Williamson County not immune from teen prescription drug abuse
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
BHS parent Tricia Spehr organized the panel discussion “Performance Enhancing Drugs – It’s Not Just the Athletes,” hosted by the P.S. STARS Committee to raise awareness and bring parents together.
Baker Giduz felt like he began life as an outcast, born with partial hearing loss, poor eyesight that required thick glasses and a speech impediment.
“I never felt like I belonged anywhere,” he said.
When he was administered with anesthesia at 7 years old before going into one out of a handful of eye surgeries, the feeling of peace and contentedness – a short reprieve from his feelings of isolation – never left him.
“I enjoyed that feeling of disappearing into my own fantasy land, and nothing else mattered,” Giduz said.
Giduz shared his story as a guest speaker in front of parents at BHS during a panel discussion titled “Performance Enhancing Drugs – It’s Not Just the Athletes,” hosted by Brentwood High School’s Parents Supporting Students Taking A Right Stand, or P.S. STARS Committee. The dialogue took place at the school library Monday night, March 11. A panel of professionals discussed the reality of prescription drug use and abuse and how to help teens. Local panelists included Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Barton, Williamson County Schools Attorney Bill Squires and Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Guffee, who spoke about their experiences with youths and drug use.
Now a recovering addict and clean since 2010, Giduz shares his story of addiction to prescription drugs, including painkillers due to multiple sports injury-related surgeries and ADHD and anti-depressive medications, during his teens and young adult life. He hopes to deter others from going down the same path.
“I realize now that I wasn’t in touch with myself or spiritually connected. I had to change me on the inside, and that was scary. It’s a lot of work,” Giduz said. “The best thing that parents can do is to let addicts know that help is available.”
Local panelists Dr. Daniel Barton, speaker Baker Giduz, WCS Atty. Bill Squires and Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Guffee
The reasons that some teens turn toward prescription drugs vary, the panelists agreed. Instead of feeling like an outcast, some might feel pressured to stay in the top academic echelon.
“Some teens take psychostimulants because it helps them focus for a big test, feel happy, alert and productive. However, on the down side, it can bring on psychotic, manic, paranoid and anxious behaviors,” Barton said.
Barton also said prescription drug use occurs more frequently in communities with the characteristics of high socioeconomic status, a large population, lower unemployment rates and greater HMO penetration. Popular ADHD drugs in the mix among student populations include Aderall, Ritalin and Vivance.
“Sometimes we think, ‘not in my neighborhood,’ and we develop blind spots to those closest to us,” Barton said. “We come from a high-achieving area. Parents want their children to succeed. It can lead to a lot of pressure.”
“We expect a lot from our kids,” said Tricia Spehr P.S. STARS Committee Chairman and organizer of the meeting. “I have heard some kids say, ‘You aren’t even special if you have a 4.0. Everyone has a 4.0 [at Brentwood High]. They ask a lot of us.’”
The statement could be applied to many schools in WCS.
“Our kids make tough choices on a daily basis – whether to do drugs, cheat on a test, have sex. If we ignore these things, we are kidding ourselves,” said Spehr. “I don’t like the term ‘Brentwood Bubble.’ It is misleading. Just because we live in Brentwood, doesn’t mean that our kids aren’t susceptible.”
“Much of it is cultural,” Barton said. “You can’t just play football anymore, you have to be a superstar.”
According to anonymous surveys administered as part of the Insight educational program run by the Williamson County Juvenile Court, 39 percent of first-time juvenile drug offenders between the ages of 14 and 18 had used pills, while four percent had been referred to the court on pill-related charges in 2012.
“The younger they start, the more a lifetime of substance abuse is likely to occur,” said Sharon Guffee, juvenile court judge.
Posted on: 3/12/2013