MINNEAPOLIS -- There are many reasons this specific day of the year is special. But there's also a less known reason why it's a dangerous holiday for teenagers.
He's only 16, but Dominic has a lot to reflect on, "I am just looking back at my story and what I used to do and the things I can do to change it."
He grew up with his mom and sisters in the Twin Cities, "I never had a father figure. I kind of went out, try to find that brotherhood, cause I always wanted a brother, too."
He says he found it, 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 around, it just went straight to fentanyl."
He says this is the time of the year it was easiest to use, "Summer, there's just like no school, so it's not like there's a spot where you can get in trouble. Summer there's a lot more people outside, activities, more things going on, parties."
At 15, drugs almost killed Dom. He took two perks - pills with fentanyl, "I was sitting on the floor in the dark and I was doing the pill. I can't remember anything else after that. From what my friends tell me…they turned the light on and I was lying face down on the wet ground and my face was purple, my hands my arms, my feet, my face was all pale and someone said it even looked like my hair was turning blonde. They woke me up by giving me 4 milligrams of Narcan. Then I woke up and there was like ten flashlights around me saying you are lucky to be alive..."
As startling as his story is, it's far from unique. Especially this time of year.
Sadie Brown is Assistant Director Minnesota of Prevention and Recovery Alliance.
"Statistically, the 4th of July brings in double the amount of teenage boys into the emergency room for drug or alcohol use over any other weekend of the summer," Brown said. She says it's because of the freedom of the summer, less school, less structure and so many parties that revolve around alcohol.
She says a good way to keep the long days of summer drug-free is to talk with teens and have them come up with a punishment before anything goes wrong, "We find that having students involved in that conversation is very helpful simply because then if you break the rule, it's not here's the consequence I'm enforcing on you but it's a family conversation of what the risks are and that this is dangerous."
She says red flags teens are struggling like Dom was - isolation, increased spending and things just feeling OFF.
As for Dom, he says he feels like he got a second chance at life, "Every person I know said dang Dom, you look different, you went from being a Zombified person to like a supermodel, you just look crazy bro."
He's working to keep up that new look and feeling in treatment at MN Adult and Teen Challenge - where he's learned welding - a new trade - and a new perspective. 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 find out more about substance abuse and finding resources.
Groups are held virtually on Tuesdays at 12 p.m. and Thursdays at 2 p.m. More information can be found here.
General resources for parents and teens can be found here.
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