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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Canyon VIew

  Our beloved feeder school, Canyon View Elementary, is a big 25 tomorrow.  Happy Birthday to Canyon View.  This year, Esperero Canyon students of writing and lit read Whirligig.  Students actually made whirligigs, wrote messages on them and fastened them to the fence between our two schools as a sign of friendship.  We love you Canyon View!  Happy birthday, COYOTES!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Marijuana's Lasting Effects on the Brain | National Institute on Drug Abuse

In my next several blog entries, I am going to feature information about different types of substances that young people abuse.  I will also feature some of the anonymous question cards submitted by students during the presentation.  I will conclude this series with some tips for parents gleaned from my own experience working with students plus that of our two counselors, Adele Bromiel and Caryl Altman.

I will focus on marijuana in this posting.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States."

There is solid research that supports that marijuana is linked to the premature aging of the the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory).  The study was done at Oxford University in England by a professor of pharmacology who found the brain atrophy in young people who were heavy marijuana users to be equal to that of 70-90 year olds.  Studies of rats also suggest that THC may hasten the aging of the brain.  (Schwartz, RH 1987, Paediatric Clinics of North America, 34:305-311).  Here is a link to an article from the NIDA that every parent needs to read about marijuana's effects on the brain:


One question that we received from several students during Patrick Barrasso's recent presentation went something like "Why can't we use marijuana, it's natural?"   These days, marijuana is a big business and the hybridization of marijuana produces a more potent product with a higher percentage of THC. So, much of the marijuana being sold is not "natural."  Moreover, "natural" doesn't make it good for one's health.  Some of the world's most toxic poisons could be considered "natural."

Another card I read stated "I heard you can't be addicted to pot." This is a myth.  Kids can get hooked on pot.  More young people enter treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other legal drugs combined.  


There are many informational websites about marijuana and other substances that have been created for parents:  Parents, the Anti-Drug is a website that offers guidance and advice to help parents.  National Institute on Drug Abuse's mission is to "lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction."  

If you think your child might be having a substance abuse problem, please seek professional help. Your  pediatrician is a great place to start.

Here at Esperero Canyon Middle School, your child is very important to us. Please let us know if we can do anything to assist you.  Our counselors are excellent resources:

 6th graders, Adele Bromiel at 209-8112 email:
 7th/8th graders, Caryl Altman at 209-8105 email:

If you have any questions or suggestions pertaining what information parents need or want to read about in my blog, please feel free to email me at

May all of our Eagles have a safe and wonderful weekend with family and friends.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Patrick, Ed, and Sam on Addictions

Today, Patrick Barrasso, social worker and addictions counselor, returned to ECMS with  2 young men named Sam and Ed.  The 8th grade students listened as the two clean young people spoke about their fight to reclaim their lives from drug and alcohol addiction.  Sam is 21 and Ed is 18; both have had continuous sobriety for 2 years plus.

Sam, an athlete and musician, began by drinking "to feel cool."  He said was an easy way to be relaxed.   He started with alcohol and ended up taking a downward spiral.  He states: "I watched space grow in between me and my family."  

Ed's parents divorced and he lost his dad to drug overdose. He was an athlete and a stellar student.  He stated "I was socially awkward and drugs and alcohol made me feel great.  I could escape everything with alcohol."

Both Ed and Sam were quick to point out that they never forgot the way that alcohol and drugs made them feel at the beginning of their addiction.  Sam said that drinking and taking drugs quickly went from "something I wanted to do to something I had to do. " 

Ed said that when he initially started doing drugs, he still did sports and was a good student.  That was in 6th  grade.  By the time he was in his sophomore year, everything had slipped:  his grades, his performance.  By the time he was 15, he was a full blown heroin addict.

Both boys became sober after longterm residential therapy.  They consider themselves lucky.  They each talked about a friend who died as a result of addiction.  Patrick Barrasso also talked about having had to speak at 2 funerals of "beautiful young people" right here in Tucson, who died as a result of addiction.  All three talked of the tragedies surrounding these lost lives and of the gaping holes that the passing of these young people left in their families.

The message was very clear.  Some people who use drugs and alcohol will become addicted.  Patrick stated that research shows drinking and using drugs in middle school (ages 11-14) can affect the brain in permanent ways.  Students that abuse substances in middle school can become full blown addicts by high school, much earlier than in previous generations. 

Both Ms. Castro and I have lost precious students in alcohol-related incidents during our many years in the classroom.  We talked afterward in the office about how wonderful these students had been and how dearly they are missed.  

Many thanks to Patrick, Ed, and Sam.  It takes courage to share one's story of recovery.  But they are recovering and helping others to avoid this dark and tragic path.  

Tomorrow, we'll talk about more specific facts about substance abuse.  Knowledge is power and we want to empower our students to make good choices.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Family Fall DInner Moved to Thursday, October 4

Save the date!  The FFO ECMS Family Fall Dinner has been changed to October 4..  It's a Thursday and the day of the Fall ECMS CHOIR CONCERT.  So eat a wonderful Mexican meal and go to the choir concert.  More details soon!  Sponsored by our ECMS FFO right here at ECMS.  From 5 to 6:45 in the commons.

No Late Start Wednesday on September 5

Remember that there is no late start tomorrow, Wednesday, Spetember 5. School will start and end at the regular times.  This is because of our short week.  Whenever we have a short week, we do not have late start Wednesdays.  Tomorrow, buses will run at the regular non-late start time.