Even in our connected and technological age, stigma persists about drug addiction. Parents may not want to believe that their child could become a drug addict, and there is still much misunderstanding about things such as prescription drug abuse and its risks. Education is a vital approach for dealing with this stigma and these prevalent misconceptions, and a recent forum held by the Council on Addiction Prevention and Education (CAPE) and the Wappingers Central School District (Dutchess County, New York) is a perfect example of the value of the approach. The increasing rates of drug abuse in Dutchess County is of great concern to politicians and local experts, and the success of the mid-March program by the Wappingers school district has led numerous other districts to plan similar events in April, with the aim of curbing the growing issue.
What Happens At Drug Abuse Forums?
Drug abuse forums give those with direct experience of addiction and the process of recovery to share their stories, offering educational messages to the audiences, who are often teens but could also include their parents and members of the local community. This allows those in attendance to understand the sheer scope of the harm caused by drug abuse and addiction, and although not all of the stories end positively, many offer hope to those struggling with addiction by showing that recovery is possible. Talks will either be given by the ex-users themselves or by family members or loved ones. Due to their emotional nature, they are frequently poignant, moving and memorable.
Lessons Learned The Hard Way
The event held in March featured many such stories told to a full auditorium at John Jay Senior High School. This was partially thanks to a new initiative on the part of high school coaches that makes attendance mandatory for student athletes, an approach praised by CAPE. The talks cut through the stigma surrounding addiction and showed that the process is very much one of “learning lessons the hard way.”
One speaker was Suzanne DeCosta, who spoke about her son’s addiction to narcotic painkillers and heroin. She described him as “smart, funny and lovable,” but during his teen years, what was once recreational drug use turned into addiction. DeCosta comments that “as a parent, you don’t ever want to believe your child is an addict,” but points out that this is wishful thinking—it can happen to anyone. Her son Michael overdosed on heroin, and has had numerous stretches in rehab. At present, he is two years sober, but the family is more than aware that it will require continued effort on his part to stay in recovery. They say they’re lucky to have him alive.
Other stories didn’t have the same positive, uplifting ending: Marcia Grant’s son, Roger, died at the age of 41 from a heroin overdose in a motel room. She described her son in his youth as “bright” and “affectionate,” but added that he was impulsive and reckless, pointing out that he broke a lot of bones. Doctors advised them that he would experience a lot of pain, and Marcia says they were right, “Pain, both physical and emotional […] kept bringing him back to drugs.”
The first signs of a problem came in his teen years when Roger’s grades began to slip and his behavior changed notably. He started to lie and his moods changed, and eventually—at the age of 22—he admitted to his issues and his parents tried to get him help. He was in and out of rehab centers, attending 11 inpatient programs, but would only have brief periods of sobriety and stability. He almost overdosed several times, and got into trouble with the law through his addiction. “At the time we didn’t realize that there was no simple fix,” said Martha. She added that he’d wanted to warn children about the risks of drugs, and she wanted to pursue this goal for him, in his absence.
Why These Events Are Essential
Drug education is vital, but dry repetition of statistics, risk ratios and far-off consequences don’t always pack much of a punch, particularly from an emotional perspective. The stories shared at drug abuse forums provide evidence for the potential consequences, but also offer a personal insight into the nature of addiction and the difficulties faced in recovery. The stories are real, told by somebody at the center of it all, and have more power to capture the attention of teens as a result. The consequences of drug abuse might not come immediately, but these speakers remind teens and parents that they do come eventually. If you don’t learn the lessons now and try to get clean, the problem will snowball until you’re forced to learn them the hard way. As more of these messages get out, fewer teens will need to learn them from life-threatening, first-hand experience.
05 May 2014
Prescription drug abuse is a major problem across the U.S. and for people of all age groups. Teens, however, are particularly vulnerable and if you have children you should be aware of the risks and dangers. There are two main kinds of drugs being abused by young people: narcotic painkillers and stimulants. The former are used to get a high, but the latter are often abused as a study aid. Stimulants, like those used to treat ADHD, produce wakefulness and many teens use them to stay up at night for studying.
The statistics regarding teen abuse of prescription drugs are alarming. Since 2008, abuse has risen by 33 percent. The statistics also show that most young people do not believe there are any risks in abusing prescriptions and that parents are largely ignorant when it comes to their children’s abuse of these drugs as well as the risks. Learn how to keep your teen safe.
Where Do Teens Get Prescription Drugs?
The first line of defense against abuse of prescriptions by your teen is to limit her access to them. So where are teens getting these medications? The most common location for teens to find prescriptions is the medicine cabinet. Teens get drugs right from their own homes. If they can’t find them there, they turn to their friends’ medicine cabinets. Many people are prescribed narcotics and stimulants, so finding them in homes is not difficult.
If the drugs cannot be pilfered, your teen can most likely buy them. Buying and selling prescriptions in high schools are common. Your teen may also be able to purchase medications online. Illegal pharmacies will not hesitate to sell to a teen.
How Can I Limit My Teen’s Access To Prescriptions?
With prescription medications so prevalent in homes, at schools and online, you need to be especially vigilant to restrict your teen’s access. If you have prescriptions in your home, keep them in a locked cabinet. If your teen has been prescribed one of these commonly abused medications, keep it locked up and dose it out to her as directed by her doctor. A common source for stolen medications is expired pills that have been forgotten or thrown in the trash. Be aware of your unused drugs, keep track of them and dispose of them properly.
Unfortunately, limiting your teen’s access to drugs at home is where your control ends. You cannot control her access at school or at friends’ houses. What you can do, though, is educate your teen about the risks and dangers of drug abuse. First read up for your own knowledge and then talk to your children about how harmful prescriptions can be. Although they are legal and prescribed by doctors, these factors do not mean they are safe for everyone.
It is also important to educate your family and friends about prescriptions and keeping them under control. Your teen may be able to find drugs at a grandparent’s house or any other family member’s, but if everyone kept tighter control of their medications, fewer drugs would end up on the black market.
Finally, it’s important that you maintain a close and open relationship with your teen. The more time you spend interacting and talking, the more able you will be to detect when something is wrong or if she is showing signs of abusing drugs. This healthy relationship will also mean that your teen will be more likely to come to you with questions, concerns, and problems related to drugs and drug abuse.
Social anxiety is a term used to describe the presence of substantial feelings of unease, tension or fear in social settings that most individuals don’t view as particularly negative or harmful. People seriously affected by these feelings may qualify for a diagnosis of a mental health condition called social phobia or social anxiety disorder. In a study published in January 2014 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers from Louisiana State University examined the connection between social anxiety and the chances that a college undergraduate will use marijuana or other forms of cannabis. These researchers found that socially anxious people tend to use cannabis only when they believe that certain social norms support this behavior.
Identifying Social Anxiety Disorder
Doctors consider diagnosing social anxiety disorder in people whose levels of social anxiety interfere with their ability to maintain a reasonable sense of mental equilibrium or participate in various aspects of a typical daily routine. Symptoms commonly found in people affected by serious social anxiety include:
- fear of judgment from others
- unease in the presence of others
- difficulty communicating with others
- tendency to avoid voluntary social contact
- extreme self-consciousness or easy embarrassment
- difficulty establishing or maintaining friendships
Physical indicators of social anxiety are:
- excessive sweating
- blushing in social situations
Most people first develop tendencies toward social anxiousness in early childhood or during their teenage years. Equal numbers of men and women experience symptoms profound enough to merit a social anxiety disorder diagnosis.
What Are Social Norms?
A social norm is a spoken or unspoken rule that helps govern the ways people interact in interpersonal, group or community settings. Some norms only operate on a relatively small scale (e.g., within a family or a close peer group), while others may operate on several levels or only on a broader social scale. As a rule, certain norms only have an effect when an individual believes that important or powerful people in his or her social group also endorse those norms. Other norms don’t necessarily receive an endorsement as acceptable behavior; nevertheless, they have an impact because an individual sees respected or influential people following them in everyday life. Broadly speaking, any person’s social environment is formed from a combination of norms he or she should follow and norms he or she actually follows.
Social Anxiety, Norms And Cannabis Use
In the study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, the Louisiana State University researchers looked at the interactions between social anxiety, cannabis use and the desire to follow social norms. They conducted their work with the help of 230 undergraduates at the university who were known users of marijuana or some other form of cannabis (i.e., hashish or hashish oil). The researchers undertook their study for a couple of reasons. First, mental health professionals and addiction specialists know that socially anxious people may develop problems with marijuana use more often than the general population. In addition, despite this fact, researchers know very little about how social norms influence the drug-using behaviors of socially anxious people.
After analyzing the social anxiety levels, social norms regarding cannabis use and actual cannabis-related behaviors in the study participants, the researchers concluded that social norms do have a significant impact on the chances that a socially anxious person will or won’t use cannabis or develop significant cannabis-related problems. However, perhaps surprisingly, the main influencing norms come from college students’ parents, not their peers. When a socially anxious student believes that his or her parents have a favorable view of cannabis use, the odds for participation in cannabis use increase substantially. In addition, a socially anxious student who believes his or her parents follow pro-cannabis norms has a greater chance of developing relatively minor and relatively severe problems related to cannabis intake. Conversely, a college student affected by social anxiety tends not to get involved in cannabis use when his or her parents regularly express anti-cannabis points of view.
The authors of the study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs do not discount the potential of social norms established among peers to influence a socially anxious college student’s chances of using cannabis or experiencing cannabis-related harm. However, they note that parental influences appear to play a much more prominent role. The study’s authors believe that their work can help deepen understanding of the factors that can potentially contribute to the onset of diagnosable cannabis use disorder (cannabis abuse or addiction) in people affected by social anxiety.
Homelessness is a socioeconomic condition that directly affects well over a million Americans in any given year. For a number of reasons, homeless people are significantly more likely than the rest of the population to develop serious problems with substance abuse or addiction. In a study published in September 2013 in the journal Addiction, researchers from the RAND Corporation examined the types of social connections that help define the ways in which homeless teenagers and young adults use or abuse drugs or alcohol.
No one really knows how many people in America are homeless at any particular point in time. However, according to recent figures compiled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), on a representative day in 2010, at least 400,000 individuals in the U.S. didn’t have a fixed home address and either lived on the streets or in some sort of shelter or temporary housing. In a 12-month period that overlapped parts of both 2009 and 2010, more than 1.5 million people qualified as homeless. Some homeless people only lack permanent housing for relatively short amounts of time; however, on a typical day, more than 100,000 Americans lack permanent housing on a long-term basis.
Who Makes Up For Most Of The Homelessness In America?
In the U.S., men and boys experience homelessness almost twice as often as girls and women. Almost 22 percent of all homeless Americans are children or teenagers below the age of 18. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 make up another 23.5 percent of the U.S. homeless population. However, adults between the ages of 31 and 50 have the highest overall rate of homelessness. In descending order, the three American ethnic groups most likely to experience homelessness are non-Hispanic whites, African-Americans and Hispanic whites.
Homelessness And Substance Abuse
Current estimates indicate that as many as 50 percent of all long-term homeless Americans are affected by serious problems with substance abuse or substance addiction. When rates for drug- or alcohol-related issues in time periods before or after homelessness are taken into account, this figure rises to more than 80 percent. In many cases, problems with substance abuse or addiction appear before homelessness occurs and contribute to the changing life circumstances that cause an affected individual to lose his or her attachments to a permanent home. However, in other cases, the difficulties of homelessness contribute to the onset of excessive, dysfunctional drug or alcohol consumption. Mental illness is also a frequent contributor to the declining life circumstances of homeless people.
Social Connections Important Regarding Drug Use
In the study published in Addiction, the RAND Corporation researchers sought to identify the people who are most likely to participate in drug or alcohol use with homeless teenagers and young adults. They conducted their work with the help of 419 homeless people between the ages of 13 and 24 from the greater Los Angeles area. Each of these individuals was asked to name 20 people whom they interacted with socially. In addition, the participants were asked to detail their 20 social contacts’ relevant background information and level of involvement with drug or alcohol use.
After examining their data, the researchers concluded that, in descending order, homeless youths are most likely to engage in alcohol use with their intimate sexual partners and people in their social circles who use drugs, engage in dangerous sexual practices, act as opinion formers, provide some sort of physical or emotional support, and have popular social standing. They also concluded that, in descending order, homeless youths are most likely to engage in drug use with their intimate sexual partners and people in their social circles who drink alcohol, engage in dangerous sexual practices, act as opinion formers, provide physical or emotional support, and have popular social standing.
The Significance Of Homelessness And Substance Abuse
Based on their findings, the authors of the study concluded that homeless teenagers and young adults tend to share drug and alcohol use with peers who have more than one clear risk for substantial problems with health or well-being, as well as with peers who in some way dominate or determine the ways in which they view and interact with the world. The authors believe that public health officials and abuse/addiction specialists can use this information as the basis for improved efforts to reach homeless youths affected by substance use/abuse and reduce their chances of developing or continuing dangerous patterns of drug or alcohol intake.
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Peer pressure is a powerful force. You probably remember experiencing it yourself. It can take tremendous strength of will to say no in the face of your peers urging you to do something. If you have a teenage son or daughter, remembering what peer pressure was like might keep you up at night. The good news is that you have the potential to be the most powerful influence in the lives of your children. If you take the time to help your teen understand the dangers of risky behaviors, keep open communication and get to know your teen, you can help her successfully resist peer pressure.
What Is the Role of Peer Pressure in Adolescence?
It turns out that peer pressure is normal and that it’s not always a negative thing. Teens are learning how to become adults by learning how to fit in with peers. While always conforming to the standards of others is not good, neither is standing out all the time. To grow into adults that contribute in meaningful ways, teens need to learn to strike a balance. They need to fit into social groups while also learning to make their own decisions.
We tend to think of peer pressure among teens as always leading to dangerous behaviors, such as having sex, trying drugs, drinking or shoplifting. These are the sorts of incidences in which peer pressure is negative. On the other hand, your teen may be pressured by friends to go out when she is feeling down after a breakup, or they may pressure her to join extracurricular activities with them. These are positive pressures. If you can help your teen to understand the difference between positive and negative peer pressure, she will start to make better choices.
How Can You Help Your Teen Recognize And Resist Negative Pressure?
Your teen’s ability to recognize what is right and what is wrong begins with you. By sharing and demonstrating your own values, you pass them down her. If you talk to your teen about what you expect of her and what you value, your influence will be more important than that of her peers. It can be easy to lose sight of this fact during the teen years. The time your child spends with her friends can make you begin to feel as if your opinions no longer matter, but it isn’t true.
Sharing your values with your child will help her to recognize the difference between positive and negative peer pressure, but she also needs to be able to resist the latter. One of the most important things to do is to cultivate open lines of communication. When your teen knows that she can talk to you, she will bring her issues to you for discussion. If you don’t know that she is experiencing peer pressure, you can’t help her.
When you do talk to your teen about what is troubling her, give her suggestions for how to say no. Encourage her to stick with friends who have the same values. There is strength in numbers. Cultivate her self-esteem so that she feels confident being assertive in pressure-filled situations. Self-esteem comes from being able to accomplish goals and by being good at things, so encourage her to get involved in activities she enjoys and is good at. This could be sports teams, academic clubs, theater groups or any other healthy activity.
Peer pressure may be a powerful force, but good parenting is even stronger. Develop a good relationship with your teen that involves open communication and you will help her resist making bad choices based on pressure from her peers.
Learn More About How To Combat Peer Pressure
If you have had a child diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) you probably have a lot of questions and just as many concerns. We hear a great deal in the media about over-medicating children. What does this mean for your child and his disorder? Will using medications to help him focus put him at risk for further drug abuse, and even addiction? The answers to these questions are not simple, but the more you learn about ADHD medications and treatment, the more comfortable you will be making decisions in the best interest of your child.
How Do Medications Help Children With ADHD?
ADHD is a disorder that is characterized by difficulty focusing and paying attention, impulsive and inappropriate behaviors and hyperactivity. These often manifest during school hours making academic success a major challenge for kids with ADHD. Medications used to treat the disorder are stimulants. This may seem counterintuitive, but they dramatically reduce hyperactive impulses, and allow children to focus and pay attention. For the best results, a combination of medication and behavioral therapy is often recommended by experts.
Are ADHD Drugs Addictive?
Stimulants used to treat ADHD, including Adderall and Ritalin, are addictive. Like other addictive drugs, they produce a pleasurable sensation related to certain brain chemicals. If these drugs are abused over time, the user can become addicted. When taken as directed, however, the risk of becoming addicted to these drugs is low.
If you monitor your child’s intake of his ADHD medications and follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, there is little chance that he will become addicted. It is natural to be concerned about the possibility. If it makes you more comfortable, keep the medication locked away and give the right dose to your child when he needs it. By controlling the administration, you can be certain he is not taking more than he is supposed to.
Does Use Of ADHD Drugs Lead To Further Drug Abuse?
There has been some debate about whether or not being medicated with stimulants for ADHD puts children at risk for later drug abuse. The best answer so far, thanks to researchers, is no. There seems to be little to no evidence that using ADHD medications as directed will lead to experimentation with other drugs, or addiction.
The greater danger results from the misuse of ADHD medications as a study drug. Teens and young adults, especially those in high school and college, abuse prescription stimulants as an aid to both studying and partying. One major reason for this abuse is that the medications have the effect of helping them stay awake. If a student needs to cram for an exam, she might take Adderall to stay up all night. Some students even take the medications to stay up late for the purpose of partying all night long. Both habits are very risky because they involve using addictive drugs without supervision from a doctor. This behavior can lead to addiction and other health problems.
Making Sure All Of Your Questions Are Answered When It Comes To ADHD Meds
The bottom line is that your child with ADHD could benefit greatly from supervised use of stimulant medications. If your doctor wants your child to try one, make sure all of your questions are answered and your concerns are addressed, but rest assured that using these drugs will not make your child an addict or a future drug abuser. Supervise your child, explain to him the dangers of abusing any kind of drug, and speak to your doctor to make sure that you and your child feel comfortable going forward with treatment.
Learn More About The ADHD And Drug Abuse Connection
03 Feb 2014
Marijuana is in the news a lot these days. Nearly half of all states have legalized medical marijuana. Two states now allow for recreational use of the drug. And yet, this substance is still illegal across the country according to federal law. There are many contradictions and confusions related to cannabis. Is it safe to use? Can it really help treat illnesses? When your child starts asking these questions, be sure you have the right answers. And consider having a talk about this controversial subject before your child gets the wrong answers at school.
Is Marijuana Safe?
Attitudes regarding marijuana have shifted considerably in this country. As legalization for marijuana has occurred, many people have begun to assume that the drug must be safe. If it is considered a medicine, and is prescribed by doctors, it must be safe to use is a common misconception that you should correct for your child.
Marijuana is safer than many other drugs, but emphasize to your child that there are risks associated with using it. Smoking marijuana leads to impaired thinking and coordination, memory problems, and distorted perceptions in the short term. It can also cause paranoia, depression and anxiety. Using marijuana also increases the risk of having a heart attack and of developing a respiratory problem.
What Is Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana is no different from the drug that people use recreationally. It is simply marijuana that is prescribed by doctors to patients. Medical marijuana is most often smoked, but can also be consumed. Marijuana can be used to ease the symptoms of chemotherapy for cancer patients and those that are struggling with HIV and AIDS. It also helps people with the eye disease glaucoma and with multiple sclerosis. Chronic pain caused by any condition can be relieved by marijuana use.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Another misconception that your child may have about this drug is that it is not addictive. The truth is that it does have the potential to lead to dependence, although the risk is much less than other substances, like cocaine, heroin, and even tobacco and alcohol. Make sure your child understands that addiction is always a risk when using a mind-altering substance.
Can You Get In Trouble For Using Marijuana?
Be sure that your child understands very clearly that even in states where marijuana has been decriminalized to any extent that it is illegal everywhere for anyone under the age of 21 to use marijuana. The exception to this rule is if a young person has a medical need for the drug. Just because marijuana is becoming legal in some places does not mean that teenagers can use the drug without consequences.
Isn’t Everyone Smoking Marijuana?…Maybe Not
The prevalence of marijuana in public discussion may make your child feel as if everyone is using this drug. It is important for your child to understand that this is not true. The vast majority of people, adults and teens, choose not to use marijuana. Among teenagers, fewer than eight percent report using the drug in the past month. Among people of all ages, this number drops to seven percent. The perception that everyone is doing something is powerful, so emphasize to your child that this is not the case with marijuana.
Provide The Answers About Marijuana Before Your Child Asks
Talking to your child about drugs is important and could be life-saving. With marijuana in the public consciousness and with perceived risk so low among young people, it is crucial that you have the answers your child needs to hear. Don’t wait for him to ask you. Start the conversation now and be sure that your child hears about this drug from you and not from his peers.
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29 Jan 2014
PCP is a well-known nickname for phencyclidine, a powerful tranquilizer that, among its other effects, interferes with the ability to remain consciously connected to the self or to one’s surroundings. Since the 1960s, the tranquilizer has been purposefully or unintentionally used as a recreational drug by a small but significant number of teenagers and adults. For a long time, PCP seemed to drop in popularity among drug users. However, according to the results of a report released in November 2013 by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), use of the use of PCP may be on the rise.
PCP produces its effects as a tranquilizer by causing dissociation, a detached mental state featuring a diminished capacity to take in the sensory information that human beings rely on to stay oriented to reality and maintain self-awareness. The drug can also produce a number of other immediate or short-term effects, including hallucinations, delusional behavior, paranoia, unusual aggression or agitation, euphoria, panic, a lack of normal mental or physical responsiveness, speaking difficulties, muscle impairment, changes in breathing and heart rates, obsessive thought patterns and depression.
The specific short-term effects of PCP in any given individual depend largely on the amount of the drug he or she consumes. People who take doses well over 10 mg can experience a phencyclidine-related overdose that leads to seizures, coma or loss of life. Potential long-term effects of habitual PCP use include chronic memory problems, chronic psychosis and persistent depression or anxiety.
Tracking PCP Use
In the U.S., the federal government tracks the use of PCP and other commonly abused substances in a number of ways. For instance, the National Institute on Drug Abuse tracks usage rates among teenagers through an annual project called Monitoring the Future, which uses statistics gathered from 130 strategically chosen high schools to estimate larger national substance intake trends. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration tracks drug use in the entire U.S. population by gathering information on drug-related incidents from emergency rooms at hospitals across the country, as well as information on drug-related deaths submitted by both coroners and medical examiners after they conduct autopsies. The system used to coordinate this information and issue important findings is called the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).
Evidence For A Rise In PCP Use – Who’s Using?
In the report issued by SAMHSA, officials from the Drug Awareness Warning Network tracked the national trajectory of PCP-related emergency room visits between 2005 and 2011. In 2005, 14,825 incidents were reported by emergency room personnel. By the close of 2011, this figure had risen to 75,538, or slightly more than five times the 2005 total. Much of this increase can be attributed to a serious spike in PCP-related episodes in the two years between 2009 and 2011.
The DAWN report contains a wealth of detailed information on exactly who is being impacted by the rise in PCP-related emergency room episodes. Among preteens and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17, emergency room episodes increased by 184 percent between 2005 and 2011. Among older teenagers and young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, episodes increased by 289 percent.
However, the highest increases occurred among adults between the ages of 25 and 34; people in this age group experienced a 518 percent spike in PCP-related emergency room visits between 2005 and 2011. Adults between the ages of 35 and 44 experienced a 300 percent increase. No accurate figures were available for adults over the age of 44. In addition, the authors of the DAWN report concluded that, depending on the age group in question, boys and men are anywhere from three to 10 times more likely than girls and women to experience a PCP-related emergency room episode.
PCP Risk Knowledge
No one knows for sure if the DAWN figures, which only highlight one potential outcome of PCP use, point toward an actual rise in intake of the drug across the U.S. However, DAWN findings typically have significant value in the overall effort to track drug use trends. The authors of the report believe that any spike in PCP use may stem from lack of familiarity with the drug among younger users, as well as a subsequent lack of understanding about the risks associated with PCP intake. They also believe that future PCP-related public health campaigns may have an improved effect if they’re especially targeted at young adults in their late 20s and early 30s.
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