April 04, 2016 —

This February, I had the honor to represent the Five Moms at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum, a four-day training event that brings together community drug prevention coalitions (national and international), youth, government leaders, addiction specialists, law enforcement professionals and faith-based leaders. The conference provided a wealth of topics regarding substance use/abuse. Notable was Skittling, Dexing, Triple C’s, Robotripping, a widely attended session which explored teen over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse; specifically, how teens use the internet- YouTube, Instagram and Twitter to learn how to get high on DXM (dextromethorphan). As a parent and professional, I walked away with a better understanding of DXM use, as well as with an awareness of some great outreach and education tools. I particularly loved the coalition sharing segment of the session! Learning how various coalitions conduct DXM and medicine abuse prevention efforts was so helpful. Coalition work can sometimes be really hard; the need is so high and most have little staff. Therefore, easy to implement best practices can make it possible for coalitions to have critical conversations about OTC use and abuse. 

While at the Leadership Forum, I attend several sessions that focused on some of the root causes of adolescent substance abuse. For example, one session discussed the disproportionately high rates of substance use, particularly alcohol and medicine abuse by gay and transgender teens. It is estimated that between 20-30% of gay and transgender people abuse substances. As they cope with stigma, harassment and even rejection by their families, LGBTQ teens are more likely to abuse OTC and prescription drugs to handle the stress that comes with everyday incidences of discrimination. To complicate this issue, prevention efforts like those done by local coalitions have difficulty engaging LGBTQ teens. The session provided a wealth of strategies for fostering welcoming and inclusive environments for LGBTQ teens as well as identifying and utilizing existing resources and collaborations to provide LGBTQ communities with the information they need regarding substance abuse. It also discussed how to identify LGBTQ venues and spaces (online and physical) where LGBTQ communities can be reached and engaged. 

One of the most exciting and important parts of the CADCA forum is Capitol Hill Day, when coalitions meet with their federal representatives. I have participated in this event at previous conferences, however this time I had the privilege to do so on behalf of the Five Moms. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the organization that leads the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign, is working to support federal and state legislation to ban the sale of OTC cough medicines containing DXM to minors (those aged 17 or younger) and to ban the sale of raw, unfinished DXM to ensure only entities registered with FDA – such as scientists, researchers and manufacturers – have access to this form of the ingredient. During Capitol Hill Day we met with legislators from my state, New York, to discuss the pervasiveness of the abuse – for example, roughly one out of three teenagers knows someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high. At these meetings, we considered how a nationwide ban on sales of cough medicine to minors would lead to a greater decrease in the abuse rate of these medicines by teens, while also maintaining access for the millions of legitimate consumers of these products each year. I am hopeful that these conversations will aid in the passage of the DXM Abuse Prevention Act of 2015, but we need your help too! Click here to contact your legislators.

This was one the best CADCA forums I have attended (in all honestly they are always excellent), but what made this experience different was my role as a mom. I first wanted to become part of the Five Moms campaign because it was an opportunity for me to combine the roles I love most, motherhood and prevention education. This was the case at the CADCA forum, too. I left feeling empowered and hopeful; I left equipped with strategies for critical conversations with my family and tools for my prevention education career – all of which I will use in working with my fellow moms to help stop medicine abuse.