"Studies consistently show that parents are the most important factor in their child’s decision to use drugs. When you talk to your kids knowledgeably about the dangers of drugs, when you plainly tell them drug use—not even once—will not be tolerated, and when you set an example of healthy choices, you prevent your child from going down drugs’ destructive path. DEA wants to share our knowledge with you. We want you to learn to identify drugs and paraphernalia and to be familiar with use trends, side effects, and warning signs. This website will give you that knowledge and then some. Armed with the facts, you will be a powerful ally to your children to keeping them safe and resisting drugs for the rest of their lives." -Administrator, Michele Leonhart
Rich Isaacson, Special Agent
My name is Rich Isaacson and I have been a Special Agent with the DEA for 16 years. I grew up in Michigan, and after graduating from Michigan State University and the DEA Academy in Quantico, Virginia, I’ve worked in the DEA’s Detroit Division Office. Working for the DEA is very meaningful to me. In a nutshell, our mission is to identify and dismantle the large-scale drug trafficking groups that operate here in the U.S. It is very rewarding to work on drug investigations in your hometown, especially large scale investigations that lead to the successful prosecutions of dealers from out of state, but it is not the most rewarding work that I’ve done in my career.
To me, nothing is more important than talking to teenagers and their parents about the dangers of drug use. For the past couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to work as the Public Information Officer for DEA’s Detroit Field Division. In that role, I try to reduce the demand for illegal drugs through education. Yes, 99.9% of what we do in the DEA is reducing the supply of illegal drugs, but we realize that there is such a large drug use problem in our country, that law enforcement needs to work closely with professionals in drug prevention and drug treatment to fight this problem from a holistic approach. Strong enforcement is important, but so is consistent drug prevention!
Special Agent Rich Isaacson, father of two
Public Information Officer, Detroit Field Division
Keith Adkins, Special Agent
Hi, my name is Keith Adkins and I am a Special Agent with the DEA. I have been with the DEA for approximately 21 years and have worked in cities like New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
In Baltimore, I've served as the Demand Reduction Coordinator and, during my time in this role, I've had the opportunity to travel the country, providing the latest drug-related information to many different audiences: grade school children, colleges and universities; physicians, nurses and social workers; law enforcement personnel and treatment, prevention and intervention specialists.
In speaking to this wide variety of audiences, I've found that no matter who they are, they still share a few common traits. The first thing I noticed was the shared need and desire to learn about different forms of drugs, drug abuse and the phenomena of addiction—no matter to whom I was speaking, they always wanted to know more. The second thing I noticed in speaking to children across the nation was how knowledgeable they were about different types of drugs. I discovered that children as young as kindergarten age could explain, in their own way, the definition of the word "addiction" as well as provide clear and concise definitions of specific drugs from marijuana to pharmaceutical drugs—and that still amazes me to this day.
For parents, I would like to inform you that, unlike our generation, today's children and young adults have avenues to information that were never available to us before. One of the biggest mistakes that we all could make is thinking that our youth are naive to information relating to the world of drugs and drug abuse. This type of information, good or bad, is thrust in front of their faces on a daily basis and they already know more about drugs at this stage in their lives than we ever dared to know.
Another way that today's kids differ from the youth of our generation is that when we were growing up, we understood that "no means no." Today's kids want detailed explanations as to why things are the way they are, making it even more imperative that we as adults are armed with accurate and sufficient explanations and answers.
With the assistance of technology, education and social awareness, our children and society have evolved to a higher aptitude level. Most youth have absolutely no desire to ever experiment with drugs or associate with drug dealers or drug abusers, but if we are to ever get some type of control and understanding of this issue, we cannot afford to neglect the few who are undecided. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we will always have some type of drug abuse problem in the United States to deal with, especially when alcohol and tobacco, two of the most addictive and deadliest drugs known to man, are deemed legal as long as you are a certain age.
The good news is that society has finally come to the realization that drug prevention efforts combined with intervention, education and treatment are a powerful and effective combination necessary to combat, alleviate and/or ameliorate our country's drug abuse problem.
We cannot deny the statistics that show that the numbers of youth actively involved with drug abuse have waned considerably in the last seven years or so. I believe this is because of the increased emphasis being placed on overall prevention efforts. Our nation's children are getting the overall picture—they finally understand the dangers that drugs pose to the body and the brain. But we still have work to do—especially when those same statistics show that children believe pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana to be "safe". Parents we need your help!
Special Agent Keith Adkins
Baltimore District Office
Jimmy Capra, Special Agent
I am a firm believer that parents need to be in their kids’ space and often times in their face. I have heard some parents say that they don’t want to “invade their son or daughter’s privacy.” I am telling you that their safety and well being depends on your invasion of that perceived privacy. In fact, their very lives depend on it!
And the only way to do this is to have face time with them on a regular basis and to find out what is going on in their lives and to know who they are hanging out with. As a parent, if you are not involved in your kid’s space, then you can rest assured that someone else is.
Jimmy Capra, father of six
DEA Special Agent in Charge, Dallas Division
Chuvalo Truesdell, Special Agent
A parent's role, or the role of both parents is vitally important to a child maintaining a healthy, drug-free and productive life. I have given hundreds of drug education presentations to a wide variety of parents and school-aged children. Whether the parental group was inner-city or affluent, the message was always the same. I always began each presentation with a video clip. The video portrayed a young boy (approximately 10-12 years of age) sitting on his bed listening to music. His father approaches him and presents a box, about the size of a cigar box. The father asks the son, “Where did you get this?” The boy tries to reply and is interrupted by the father asking, “Where did you learn this stuff?” The boy emphatically replies, “From you, I learned it by watching you”. The narrator of the video then says, “Parents who use drugs have kids who use drugs.” This is so true. I always remind parents that they cannot condone drinking or smoking at home because they are giving their consent for their children to model this behavior outside of the home.
In addition, parents often ask me, “How old should my child be before I talk to him/her about drug use?” It is my humble opinion that this conversation be had between late 3rd and early 4th grade. Based upon my direct experience in having served in the prevention arena as a DEA Special Agent for nine years, I noticed that 4th graders have a keen awareness about the drug culture (legal and illegal substances). They may not be involved, but they have a vast understanding of the culture.
Continuing, I stress to parents that they should educate themselves about the signs and symptoms (behavioral & psychological) of drug use in the event that their children are experimenting with drugs. Without this knowledge how can they diagnose a problem? Some parents give their children far too much freedom as it relates to conducting random searches of their kid’s rooms. “My question to the parents is "How many of your children pay the mortgage?” The answer is always none. I, therefore, encourage them to conduct random searches, especially if they suspect a problem.
Also, I share with children and parents the inevitable reality that some day (sooner or later) someone is going to offer their kids drugs. I go further by saying that it could be a friend or even a family member. This is the time at which I make it clear that my older brother offered me marijuana on countless occasions, but I always said no. I continue by saying that I was never close to saying yes because I was comfortable with who I was and that I had already made a strong commitment to say no regardless of who the offer came from. The last point is (and this may be directed to the student-athletes) that having gained a four year football scholarship in college, I always heard about my teammates using this or that drug… Case in point, I always heard and had no direct knowledge of this alleged drug use. This was so because my teammates knew that they could not bring that trash around me. I simply would not stand for it. This is the example that the young people have to set, in that it would make their teammates and peers feel so uncomfortable trying to attempt such a thing around them.
In closing, I have to say that the last challenge goes to the parents. Statistics say that if a parent is successful in keeping their kid drug-free until around the age of 16, then that kid is likely to be drug-free for a lifetime. Therefore, the parents should be up to the challenge of openly communicating these truths about the dangers of drug use with their children. Thus, they will have more successes (perhaps even successes) than failures in keeping their children drug-free.
Special Agent Chuvalo Truesdell, father of two