Synopsis: 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.

“No Drugs, G-Ma”
Be A Parent Of No-Drug 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.

I took my grandkids to the travelling DEA exhibit at Times Square

“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.

The 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 donations.

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 the exhibit.

“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 of euphoria.

“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 exhibit lightly.

“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…”

Matt 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 brain.

“G-Ma-a-a-a-a! Get her off of me. Sarah……Arghhhh……let me be”.

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.

The 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.

Sarah sporting a Junior DEA badge given to her by her Auntie E

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 brain holes.

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.

Sarah 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 him.

“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 eyes watered.

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 I was amazed at the information on how drugs impact babies.

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.
In 2002.

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.

When 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.

Television 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.

Excerpts From Talk to Your Children About Drugs (go to)
Talking With 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 drugs.
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 principle....

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, euphoric.
· 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.
· Boredom.
· For fun.
· Curiosity.
· 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. ...
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 to talk.

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.

"The more 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 at birth.
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 Use
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 ages.

We passed by a section on the dangers of Steroids, Nicotine, and even the misuse of the prescribed drugs for Attention Deficit Disorder.

“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 the message.

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 station.”
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 evils.
“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 him.
“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.”

We 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 by boys.

“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.

The foundation of good parenting: Courage to tell the truth, the Conviction to believe in it and taking Right Actions

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 parenting.

Fight 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 tragic addiction.

Say No to Drugs……and Yes to Vigilance.

Become a Parent of Vigilance…fight drugs with Vigilance


       Go To Sophia 28: "Can You Teach Your Child To Be Patriotic?"

“Target America: Drug Traffickers, Terrorists and You”

“Drug Abuse: A Family Affair”

“Stimulant Abuse By School Age Children – A Guide For School Officials”

“Keeping You Drug Free”

“Steroids Fact Sheet”

“Methamphetamine Fact Sheet”

“Drugs And Terrorism: A New Perspective – Drug Intelligence Brief”

“Drugs & Terrorism: Teacher Lesson Plans”


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