Burdies Borders came to the Atlantic County Building in Atlantic City on Wednesday night to find out how he can help the youth keep away from drugs.
The 15 Minute Child Break presentation by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey educates parents and others raising children on how to talk about alcohol, drug and tobacco use.
But as Kyran Killian showed drug paraphernalia that might go undetected by many parents, Borders was already familiar.
The hookah pipe Killian held has grown in popularity among adults who mix cigarette tobacco with wine to have a sweet smoke.
"That's not all they're using it for," Borders said.
The Atlantic City man said he began using drugs when he was 12 years old. After 20 years, he ended up at the Rescue Mission — and in a program.
Now 49, he has been clean 16 years.
The youngest of his eight children — boys 13 and 19 — live with him. He talks to them about drugs and his own struggles. But he wants to do more.
"I'm here to see how I can help get to the youth," Borders said. "I want to get involved in helping them understand there's more out there than doing drugs and dealing."
And, while Borders avoided jail himself, he knows much of the crime in the city can be traced to drug use.
That is why Stop the Violence of Atlantic County and the Atlantic County Sheriff's Office teamed up to sponsor two Child Break presentations. A second will be held 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology in Mays Landing.
"It's related to all the crimes that you see," Sheriff Frank Balles said. "The burglaries, the thefts, a majority of the assaults, the shootings, it all comes back to drugs."
Keeping children off them can start with 15 minutes a day, Killian said.
Studies have found that parents who talk to their children for at least 15 minutes a day about things that are important to them are 67 percent less likely to ever try marijuana.
And while many say marijuana is not addictive, it is proven to have a "psychological addiction," Killian said.
For some, the high soon isn't enough, he said, as Borders nodded in agreement in the audience. In other cases, the marijuana — which is stronger than decades ago — is sometimes mixed with other drugs or dipped in things such as formaldehyde or PCP, which is known on the street as "wet" or "waki."
Talking to children has to start at a young age, Killian said, citing numbers that show that by the end of eighth grade, 39 percent have tried alcohol, 20 percent have tried illicit drugs, 15 percent have smoked marijuana and 21 percent have smoked cigarettes.
The study found that while 18 percent of eighth-graders said they had gotten drunk at least once, by 10th grade the number jumped to 42 percent.
But illegal drugs and alcohol aren't all those with children in their home need to worry about.
"Who knew Grandma kept a stash!" said a bag holding an information packet handed out as part of the presentation.
"Prescription drugs are the number one most abused drug in the nation because they are so readily available," Killian said.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free N.J. suggests locking up prescription pills not just for children that live in the home, but those who may visit.
With a small turnout Wednesday, "we want to take this where it's needed," county Stop the Violence Chairman Perry Mays said. "Into the community where there's a targeted audience."
Ernestine Smith, also of Stop the Violence, said there need to be a few changes to take the community into consideration. Parents aren't necessarily able to follow suggestions that include having five meals a week with their children.
"Parents work opposite hours from their children," she said. "It's not that they don't care. It just needs to be done in another way."
But the presentation is something they all should see, Smith added.
"Even I learned some things," she said.
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