
release, Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute
on Drug Abuse, said the exhibit deserved praise for
showing how drug use, production and trafficking hurt
children and damage the body and brain. "Helping
the public understand these consequences is key to preventing
drug abuse," Volkow said.
Adam and Sophia scanned the posters and displays in a
casual manner until we entered the more automated part of
“G-Ma, I like this part,” said fun-loving Sarah as she
deftly punched the buttons to make a simulated brain ‘malfunction.’
A television screen vividly displayed brain receptors and
how heroin and opiates zapped the receptors to produce feelings
“Zoom, zoom, zoom go the drugs ‘roon-ning’ the brain,
right G-Ma?” Sarah flashed her sparkly yet serious brown
eyes at me. Her intuition told her I wasn’t treating the
“There’s no doubt drugs alter communication in the brain,
little one,” I said. “Using them impacts learning, your
memory and coordination as well. You couldn’t possibly be
so quick on your feet or use the balance beam as well or
even the bars at your gymnastics class if you had drugs
in your body…”
is testing his knowledge at one of the several Target
America automated exhibits
“And, G-Ma, Matt would fall right off the cliff at rock
climbing if he took the bad drugs, right?” Sarah whopped
her brother on his shoulder and tried to shove him away
from punching the ‘what drugs do to you’ exhibit of the
“G-Ma-a-a-a-a! Get her off of me. Sarah……Arghhhh……let
Matt was upset with his sister’s breach of his private
space. Living in a one-bedroom apartment with a mom, dad,
cat and two siblings was wearing on him. Recently his mom
had cleverly fashioned his ‘cave’ in his top bunk using
material bordered with wild, red tongues of flames and a
sign “Keep Out.” While the warning was for all intruders,
everyone knew it was specific for his sister Sarah.
effects of illegal drugs are devastating on a fetus
“Sarah, be gentle. Give Matt his space, please.” Sarah
backed off. “But, you are right, my pretty little bird.
The consequences of misusing drugs are vast, varied and
affect people of all ages. Children born from drug-using
parents can have low birth weight, developmental deficits
or delays, they suffer neglect from their parents, usually
have poor school grades, and many other problems, …. such
as falling off rock climbing walls…..or balance beams.”
I drew my little ones close to me for a hug, grateful
that Sarah, Matt and their little brother Angus didn’t have
parents who used drugs or abused alcohol.
sporting a Junior DEA badge given to her by her Auntie
I traced a section of the illuminated brain damaged by
the use of methamphetamines and thought of their good friend
Billy. Billy is the same age as Matt. His mother was a drug
addict and used during his pregnancy. She’s now in recovery.
“See these holes in the brain, kids?” I took Sarah’s finger
and stretched her up to where she could trace the simulated
Matt is tall enough to touch the exhibit and swiped Sarah’s
hand away to insert his. “Yeah, G-Ma. That’s why Billy is
so dumb. His mother was bad and took drugs when she had
him growing in her tummy. And he has these holes in his
brain. I heard mommy talking to daddy about it. And he can’t
move so well either. He kind of shakes. When he was little
he could beat me at wrestling. Now, he can’t even run as
fast as I can like he used to. I’m so much faster.”
Sarah shrieked at Matt and whacked his arm away from the
display. “Matt, I get to punch the brain. It’s my turn.
I’m going to punch your brain.” She bristled and scrunched
her neck defiantly like a lean bulldog standing its ground.
Sarah was notorious for sticking up for herself. Outnumbered,
she figured her two brothers always ganged up on her and
was quick to defend her position.
was notorious for sticking up for herself
But, Matt skipped off down the aisle like a Serengeti
gazelle to analyze another exhibit.
I thought it important to explain to Sarah about Matt’s
unexpected comments regarding Billy having holes in his
brain. Knowing Sarah, I was sure she had a number of questions
rattling around in her busy mind. Matt caught me off guard.
I had no idea he was so well informed on the subject. Someone
was doing a good job embossing the dangers of drug use on
“My turn, G-Ma, my turn,” Sarah sang, happy Matt was no
longer a thorn in her side.
“Yes, you are right, sweet Sarah, it is your turn. You
know Matt’s right about poor Billy. His mommy did take drugs
when he was growing inside her tummy so he was born with
lots of problems. With special tutoring and the great mommy
who adopted him, he’s doing so much better. Remember how
happy he was this summer when we visited him?”
Sarah’s eyes glistened. “I do, G-Ma. But he can’t talk
even as good as I can. I think his old, bad mommy should
be put in jail, G-Ma. So she can’t make any more babies
sick and have holes in their brains.” Sarah chocolate doe-sized
Matt was a battle-buddy
of Jimmy Neutron
I had a better than average comprehension of the effects
of illegal drugs having worked thirty-five years in a medical
laboratory. The effects of illegal drugs are devastating
on a fetus. Unfortunately many women of childbearing age
in the US use some for of illegal drug.
Before taking the kids to the museum,
I boned up on information from my favorite search engine
www.google.com. I was amazed at the information on how drugs
A mother taking illegal
drugs during pregnancy increases her risk for anemia,
blood and heart infections, skin infections, hepatitis,
and other infectious diseases.
She also is at greater risk for sexually transmitted
diseases. Almost every drug passes from the mother's
blood stream through the placenta to the fetus. Illicit
substances that cause drug dependence and addiction
in the mother also cause the fetus to become addicted
The U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services estimates that more than 50,000,
and perhaps as many as 375,000, cocaine-exposed babies
are born each year in the United States.
The government's Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that
mothers who used cocaine early in pregnancy were five
times as likely to have a baby with a malformation
of the urinary tract as mothers who do not use cocaine.
Studies that have followed cocaine-exposed children
through age three continue to find that the majority
score within the average range for intellectual ability.
However, some studies suggest that cocaine-exposed
children may have difficulties with language development
and paying attention. Because these children just
began to enter the school system in large numbers
in the early 1990s, there are no studies on the long-term
educational outlook for them. Preliminary observations,
however, suggest that many may need specialized attention
to reach their full potential.
I thought back to when my husband and I first talked about
the perils of illegal drug use and alcohol misuse with Sarah’s
and Matt’s mommy and aunt. Thirty years ago the use of so-called
designer drugs wasn’t as prevalent as it is today even though
alcohol abuse was starting to be addressed by ObGyn physicians
and other health givers.
Staying close to our children in all their activities and
knowing and enjoying their friends was, and still is, a
primary goal of ours as Vigilant parents. As active as we
were (and are) in their lives didn’t ensure they would be
immune to the drug peril.
our daughters were growing up, my husband's and my
biggest concern was peer pressure
Our biggest concern was peer pressure. We continually told
the girls they never had to “go along with the crowd” and
that the toughest decisions they would make would be not
to do things just because everyone else did.
I believe the fact we agreed to work diligently with our
daughters to instill the qualities of independence, good
judgment and right actions was instrumental in their development
as the strong, beautiful women they are today. Now, with
their blessings, we are additionally graced to help in the
raising of our current or future grandchildren.
ads can be powerful promoters of anti-anxiety drugs
Several days ago I enjoyed a story my husband related that
our older daughter had shared with him. She was emphasizing
how television and advertising are ‘pushing’ drugs albeit
legal ones onto our children.
Sarah had seen an ad for one of the anti-anxiety drugs,
Zoloft, and said to her mommy. “Mommy, see those happy faces?
If you took that medicine, you wouldn’t be in a bad mood.
You would be happy, too!”
G-Pa related that our daughter and Sarah got into a great
conversation about the “happy faces.” Their communication
gap wasn’t clogged. Sarah was able to ask her mother any
question and her mom was willing to give an answer, even
if it was at a six-year-old level.
The idea that drugs are the way to happiness isn’t a realistic
lesson for children. The conversation between Sarah and
her mommy dealt with the importance of finding happiness
from the inside out, not by ingesting it. “You can’t swallow
a smile,” our daughter said, “You have to beam it up from
the bottom of your heart.” With that, my husband said, our
daughter vowed to smile more.
Your Kids About Drugs
Don't put off talking to your children about alcohol
and other drugs. As early as fourth grade, kids worry
about pressures to try drugs. School programs alone
aren't enough. Parents must become involved, but most
parents aren't sure how to tell their children about
Open communication is one of the most effective tools
you can use in helping your child avoid drug use. Talking
freely and really listening shows children that they
mean a great deal to you.
What do you say?
· Tell them that you love them and you want them
to be healthy and happy.
· Say you do not find alcohol and other illegal
drugs acceptable. Many parents never state this simple
How do you say it?
· Calmly and openly - don't exaggerate. The facts
speak for themselves....
· Face to face - exchange information and try
to understand each other's point of view. Be an active
listener and let your child talk about fears and concerns.
Don't interrupt and don't preach.
· Through "teachable moments"...
· Establish an ongoing conversation rather than
giving a one-time speech.
· Remember that you set the example...
How can I tell if a child is using drugs?...
Possible signs include:
· Change in moods - more irritable, secretive,
withdrawn, overly sensitive, inappropriately angry,
· Less responsible - late coming home, late for
school or class, dishonest.
· Changing friends or changing lifestyles - new
interests, unexplained cash.
· Physical deterioration - difficulty in concentration,
loss of coordination, loss of weight, unhealthy appearance.
Why do kids use drugs?
Young people say they turn to alcohol and other drugs
for one or more of the following reasons:
· To do what their friends are doing.
· To escape pain in their lives.
· To fit in.
· For fun.
· To take risks.
Take A Stand!
· Educate yourself about the facts surrounding
alcohol and other drug use. You will lose credibility
with your child if your information is not correct.
· Establish clear family rules against drug use
and enforce them consistently.
· Develop your parenting skills through seminars,
networking with other parents, reading, counseling,
and support groups. ...
AND FOR YOUNGER KIDS:
Teaching your youngster to avoid drugs starts by building
his or her self-esteem and how to make confident decisions...
The most important thing to remember when it comes to
talking about difficult subjects like drinking and drugs
is that it's not about a 5-minute "talk" -
it's about building an ongoing dialogue. These guidelines
follow the recommendations of the White House Office
of National Drug Control Policy...
It's never too early to show that you take your kids
seriously; the questions will come as soon as they learn
Showing your willingness to listen will make your child
feel more comfortable about opening up to you.........
Parents, Grandparents and other have endless tools to fight
the dangers of drugs and alcohol. When I was ‘Googling’
I learned that although 98% of parents say they’ve talked
with their children about drugs, only one in four teens
say they’re learning at home about the risks of drugs.
we understand drug abuse and addiction, the more the
knowledge will help us to know how to best prevent and
cure it" ...Auntie E
I was especially impressed with the following site and
the parenting aids about talking to kids about drugs:
“Wow, G-Ma, here comes Auntie E!” I looked up. Our DEA daughter
was grinning and strolling toward the kids.
Sarah and Matt tore into their Aunt like Thomas Trains careening
down a 75% grade track and smacking into a buffer.
“Ooooommmmphhhh………give me a break you two beasties. I’m
glad to see you too.” My younger daughter works hard at
being an involved and on-the-scenes aunt. She proceeded
to give us an individualized tour of Target America, stressing
that the purpose of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
(NIDA) is to bring the power of science to bear on drug
abuse and addiction.
About 1 out of every 10 newborns
in the United States--375,000 per year--is exposed prenatally
to one or more drugs. In major cities, many hospitals
report that the percentage of newborns showing the effects
of drugs is 20 percent or even higher.
Alcohol-Related Birth Defects
Babies whose mothers drink during pregnancy, especially
those who drink heavily, may be
born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)...
Approximately 11 percent of pregnant women use at least
one of the following drugs: heroin, methadone, amphetamines,
PCP, marijuana, and cocaine. Infants of drug users may
go through drug withdrawal or have other medical problems
Approximately 38,000 drug-exposed babies were born in
the United States in 1987...
Recent research studies reported that drug-exposed infants
may develop poorly because of stress and chaos caused
by the mother's drug use. These children experience
double jeopardy. They often suffer from biological vulnerability
due to prenatal drug exposure, which then may be exacerbated
by poor caretaking and multiple separations due to the
drug user's lifestyle... Perinatal Tobacco
According to the U.S. Office on Smoking and Health,
exposure to tobacco smoke poses grave risks to babies
before and after they are born.
Spontaneous abortion, preterm births, low-weight full-term
babies, and fetal and infant deaths all occur more frequently
among mothers who smoke during their pregnancy...
Some of the exhibits were toographic and violent for Matt
and Sarah’s ages. Auntie E spent most of her time talking
about the harm drugs do to the body of those abusing them,
to their families and the problems abuse creates for the
whole world. Many of the young people who come through the
museum on tours, Auntie E said, are of Middle and High School
We passed by a section on the dangers of Steroids, Nicotine,
and even the misuse of the prescribed drugs for Attention
“The more we understand drug abuse and addiction the more
the knowledge will help us to know how to best prevent and
treat it. So, Matt and Sarah, what do you think about the
pictures and displays here?”
Hearing my daughter’s question, I figured Auntie E wanted
to know if kids Matt’s and Sarah’s ages could really get
Matt puffed out his chest.
“Well,Auntie E, my brain doesn’t need any phony-baloney
stuff in it to work any better. My neurotransmitters communicate
just fine. Jimmy Neutron and I are battle-buddies creating
a special rocket ship to combat the evil Ooblar from the
planet Yokian and fly away to a ‘no girls allowed’ space
Clever Matt instantly created his own space techno-lingo,
which he picked up from his space and science catalogues,
Star Trek television, and, one of his most favorite sources,
the Jimmy Neutron series on Nickelodean.
“I’m going to shape-shift into the rocket and fly out of
the nova-electronic-atmosphere and…..”
“Okay, Okay, Matt. I’m glad you enjoyed ‘my’ museum, you
little space monkey.” Auntie E glanced my way with her thick
brows curling upwards and shook her head. I knew she was
hoping Matt would apply what he was saying and escape drug
“Hey Auntie E, what did the brother say to the sister who
was raking leaves?” Matt’s sea-green eyes twinkled like
the sun glistening on the ocean.
E replied enjoying Matt’s not unexpected shifting of her
question and intentions, “What, ‘brother’?”
“Get down off the tree and it will be easier.” Matt playfully
poked his aunt and skipped away before Sarah could reach
“Grrrraggghhhhh…….Matt, I know not to rake leaves up in
a tree. You are so not funny. Right, Auntie E?” Sarah’s
nose squinched up and she looked like a pruneface with her
lovely face askew.
Auntie E and I couldn’t restrain ourselves from chuckling
at Matt’s quick wit.
“I see you’ve been reading the new Book of Jokes I gave
you for Christmas, Matt.”
had an individualized tour of the exhibit
“Yup, Auntie E. I’m so lucky to have a sister who fits the
‘ain’t she dumb’ category.” Matt zoomed away like a jungle
cat springing away from danger.
“Easy, little butterfly.” I tried to sooth Sarah as she
fluttered forward in her new bright pink and purple jacket.
Having grown up with the torture of having two brothers,
I commiserated with Sarah almost daily over being outnumbered
“That’s okay, G-Ma. I want Auntie E to know I ‘preciate
her taking us through her museum and how proud I am of her
being a police person. I’m not worried about drugs because
I won’t be ‘dicted since you can’t be ‘dicted without eating
any. I know that.”
Sarah gave Auntie E a great big hug.
As Matt scampered up the museum escalator, I gazed at my
granddaughter and daughter with gratitude. They were Parents
of Vigilance, keeping a watchful eye and open heart tuned
to their children.
foundation of good parenting: Courage to tell the
truth, the Conviction to believe in it and taking
They realized the threats of not communicating with children
and bent overboard to insure they got straight answers.
I was glad we had been Vigilant Parents so that the Courage
to tell the truth, the Conviction to believe in it, and
taking the Right Actions would become a foundation for good
Drugs With Vigilance
Someday, with greater Vigilance on the part of all Parents,
Grandparents, Caregivers, fewer young people will be fooled
into taking death pills disguised as harmless fun…children
will play in their neighborhood without fear of drug violence…
we won’t have to spend millions of dollars a year – and
put lives on the lines arresting traffickers…and we won’t
have to experience the agonies of loved ones suffering from
Say No to Drugs……and Yes to Vigilance.
Become a Parent of Vigilance…fight drugs with Vigilance