Parents get the low-down on substance abuse

Substance use among Wilton’s youth will be the topic of a presentation at Wilton Library on Tuesday, Feb. 23, from 10 to 11:30, called Not My Kid: What’s Really Happening with Marijuana, Binge Drinking and E-Cigarettes in Wilton.

“I am a parent of two high school students and a 20-year-old, and it’s impossible for me to really know what they do when I am not present,” said Genevieve Eason, a member of Wilton Youth Council’s board and chair of its Parent Connection Committee.

“As the title says, this presentation will inform us about what’s really happening.”

The Wilton Youth Council, Wilton Library, Silver Hill Hospital and Positive Directions are sponsoring this educational event for parents, during which the results of Positive Directions’ 2014-15 youth and parent surveys on substance use in Wilton will be discussed. Click here to read a story on those surveys.

Parental perception of substance use and deterrents to it will be addressed, and there will be information about binge drinking, e-cigarettes and marijuana, and risks that parents might not have considered.

Professionals will also provide advice for parents on how to recognize signs of substance use among their children and what they should do if they suspect they need help.

Wendy Bentivegna, grant director for Positive Directions, will share the results of the Positive Directions youth and parent surveys and briefly discuss e-cigarettes and binge drinking. She and Wilton Public Schools Outreach Counselor Kristin Dineen will be available to answer questions about the survey.

Dr. John Douglas, clinical director of the Outpatient Addiction Program at Silver Hill Hospital, will also share information about substances like marijuana.

Power of knowledge

“Surveys show that kids in Wilton use substances at higher rates than parents believe they do,” said Eason, “and they consistently cite parental disapproval as an important deterrent to using substances.”

Because of this, Eason said, parents “need the facts about substance use in Wilton.”

“We like to think that the kids who use substances are ‘not my kid,’ but even if our own child hasn’t tried substances yet, he or she spends time with peers who do — and our kids will definitely be exposed to all of these substances when they go to college,” she said.

Parents need to understand the substances that are available to Wilton youth nowadays in order to “feel comfortable talking with our children about them,” said Eason.

“A lot of today’s parents are familiar with marijuana from our experience with it when we were young,” she said.

“We might not be aware that marijuana has changed since we were growing up, which means that the experience of using marijuana and the risks of marijuana use have also changed.”

E-cigarettes, which are “growing in popularity,” said Eason, will be among the substances discussed during the event.

“They are marketed as the ‘safe’ and ‘healthy’ alternative to cigarettes,” she said, “but when parents learn more about them, our perception of how safe they are will probably shift.”

Eason said it’s important for parents to be able to “recognize signs that our child might need help dealing with substance use, and know where to turn.”

“With knowledge,” she said, “we are empowered to teach our children to take care of themselves now while they live at home with us, and as they get older and leave the nest.”

The Not My Kid event is free of charge, but registration is strongly encouraged.

For more information or to register, visit or call 203-762-6334.