As summer approaches and children are out of school, parents should take the time to warn kids about the dangers of legal “drugs” that are for sale and readily available. These include bath salts, which are anything but safe, as well as a product called Lazy Cakes. Both are legally for sale at convenience stores, truck stops and smoke shops in many states. But just because they can be sold doesn’t mean that they are safe to use – especially for children. Bath Salts Still a Danger The controversial bath salts are actually a powder-like substance that is often described as fake cocaine. Bath salts are typically snorted, injected and smoked. They’re also illegal in ten states (including Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and North Dakota), but that leaves 40 others where danger exists for the unsuspecting users (or those who are deliberately using them to get high). The substance that’s most commonly added to the bath salt compound is the culprit. It’s usually the stimulant mephedrone (MDVP). Those who abuse bath salts say the effects are similar to that of ecstasy, methamphetamine and cocaine. Several states, including Illinois, Missouri and Texas, are moving to ban the sale of bath salts, but the product is still available legally and should be a parental cause for concern. Lazy Cakes – More Than Just Chocolate Lazy Cakes, marketed as “The Original Relaxation Brownie,” has become increasingly popular among adults because of the product’s ability to help them get to sleep and relax. But health professionals have raised concerns over the ingredients of Lazy Cakes, believing that they pose a health risk. The danger lies in the ingredient melatonin. The fact is that melatonin is a neuro-hormone which is produced in the body and helps us get to sleep. But the amount of melatonin in Lazy Cakes is two and a half times more than the quantity that’s recommended for use as a sleep aid. Too much melatonin can cause temporary respiratory depression and send the user into a deep sleep. Clearly labeled “for use by adults only,” this doesn’t stop underage teens from buying and consuming it. In fact, the brownie’s packaging is psychedelic and the cartoon character called Lazy Larry that’s pictured is clearly targeted toward children. Even in adults, Lazy Cakes are safe for use only when the consumer is well informed about them. The melatonin in the cakes can actually cause seizures in individuals who are predisposed to them. Fertility is also thought to be affected adversely, so anyone contemplating having children shouldn’t consume Lazy Cakes. But the real danger remains the children, some of whom have been hospitalized after eating Lazy Cakes. Who doesn’t love a chocolaty brownie? The lure can be irresistible. Other brands of melatonin-laced brownies include Lulia Pies and Kush Cakes. And they’re sold nationwide currently, often in the grocery aisles. Just recently, the Arkansas Department of Health issued a news release saying it is banning the sale of Lazy Cakes in the state because they contain melatonin, a substance not approved for general food use. The officials say that the product poses a potential health risk to consumers because the side effects of melatonin have not been fully determined. Lazy Cakes have been distributed throughout Arkansas, sold mostly in convenience stores as a snack food. Anyone who has a current supply of Lazy Cakes is urged to dispose of them. Two towns in Massachusetts, New Bedford and Fall River, are working to enact a ban on the sale of Lazy Cakes as well. What Parents Can Do If there’s one thing parents can do to avoid potential tragedy is to talk with their children about the dangers of Lazy Cakes and Bath Salts. Let your teens know that substances like Lazy Cakes and bath salts are dangerous – even though they can be purchased at a convenience store and may not yet be considered illegal. Here are some tips on how to approach talking about this subject:
- While it might not be the easiest thing parents have to do, initiating a dialog with their children about drug use is critically important. But you can’t just expect to jump into such conversation cold. Learn to listen to and respect what your children have to say. You don’t want to judge or be harsh in your comments. That’s because if your child shuts down initially, it may be difficult or impossible to open up the dialog about drug and alcohol use later.
- Establish clear boundaries and directions. Let your children know that drinking alcohol and using drugs is simply unacceptable. But do let them know that your concerns – and family rules – arise out of love.
- Research facts together with your children about substances – even if they’re considered legal – and the effects they can have on brain and body functions. Have discussions with your teens about various health issues related to drugs, alcohol and other substances – even if they seem harmless. You can also discuss laws against such use, as well as repercussions to using drugs, alcohol and other substances.
- Be prepared for the possibility that there may be some ambivalence on the part of your teen when it comes to discussing drug use and alcohol. If you continue to run into a barrier, consider getting professional help. The reason for this is that it’s better to address substance use and abuse early on before it becomes too entrenched or results in addiction.
Toolkit for Parents A handy resource for parents is a free toolkit, “What’s A Parent To Do?” which is available online from Recover Gateway. The toolkit contains helpful answers on drug and alcohol use by adolescents, including answers to the following questions:
- What are the signs your child might be using drugs or alcohol?
- How do you have the conversation about drugs and alcohol?
- How can you help a child get treatment?
Be Aware and Be Engaged With Your Children The best way to avoid potential health risks that may result in something serious or be a gateway to further drug use and addiction is to be aware of what’s going on in your children’s lives and to remain engaged with them. Do things together as a family. Express your affection openly and often. Be a good listener and respect your children’s right to say what they feel. Remember, if you do discover that your child has a problem with alcohol or drugs, or suspect that experimentation with substances is going on, it’s better to seek professional help early. Talk with your family doctor for a recommendation, or the school guidance counselor or nurse. If you need to find a treatment center, a good starting point is to go to the Treatment Facility Locator maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Or call their toll-free treatment referral helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.