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NKSD drug, alcohol night draws crowd

POULSBO — What does a bong look like? What drugs do kids experiment with first? Does alcohol really lead to harder things? As if reading the minds of the nearly 80 adults gathered in the North Kitsap Auditorium Wednesday Daniel Bissonnette, opened the doors to world most parents would rather not ever see.

Bissonnette, a chemical dependency professional and executive director of A Chance to Change, a local agency providing alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention and intervention services, took center stage as he unlocked the portal. A continued dialogue between Bissonnette and the audience took place during a meeting session lasting nearly three hours.

The majority of parents asked Bissonnette questions about how to detect possible drug use by children.

“Hopefully, this is the most valuable information you’ll never need to know,” Bissonette said. “The most important thing I want to do tonight is to make sure I get your questions answered.”

The reason Bissonnette hauls around a bundle of drug paraphernalia whenever he’s a guest speaker, is because some parents wouldn’t even know what it would look like if it was right in front of them.

“A lot of people don’t really know what bongs look like,” he said.

Bissonnette showed parents countless examples of drug paraphernalia, unveiling items used for drugs many parents had never seen and wouldn’t expect. He also talked about ways children will try to mask drug usage from their parents.

“Household items like free-breeze and eye drops are used to cover up usage,” he said.

Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol reach to nearly every corner of society posing a risk to youth throughout the United States, he said.

“Drugs are everywhere. They’re usually introduced through social interaction by a friend or relative,” Bissonnette said. “Typically alcohol, marijuana and tobacco are the first things someone will try.”

Lighting up a cigarette, he said, is one of the most dangerous things a child can do. According to Bissonnette, 6,250 people in the United States start smoking every day. The average age of new smokers is 17.

“The ammonia in cigarettes gets into a smoker’s bloodstream very fast,” he said. “The ammonia basically freebases the nicotine into the bloodstream. Tobacco is the hardest thing for a person to quit.”

Cigarettes tend to be among the first things youth experiment with.

“The average age in Washington is 11 years old when a child first tries smoking,” Bissonnette said. “When this happens, the parents usually aren’t there. The risk of a child experimenting goes up when the people get thinner (less people paying attention).”

Later in the evening, Bissonnette shifted gears and began talking about more “serious” drugs and their consequences, discussing the dangerous underworld of the rave party scene.

“At these clubs, there’s no booze. Many of the people at raves are on ecstasy,” he said. “Ecstasy is very similar to methamphetamine in a pill form.”

Bissonnette said he knows two people who attended a rave undercover, to get a better understanding of what takes place at these kind of events.

“People at the rave were really scared because they could tell (the two individuals he knew) weren’t high,” he said. “While they were there they were offered a lot of drugs.”

Throughout Bissonette’s presentation, he spoke of the disease continuum regarding drugs and alcohol usage, which includes four sections consisting of experimentation, misuse, abuse and chemical dependency.

“Experimentation is when a person does something for the first time,” Bissonette said. “After someone experiments for the first time they have one of the most important decisions they can make in their entire life. Either they will do it again or they won’t do it again. They get a chance to decide.”

Bissonnette said it’s important for a child’s first experimentation with drugs and alcohol to be a memorable one, but for all of the wrong reasons.

“If they remember how bad it was, they may not do it again,” he said. “If they always remember (the) negative reaction, it may stick with them.”

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