Brandon Nottingham
Staff Writer

Drug use and abuse is widespread in our society.  TV and movies often depict people using drugs and making jokes about it or acting like drug use makes them cool. Eight states have legalized marijuana in the past few years and months. So how are we supposed to keep children from being misled in an environment where drugs are so prevalent?

That’s exactly what Dr. Pat Browning, of Hillsboro, and the team at Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition are setting out to do.

Browning is a strong advocate against drug use, as she lost two daughters to heroin overdoses.

“My goal is to help kids understand that drugs are bad and to help the parents, as well,” Browning said. “Statistics show that drugs more adversely affect younger kids than adults. Younger children are extremely affected by drugs, as their brains and bodies have not fully developed.”

Browning explained that children crave “good” rewards – gratification. Drugs give them an instant reward that they don’t have to work for, and they get hooked. Tobacco has the same effect.

“The average age for kids who use tobacco in America is thirteen years old,” Browning said. “And to make things worse, the average age for kids in the state of West Virginia is just eleven years of age. That is a troublesome statistic. And there are new things coming out every day. Vaping is now a leading gateway item. One in five middle school students who vape have never tried cigarettes, yet it isn’t any safer. Plus, they are using the e-cigs to smoke THC oils. And you can buy these [e-cigs] at any gas station in town. It’s something that parents need to be aware of, and that’s why I teamed up with the Prevention Coalition to do these presentations. It’s to help parents help their children.”

Cheryl Jonese, Community Connections, has work-ed with  prevention programs for several years.

“It’s crazy how easy it is to find something on the Internet,” she said. “Nowadays, it’s as simple as getting on the Internet to be able to find drugs. Laptops and cellphones open an entire new world for our kids. So many things can just simply be bought online now, and that it makes it virtually impossible to keep anything away from people. That is the worst of it, because if our kids find someone with a credit card, or take one of their parent’s [cards], they can get their hands on anything. And the kids are getting smarter with places to hide their stash, so you must be vigilant and know the same things that they know.

“We put together many good power points to help parents become aware and to spot the early signs of drug use.
“We also want to show parents about diversion, or items used to hide drugs. Some of the hiding places could be in plain sight, such as containers that are around the room. They also sell hidden compartment items online that look just like a Pringle’s can or a bottle of soda, so you have to be really careful with some items that may seem out of place in their room.”

Jonese said another early sign could be a messy room. Although teenagers often have a bit of a mess in their own space, if it begins to get significantly worse – that could be a red flag.

Odors coming from their room or clinging to their hair or clothes could also be a warning.

“Lots of drugs give off a strong, industrial like smell,” Jonese continued. “[Marijuana] sometimes smells like skunk. Lots of things could be happening right under your nose, and you may not notice it. That’s why we have joined with Dr. Browning to help get the parents better informed, so we can stop any kind of substance abuse before it even starts.”

While Browning and Jonese focus on educating parents, Prevention Coordinator Ally Dunbrack provides information and activities for children.

“I love working with the kids,” Dunbrack said. “We do many activities, such as coloring and reading for the younger children that is based around saying ‘no’ to drugs, and for some of the older kids, we work with SADD to show them that they can have a good time without smoking, drinking, or drug use.”

Browning and the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition encourage everyone to get involved and to attend the Prevention Coalition meetings which are held at 1 p.m. the second Thursday of every month.

For more information contact Jonese at 304-799-2509.

Brandon Nottingham may be contacted at blnottingham@pocahontastimes.com