Do you know what 4/20 means? Even if you don't recognize Friday's date as a reference to marijuana, odds are, your kids will. As our Kat De Maria tells us, agencies in Onondaga County are using it as an opportunity to encourage parents to talk with,or even test their kids for drugs.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- While your child is sitting in middle school, you may expect him or her to daydream about the latest clothes or sneakers, getting together with friends or even going on a date.
You might not anticipate thoughts of drugs, like marijuana. But advocates say 13 is the average age for first-time use.
"It's available just about everywhere. Kids can get their hands on it. And it's something parents need to know about and talk to their kids about," said Maritza Alvarado, medical director for the Syracuse City School District.
Parents also may not know that this week some pot enthusiasts will celebrate 4/20. The "counterculture holiday," and its theme, are taboo. But Rural Metro Medical Services in Syracuse are turning it into an opportunity. They're offering parents 600 free drug testing kits.
"It's really designed to get the kits and the education materials into the hands of parents who will use them with their children," said Rural Metro spokesperson Melissa Fleischmann.
"There are just so many drugs out there and it really has become sort of a social norm in many communities. We need as many programs as we can to counteract that," said Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Morrow.
Using the kit is easy. You simply take the cup out and ask your child to give a sample. After that, you close the lid and the kit all by itself will tell you what, if any, of 12 illegal or prescription drugs are in his or her system. And it only takes five minutes.
"It's really discreet. You can do it in the privacy of your own home," Fleischmann said.
Advocates say for some families, the kit may serve simply as a communication tool to start a conversation about drug use. For those who do use the kit, Rural Metro is also offering literature with advice for any outcome.
"The most important thing we can do as parents is protect our children. And this is one mechanism to do that," Morrow said.
...And keep middle and high schoolers focused on school, friends and preparing for a healthy future.
The free drug testing kits will be available Thursday and Friday at Rural Metro Medical Services on West Onondaga Street in Syracuse. Anyone interested in more information can call Rural Metro at (315) 471-0102.