MINNEAPOLIS– There are many reasons why this specific day of the year is special. But there’s also a lesser-known reason why it’s a dangerous vacation for teens.
He’s only 16, but Dominic has a lot to think about: “I look back on my story, what I used to do and the things I can do to change it.”
He grew up with his mother and sisters in the Twin Cities, “I never had a father figure. I went out, I tried to find that brotherhood, because I always wanted a brother too.”
He says he found it, along with a group of friends – who introduced him to drugs. It started when he was around 13 with weed, “It was weed, and then with the crowd of people I was hanging out with, it went straight to fentanyl.”
He says it’s the easiest time of year to use: “In the summer there’s no school, so it’s not like there’s a place where you can get in trouble. In the summer there are a lot more people outside, more activities, more things going on, parties.”
At age 15, drugs nearly killed Dom. He took two benefits – pills with fentanyl, “I was sitting on the floor in the dark and taking the pill. I don’t remember anything else after that. From what my friends told me said… they turned on the light and i was lying face down on the wet floor and my face was purple, my hands my arms my feet my face was all pale and someone said i even had the I felt like my hair was going blonde. They woke me up giving me 4 milligrams of Narcan. Then I woke up and there were like ten flashlights around me saying you’re lucky to be alive. ..”
As surprising as her story is, it is far from unique. Especially this time of year.
Sadie Brown is the Minnesota Deputy Director of the Prevention and Recovery Alliance.
“Statistically, the 4th of July brings double the number of teens to the ER for drug or alcohol use on any other weekend in the summer,” Brown said. She says it’s because of the freedom of summer, less school, less structure and so many parties that revolve around alcohol.
She says a good way to keep the long summer days drug-free is to talk with teens and ask them to come up with a punishment before something goes wrong, “We find that having students involved in this conversation is very helpful simply because if you break the rule this is not the consequence I am imposing on you here but this is a family conversation about the risks and it is dangerous.”
She says red flag teens are struggling like Dom was – isolation, increased spending and things that just feel OFF.
As for Dom, he says he feels like he’s had a second chance at life: “Everyone I know said fuck Dom, you look different, you went from a zombified person to a supermodel, you just look crazy bro.”
He strives to maintain that new look and feel of treatment at the MN Adult and Teen Challenge – where he learned welding – a new trade – and a new outlook. He says his future looks bright: “I can’t really explain it, but a big change has happened.”
Teen Challenge has a virtual Zoom drop-in program this summer — where anyone can learn more about addiction and find resources.
Groups take place virtually on Tuesdays at 12 p.m. and Thursdays at 2 p.m. More information here.
General resources for parents and teens are available here.