"Not My Kid" on 420

With nearly 40,000 drug-related deaths each year, "National Weed Day" can be the start down a tragic path; notMYkid.org focuses on parent awareness

When Richard was 18 he tried marijuana for fun with a new group of friends. In the weeks that followed, he tried ecstasy, cocaine and meth. Within a month of smoking pot for the first time, he was doing heroin – and his parents had no idea. Over time, he went from successful student and competitive dancer to fugitive, then inmate. His family feared he was dead.

On April 20 (420), also known as "National Weed Day," many kids around the world will try marijuana for the first time and parents need to understand the profound risks.

National non-profit notMYkid.org, which focuses on preventing the devastation of teen addiction, is launching a parent awareness and prevention campaign on the surprising dangers of the 420 culture, which most parents do not even know exists. Most are also unaware the average age for first-time drug experimentation is 13 and if a child starts using drugs, it is typically two years before parents realize there is a problem. 

Frighteningly, addictive substances physically alter the structure and function of the developing teen brain, which impairs judgment and heightens the risk of addiction.

The term 420 is the universal code for marijuana use and April 20 has become a counterculture holiday celebrating its use. notMYkid educates parents and encourages them to take action to protect their kids with information.

"Talking to your kids is only the first step," said Debbie Moak, founder of notMYkid and a mother who faced her own teen son's addiction. "We need parents to take action by getting on the same page, setting consistent boundaries, testing their kids, participating in their lives and most importantly, serving as positive role models. Through years of experience, notMYkid has found utilizing a drug test in the home helps kids avoid peer pressure situations by empowering them to say 'I can't, my parents might drug test me.'"

Through partnerships with Rural/Metro, a leading provider of private ambulance and fire protection services, and First Check, the leader in home diagnostic testing, notMYkid will distribute thousands of free home drug tests on Thursday, April 19  – a donation of more than $250,000. Distribution sites will be announced at Rural/Metro locations in San DiegoOrange Countyand Los Angeles County, Calif., metro-Phoenix, metro-AtlantaOrlando, Fla.Rochester and Syracuse, NY and Knoxville, Tenn.

"As 911 responders, our work focuses on the health and safety of the citizens we are called to serve, and it breaks our hearts to see kids lose their lives to drugs," said Rural/Metro President and Chief Executive Officer Michael DiMino. "We have chosen to partner with notMYkid to serve, educate and protect families and to encourage parents to take a proactive stance when it comes to teens and drugs."

notMYkid's peer-to-peer program sends young adults who have overcome life-controlling addictions and behaviors into the community to share their stories, an effort making a significant difference in young lives. Every year, notMYkid speaks to more than 100,000 kids and tens of thousands of parents. Richard lost seven years of his life to drugs. Since his recovery, with help from notMYkid and his family, he now shares his story as a notMYkid peer educator.

For more information on 420, the warning signs of teen drug addiction and advice on developing a family drug prevention plan, visit notMYkid.org.