How to disable the undue influence of drugs and alcohol

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Return to Table of Contents: 2014 Spring/Summer Edition of Banana Moments – Family Business Quarterly

Recently I sat down with Placer County Sheriff, Ed Bonner, to discuss youth trends from a law enforcement perspective. And the top of his mind is that heroin has returned as a very real threat to ravage the youth among us. He was concerned because the addictive nature of this opiate can literally rob life from the child and destroy the family if unchecked. “And it is cheap and easy to obtain,” he said.

We reviewed the history of drug trends among youth in our community over the past ten years, which pretty much mirrored what was happening across the nation. Meth was a problem on the radar which was addressed by tightening regulations for the ingredients (now the over the counter medications containing meth ingredients are locked behind the pharmacy counter). And then the inaccessibility of that drug gave way to use of and addiction to pain killers, in particular opiates like oxycontin. Kids were literally harvesting prescription pain pills from the medicine cabinets in their homes and the homes of friends and relatives. The prevention community response to this national trend among youth abusing prescription medication, National Drug Take Back Day, was launched in order to encourage folks across the country to clean out our medicine cabinets of unwanted or expired medication. Also pharmacies were pressured to make oxycontin more difficult to abuse (snort or smoke). And as the prescription opiates have been contained, young people have turned to heroin.

Sheriff Bonner and I sat at the small round table in his office in Auburn, recounting how successful community efforts to limit access to harmful substances trending in youth communities inevitably yields another drug of choice to take its place.

Alas, a cornerstone of substance misuse prevention is limiting access and it must be done. But it is not a panacea.

See related reading: How the alpha cyber-parent keeps children drug and alcohol-free

“We are working to create a more permanent local solution for returning unused or unwanted prescription medication,” he said. “And equally important, we also need to teach our children the value of moderation,” he said, recognizing that there will always be a drug or substance, legal or illegal, that presents itself to youth as an option for coping with pain or fitting in. Alcohol, for example, remains the number one killer of youth.

Close-minded parents and open-minded kids

In the spring of 2005, I caught two teens burglarizing my home and chased them down my street. Ours was the sixth home in less than a month –in the mid morning, broad daylight. Those teens, who appeared to be 15 and 16 years old, were brazen and determined. They ransacked homes and took cash and mementos (like a backpack or a sentimental item). We never caught those teens, but the publicity that ensued after being chased down the street by an angry mom I suspect deterred them from targeting homes in our neighborhood because we never saw them again or had another such incident. One of my neighbors had suggested they were hunting for drugs and money to buy drugs, and I immediately dismissed that thought. I wanted to believe they were just testing limits and needed to get caught. After all, they were just kids. I wanted to grab them by the ear and hold them until their own moms could come and get them. At the time, I was not open to the lesson this experience wanted to teach me about the modern childhood.

And then over the next few years it became clear to me that the childhoods of the youth among us were informing them radically differently than those of previous generations. And it explained the teenage burglars. Yes it is possible to simply “google” what you thought you needed to know about medication and pretty soon drug trafficking became a new norm in many cyber-powered communities. This is what I call the “smarty-pants syndrome” of knowing too much for your own good. The notion that prescription pills are harmless was reinforced by wider cultural norms, including increasingly popular medication issued for attention and behavior issues diagnosed as ADD/ADHD. This medication has become the “study drug” traded illegally by many high school and college students. So it should be no surprise that in plain sight while parents are chauffeuring kids in cars and watching television in living rooms, children were trading and using prescription pills via texting communications – and some falling into addiction.

See related reading: Teenage brains and the cyber-powered drug culture

And the lessons of the modern childhood go beyond drug use and addiction.

It includes exposure to the entire range of the human condition, from the most compassionate and liberating experiences of an open society (giving campaigns and global support for various humanitarian causes, and individualized lesson plans), to the unpleasant and painful experiences of sexual exploitation, addiction and bullying. The cyber-powered connectivity of our lifestyles, wherein children and parents carry mobile devices as essential as a pair of shoes, has conditioned children differently than previous generations to be more open-minded and accepting, and to seek authenticity because they get a lot of fear and fakery in the social network.

Joanna is a founding member of CPY, a grassroots coalition devoted to youth substance abuse prevention strategy.

Joanna is a founding member of CPY, a grassroots coalition devoted to youth substance abuse prevention strategy.


My conversation with the Sheriff continued.

He explains that kids get into serious trouble and parents are caught off guard or feel powerless about their child’s behavior and circumstances because they are simply “disconnected” from their child’s world. “Parents need to understand that everything changes rapidly,” he said. “What you thought you knew always changes and our children’s ‘teachers’ are different. And your childhood is not relevant.”

The challenge for growing up in this dynamic, cyber-powered world is finding the balance. “Change is constant,” he said. “And people do stupid things that might get five minutes of fame, and then the public attention moves on to the next thing.”

Since chasing the teenage burglars, I have come to appreciate that the network culture amplifies positive and negative emotion. And so our children need to understand they have the power to choose their own strategy to overcome the not-so-good emotion of undue influence. And so if there is one thing I could get across to the modern parent, it would be to check yourself for being close-minded. Being close-minded hinders open communication which is a requirement to impart your wisdom to your child. For you cannot impart wisdom if they are not feeling it is safe to tell you what lessons their experiences on and off line are teaching them.

It helps to think of close-mindedness as a defense. It is a way of saying I don’t have to accept what is happening in the world that is frightening or unpleasant, and the lessons my children are learning in it. It forms a barrier between you and your child that will no doubt limit the role you play in educating your child about life in a world that is changing so quickly, and inspires confusion, distraction from what really matters, and belief in things that are not true (such as trafficking prescription pills is safe and normal, and drinking alcohol is safe as long as you don’t get behind the wheel of a car).

Proceed to next article: Twelve steps for the cyber-powered family: Reclaiming peace

Return to Table of Contents: 2014 Spring/Summer Edition of Banana Moments – Family Business Quarterly



Joanna Jullien "Parental authority cannot be taken. It can only be lost when we surrender it."  Photo by: Christi Benz

Joanna Jullien “Parental authority cannot be taken. It can only be lost when we surrender it.” Photo by: Christi Benz

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.


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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.