Drug and alcohol use seems commonplace in today’s culture. “Poppin’ bottles,” “always rollin’ up,” and “I’m sippin’ and I’m faded” are just a few of the substance-referenced lyrics mentioned in some of the songs off WGCI’s top 10 video list from the beginning of this month. But hip-hop is not all to blame. A summer breeze on a residential block in the Austin or Garfield neighborhoods may bring in a whiff of weed or the aroma of E&J your way. Whether we hear it in the music or see it in the streets, substance use and abuse greatly affects our lives, as well as the lives of our children.

Nearly a fourth of African-American high school students in Illinois used marijuana one or more times a month and over 30 percent drank alcohol at least once within that same time frame, according to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Children have easy access to drugs and alcohol in our community, and easy access can make them easy prey, cutting short their hopes for a better future and a longer life. As parents, it is important that you are knowledgeable about drug and alcohol prevention, warning signs and treatment.

Prevention and education

Kids are most likely to abstain from drugs and alcohol if they have parents who recommend that they abstain. According to parent blogger Tari Marshall of ThePartnershipatDrugfree.org, “One of the top 10 reasons teens say they don’t drink is that they don’t want to disappoint their parents.”

However, when parents allow their children to sip champagne on special occasions or taste an alcoholic beverage every now and then, they are implicitly permitting their kids to drink. So if you want your child to stay away from harmful substances, don’t lower the bar. Parents can also set the standard for their children’s alcohol and drug use by cutting back or abstaining themselves. Show your child how much fun life is without drugs and alcohol by modeling that on your own.

Another way is by getting involved in your children’s lives. Show up at their schools. Know their friends. Require them to be home each night at a certain time, and know who they are with and what they are doing before then. Such preventive measures, although time consuming and effortful, can save you the money and pain of reactive efforts down the road.

Signs and symptoms

The most commonly used substances for African-American high school students in Illinois, as reported by CDC, are alcohol and marijuana. Warning signs for both substances include, but are not limited to, family withdrawal, secrecy regarding activities or friends, decline in school performance and/or behavior, and an I-don’t-care attitude. Alcohol and marijuana use presents some distinguishing physical symptoms as well, such as red eyes for those who smoke marijuana and glazed eyes for those who drink. These signs could also indicate other problems as well, and each child is different. Therefore, it is best to consult other resources and then filter the information through what you already know about your child.

Intervention and treatment

Drug and alcohol addiction shames many parents, and they tend to suffer in isolation while watching their children’s lives destroyed. If you are a parent who just found out that your child is using or abusing, please know there are communities that can support you and answer your questions as you determine what to do for your child. Schools usually employ social workers or counselors who can refer you to agencies or treatment centers where help is available. If possible, you can also ask your family doctor about treatment centers that are appropriate for your child. Finally, there are also great resources on the web. The site www.timetogethelp.drugfree.org is a one-stop-shop for preparing your child’s road to recovery. The site provides parents with tips on how to intervene when your child is using, questions to ask treatment facilities, and a community of parents whose children have similar issues.

Know what it takes to help your children have happy and healthy lifestyles and pave the way for their kids to have the same.

China Hill is a curriculum writer for KIPP Ascend Charter School on the West Side.