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Benny Polacca, Published January 08 2009

Kits let parents test kids for drugs

Presentation educates on how to catch teen drug use, provides tools for prevention

Sandie Werlinger hopes she never has to test her 13-year-old daughter for drug use but picked up a home testing kit, hoping its presence in her home is just as effective.

“I think it’s going to be a deterrent,” the Fargo woman said of the blue-printed box containing the test kit. Werlinger picked up the kit following a presentation for area parents on drug use Wednesday night.

About 70 people attended the presentation at the auditorium shared by Sullivan Middle and Shanley High schools.

“Parents are the key in drug prevention,” said Fargo police officer Mike Clower, the school resource officer for the two schools. The average age for teenagers who start using drugs is 13, he said.

The presentation was hosted by Sullivan, which is participating in the national Project 7th Grade drug prevention program. The program is offered by the Phoenix-based notMYkid organization, which empowers youths by inspiring positive life

choices.

According to Clower, 44 percent of all youth have experimented with at least one drug by the end of seventh grade and 34 percent of those will become regular drug users by the end of that school year.

Teenagers are going through lots of changes physically and mentally, Clower told the parents. “So you have to set the tone early.”

Werlinger told her daughter, who is an eighth-grader at Discovery Middle School and plays sports including volleyball and track, that she would be attending Wednesday’s presentation. “She was fine with it.

“I told her I was going and she said, ‘Mom, I’m not stupid. I’d rather do sports than drugs.’ ”

Clower says communication is a key to drug prevention among teenagers because of the various influences they are exposed to every day.

“Consider what’s being marketed to your kids,” he said of movies, popular music and music videos.

The “First Check” home drug testing kits passed out to parents Wednesday tests for seven illicit drugs – including marijuana and methamphetamine – and five prescription drugs including Oxycodone and Methadone.

“Tell your child that you love them and want to help them find a way out,” Clower said of keeping the testing kit handy. Set it by the door before the child heads out to the next party, he suggested.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Benny Polacca at (701) 241-5504