By Mary O’KEEFE
Recently the Crescenta Valley Weekly was invited to the main office of Action, a parent and teen support program that helps kids and adults with rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol.
“We get many calls [for assistance] here,” said Cary Quashen, director and founder of Action. “The first thing we do is evaluate the level of crisis.”
The crisis can be as new as a parent just finding out their child has been smoking marijuana to someone who has been using drugs or abusing alcohol for years.
The treatment adjusts to the level of crisis. There are kids who go to a support group once a week or they could be sent to more intensive therapy depending on their level of need.
“We have long term or short term residential care,” Quashen said.
Action’s facility in Santa Clarita consists of two quiet acreages. Kids reside on one side of the street. Trees surround the homes, with the main home having an inviting front porch. Across the street, at the adult facility, the Spanish-style home has a large kitchen where meals are prepared by an expert chef.
The setting is quiet and calming which is in contrast to the turmoil many of its residents are going through. Drug and alcohol addiction is all-consuming and is not easy to overcome. Speaking with some of the residents it is obvious most were there because they knew if they didn’t do something they would not survive.
Quashen has been doing this type of rehabilitation for almost 30 years. He has seen the fads of drugs ebb and flow but it always comes back to the choices people make.
“People say every kid experiments [with alcohol and drugs]. I don’t buy that,” Quashen said.
An experiment is you take a hit [of a drug] and you say I like it or I don’t but you don’t keep doing it, he said.
“I have parents that say it’s only recreational and it’s a phase. What the [heck] does that mean? I was talking to a mom who said, ‘My kids are experimenting.’ I asked with what. She said, ‘Meth [methamphetamines] and alcohol.’ I asked how long. ‘Oh about a year,’ she said. Really? And you are not getting the message?” Quashen said.
He said the woman’s daughter is not experimenting – she is addicted.
Law enforcement in the foothill area has said drug of choice will come and go but marijuana is still prevalent.
“The biggest thing I have seen over the years is how much stronger the drugs are. Marijuana is [much stronger] than 10 years ago. In the last couple of years, for the first time we are admitting adolescents and adults for marijuana dependency,” he said.
Another abusive trend Quashen has been seeing is prescription drug use.
The biggest thing we are treating for today are more accidental drug addicts,” he said.
No one plans on being a drug addict however when someone uses heroin they more than likely know they can become addicted. Prescription drugs, however, can be a progressive addiction.
“So many people are going to the doctor with legitimate pain complaints. They get muscle relaxers and pain medication. Those medications are stronger then they have ever been. The go to the doctor to get them but then get hooked. We have seen kids that are using anywhere from six pills to 30 pills a day,” he said.
The center has also detoxed more adolescents in the last two years for this type of addiction than in the last 28 years.
Quahsen is also treating more younger career people who are addicted to smoking heroin. He can trace that addiction back to prescription pills.
“They are getting their prescription pills and building a tolerance. Most doctors won’t increase the dosage so they begin doctor hopping. And when that is not working they hit the street and buy them from sellers but that can get really expensive. So they find that if they smoke a little bit of heroin they get the same effect and the price is cheaper,” he said.
The problem is the people find themselves addicted to heroin and end up at a rehabilitation center, if they are lucky.
“Parents need to be educated about prescription drugs. They are their kids supplier and they don’t even realize it,” he said.
The kids have prescription drug parties when they will steal or somehow obtain medication. They put them all together in a bowl and kids take whatever they pick up.
“We get calls all the time on our hotline, ‘We don’t know what he took,’” Quashen said.
In fact Quashen said he is hearing of problems from realtors who will have an open house only to find drugs stolen from medicine cabinets.
“Even if you trust your child you don’t know who they are bringing into your home. Lock your drugs up,” he urged.
It is not just prescription medication but over the counter drugs, too, like cough syrup.
“Parents need to get between their kids and their behavior and not sweep it under the carpet,” he said.
Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition is joining with Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, Glendale Police Department and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration with that agency’s National Take Back initiative.
On April 30, Glendale police will be at CVS Pharmacy at 2037 Verdugo Blvd. in Montrose to collect out of date or unwanted prescription drugs. CV Sheriff’s Station has had receptacles for over a year at their station to receive medication as well as receptacles for marijuana and hypodermic needles. The station is located at 4554 Briggs Ave. in La Crescenta. People are encouraged to go through their medicine cabinet and get rid of drugs no longer needed. It is dangerous to the environment to flush them into the sewer, and not safe to have them around the house. This is an opportunity to get rid of the drugs safely.
“There will be no questions asked,” said David Marquez, executive director of the Coalition.
Quashen added that education is the best tool in preventing a child from becoming addicted.
“When our kids are babies we lock everything up and make everything safe. We need to continue to do that,” he said.
“Medication should be secured in the household,” said Glendale Officer Joe Allen in an earlier interview. “It should be monitored and accounted for especially after a sleep over.”
Quashen said there are things that can be done to make children safe.
“Parents call us for help whenever they find out there is something wrong. Can you overreact when you find out your kid is using drugs? I don’t think so.”
For information on Action visit them online at www.actionfamily.org or call (800) 367-8336. For information on the drug drop off visit www.cvyouthsupport.com.