Schools are back in session for a new school year.

On today’s campuses, children and teens have to deal with more than reading, writing and arithmetic because recreational drugs are an unfortunate presence in schools.

Dallas County Health and Human Services encourages parents to start the school year off by talking to their children about the dangers of recreational drugs, such as cheese heroin, and the devastating effects of drug addiction.

According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, “significant parental involvement” is the most important factor in deterring young people from using drugs. Communication is the key to building a strong relationship with your child and keeping them drug-free.

“The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse is only one of many bodies of research that confirm parents are the most effective tools for preventing drug abuse,” said Zachary Thompson, DCHHS director. “These same studies show that rates of substance use were lower for youths who talk with parents about drugs than for those who did not.

“Having open lines of communication with your children about the prevalence of recreational drugs in their schools and neighborhoods is one of the best ways to prevent drug addiction in young people,” he said. “The long-term impact of crack/cocaine and methamphetamine has increased the number of people needing drug abuse treatment services as well as the new homeless people attributed to drug addictions. We can now add the highly-addictive drug cheese heroin to the new wave of dangerous drugs that have caused recent deaths in Dallas County.

“Because cheese heroin is so cheap and readily available it makes is very attractive to younger children,” Thompson said.

DCHHS urges parents everywhere to make sure their children are involved in constructive after-school activities to prevent the use of addictive drugs like cheese heroin.

The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign's Behavior Change Expert Panel offers the following drug-free checklist for parents:

Ask the Right Questions - Who, What, When and Where.

Know where your teen is when he or she is away from home. Have your kids check in with you regularly.

Give them coins, a phone card or mobile phone with clear usage rules. If a beeper or cell phone is not allowed to be used in school, have your child keep one in his backpack and ask him to turn it on after school.

You may have to coordinate the use of beepers and cell phones with school administrators. If your teen does not have a beeper or cell phone, get numbers of where he’ll be after school so you can check in or have him call you at certain times so he can check in with you.

Be More Involved

Although teens that are close to their parents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, all teens are at risk when it comes to drugs. It’s important for parents to talk to their teens and build open and trusting relationships. The more involved you are in your children’s lives, the more valued they’ll feel and the more likely they’ll be to respond to you.

Be Prepared and Know the Facts

Parents, you are the first line of defense when it comes to your teen’s drug use or drinking. And you do make a difference. Nearly two-thirds of teenagers see great risk of upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends if they smoke marijuana or use other drugs.

Make Your Position Clear

Make your position clear when it comes to dangerous substances like alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Don’t assume that your children know where you stand. They want you to talk to them about drugs. State your position clearly: If you’re ambiguous, children may be tempted to become involved with tobacco products, alcohol or other drugs. Tell your children that you forbid them to use alcohol, tobacco and drugs because you love them.

Don’t be afraid to pull out all the emotional stops. You can say, “If you took drugs it would break my heart.” Make it clear that this rule holds true even at other people’s houses.

According to research, when a child decides whether or not to use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, a crucial consideration is: What will my parents think?

Make Clear Rules

Research shows that young people are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs if their parents set clear rules about not doing so.

If parents have not previously established rules around more basic activities of daily living; however, they will have little chance of getting their children to obey a rule about not using marijuana, tobacco or other drugs.

Help With Peer Pressure

No matter where children grow up or who their friends are, nearly all of them are confronted at some time or another by friends with bad ideas, ways of testing limits, getting in trouble and doing things they’ll regret later.

Even good kids occasionally pester their friends into skipping a class or lying about why they were out together so late.

But if friends or acquaintances entice your children to try tobacco, alcohol or drugs, the consequences can be more serious.

The best way to prepare children to succeed in these encounters is to role play. Practice similar scenarios in advance. With the right words at the tip of their tongue, children can assert their independence while making it clear that they’re rejecting their friends’ choices and not the friends themselves.

Reduce Access to Some Media

Many parents are concerned about pro-drug messages in television, movies and music. However, TV and music on the radio can be a discussion-starter for you and your teen.

In fact, research shows that teenagers whose parents are aware of the television they watch and the music they listen to are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs.

Television is a good way to look at the negative and positive portrayals we get every day about drugs, alcohol and tobacco. A lot of parents don’t check their kids’ activities on the Internet. If you have a computer at home, it’s really important that you let your kids know that you’re in charge of their time online. Not only can kids find out about drugs on the Internet (including a lot of pro-drug sites), they can also buy them online.

Praise Positive Behavior

What encourages a kid more than his or her parents’ approval?

The right word at the right time can strengthen the bond that helps keep your child away from drugs. Emphasize the things your kid does right and restrain the urge to be critical.

Try to reward good behavior consistently and immediately. Expressions of love, appreciation and thanks go a long way. Even kids who think themselves too old for hugs will appreciate a pat on the back or a special treat.

Accentuate the positive. Emphasize the things your kid does right. Rein in the urge to be critical. Affection and respect that make your teen feel good about him or herself will reinforce good (and change bad) behavior far more successfully than embarrassment or uneasiness.

Be Honest

The most effective deterrent to drug use isn’t the police or prisons, or politicians - it’s you. Kids who learn about the risks of drug use from their parents are 36 percent less likely to smoke marijuana than kids who learn nothing from them.

If you talk to your kids about the dangers of drug use, they are also 50 percent less likely to use inhalants and 56 percent less likely to use LSD - just because you took the time to talk to them. Research has also shown that kids want to hear what their parents have to say - in fact, 74 percent of fourth-graders wish their parents would talk to them about drugs.

Your teen asks you the question you’ve feared - did you ever do drugs? You want to be honest because you love and respect them, but, unless the answer is an unqualified “no,” it’s a difficult question.

Regardless of your own history with drugs, it’s your responsibility to set limits for your teen and to tell them, “In this family drug use is not acceptable.” What’s important is that you listen to your children and what they’re asking - even if it’s upsetting - try to avoid an argument.

Show Love

The best way you can help your kids avoid destructive behavior is to spend time with them, talking to them about their friends, school activities and asking them what they think. Research shows that knowing your kids, who they hang out with - and their parents - dramatically reduces the likelihood that they will get into trouble with tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Go out for a pizza.

Go skating or biking. Go to a movie. Listen to music together. Most importantly, tell your kids you love them.

Be a Good Role Model

Be a role model of the person you want your kid to be. What stronger anti-drug message is there? Be a living, day-to-day example of your value system. Know that there is no such thing as “do as I say, not as I do” when it comes to drugs.

If you take drugs, you can’t expect your child to take your advice. Seek professional help if necessary. Examine your own behavior. If you abuse drugs or alcohol, your kids are going to pick up on it. Or if you laugh at a drunk or stoned person in a movie, you may be sending the wrong message to your child. Be the person you want your kid to be. What stronger anti-drug message is there?

Cheese heroin, a cheap and highly addictive recreational drug, has had a devastating effect on young people in Dallas County and other areas.

Made by combining heroin and crushed tablets of certain over-the-counter common cold medication, cheese heroin is considered a starter drug and is being used by children as young as 12 years of age. The epidemic of cheese heroin users among middle and high school age students has resulted in the deaths of 22 young people this year.

DCHHS urges parents of children addicted to the recreational drug cheese heroin to seek treatment at a rehabilitation facility so that the symptoms of withdrawal can be managed.

As with any addiction, seeking rehabilitation during recovery provides optimal outcomes. DCHHS also recommends that parents caring for a child addicted to cheese heroin, who are unable to place the child in a rehabilitation program, consult their local healthcare provider for assistance in dealing with withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of addiction in users of cheese heroin include sleepiness, difficulty waking up, disorientation, flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, anxiety caused by withdrawal, personality changes and aggressive behavior.