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Friday, February 20, 2009

Family Time

For many families, eating dinner together has become a lost art—but it proves to be a simple,effective way to reduce the risk of youth substance abuse and to raise healthier children. Before family dinners go the way of the dinosaur, let’s make the effort to preserve family mealtime – and not just for the holidays.

The facts are on the table: eating dinner together every night keeps the doors of communication open. It’s the perfect time and place to reconnect and to show your kids that they are your priority. Sitting across the table is where and when you can find out more about your children’s likes, dislikes, and daily life. Having this information can help you direct your children toward positive activities and behavior, reducing the likelihood that they will get involved with alcohol,tobacco, and/or illegal drugs.

Parental influence and involvement is an important tool in preventing substance abuse. Regularly sitting down for a meal with your children is one way to connect with them and be involved with what is happening in their lives. According to the Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, teens who have frequent family dinners are nearly half as likely to use marijuana and tobacco, drink alcohol and get drunk on a monthly basis when compared to teens who have infrequent family dinners. Similarly, girls who have five or more meals a week with their families are one-third less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits, which can range from skipping meals or abusing diet pills to full-fledged anorexia or bulimia.

What Should We Talk About?
  • Ask everyone to share their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day.
  • Plan and then let the kids pick tasks for the next day's menu, preparation, and cleanup.
  • Exchange memories about your favorite family pastimes.
  • Discuss an activity the family can do together and then put it on the calendar.
  • Talk with your children about a book they are reading or a movie they have seen. It might turn into a family book club or a regular movie and popcorn night!
  • Ask the kids about their classes, homework, teachers, and upcoming assignments. Findout if they would like your help or want to brainstorm on an assignment.
The importance of regular family activities to share ideas and find out "what's happening" is a
great way for a parent to be involved, discuss rules, monitor activities and friends, and be a good role model. The benefits of eating together will last long after your meal ends, especially if you make family mealtimes a regular activity. Take the family meal off the endangered species list and move it back to the VIP list!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Teenage Drug Abuse. The facts, the issues, the solutions.

If you read the newspapers, listen to the radio or watch TV, you know that in this country, we have a problem with teenage abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. How big a problem? It depends who you listen to. For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, which collects data on drug use among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade students, several important trends are evident. Here are some highlights:

Some of the positive trends:
  • Marijuana use among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders, which has declined a bit since the mid-1990s, appears to have leveled off with 10.9 percent of eighth graders, 23.9 percent of tenth graders, and 32.4 percent of twelfth graders reporting past year use.
  • Since 2001, the overall use of drugs by young people had dropped by 24 percent (alcohol by 15 percent, marijuana by 25 percent, ecstasy by 54 percent, and methamphetamine by 64 percent). Come 2008, the decline was 25 percent ... 900,000 fewer young people using illegal drugs than there were in 2001.
  • In 2008, 20.4% of 12th graders reported smoking cigarettes in the past month, a substantial decline from the most recent high of 36.5% in 1997.
  • Past-year use of illegal drugs aside from marijuana is down from 13.1% in 2007 to 11.3% in 2008. The same goes for the use of crystal meth, from 1.6% to 1.1%.
  • 8th, 10th, and 12th graders are continuing to show a gradual decline in their use of amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, and crack.
Some of the negative trends:
  • In 2008, 15.4 percent of 12th graders said they abused prescription drugs within the past year. Among those, nearly 10 percent reported past year nonmedical use of Vicodin, and 4.7 percent reported abusing Oxycontin, both opioid painkillers. The survey notes that seven of the top 10 drugs abused by 12th graders in the year prior to the survey were either prescribed or purchased over-the-counter.
  • Marijuana remains to be the most commonly abused substance among teenagers in the United States. Of the teenagers surveyed by the MFT in 2008, 26.9% have reported using it.

For many parents finding out that their son or daughter is struggling with teen drug abuse is a catastrophic revelation. For many of them there are thoughts of failure, disappointment, guilt, and embarrassment. Parents need to remember that they are not the only ones to face such a situation. And perhaps more importantly, many families have overcome teen drug abuse.

Parents need to remember that today’s teenagers are not using as much cocaine, crack, LSD, and ecstasy as their counterparts did in the 1960’s. But today’s kids have found other ways and means to get high. They are more likely to turn to painkillers and other prescription drugs. And these are being abused at record levels.

What we’ve found is teens are often getting caught raiding their parent’s or grandparent’s medicine cabinets in order to get high. For the first time, national studies show that today’s teens are more likely to have abused a prescription painkiller than any illicit drug.

The reality is - it is impossible to predict whose teenager will experiment and stop and which one will develop serious problems. So here are some warning signs you should be looking for because they are of teenagers at risk for developing serious prescription drug dependency:
• A family history of substance or alcohol abuse
• Depression
• Low self-esteem
• Feel like they don’t fit in and are not popular with the mainstream
• Frequently feel sluggish and have difficulty sleeping
• Aggressive and rebellious attitude toward authority figures

The basic fact is that teen substance abuse affects the family especially as they become more hostile, and their decision-making ability becomes impaired. Teens who are abusing drugs set a bad example for their younger siblings and create much more hostility to the family as a whole. This behavior should not be tolerated by parents and appropriate help should be sought immediately.

Here are some things that you should share with your teen about prescription medications:
• Pharmaceuticals taken without a prescription or a doctor’s supervision can be just as dangerous as taking illicit drugs or alcohol.
• Abusing painkillers is just like abusing heroin because their ingredients are similar (both are opiates).
• Prescription medications are powerful substances. When prescription medication is not used for sickness and not administered by a professional, it becomes a controlled substance and the impact on the person can be deadly.
• It is extremely dangerous to take pills that are unknown.
• Mixing drugs with other substances is very dangerous. Some people have allergic reactions to different chemicals when they are mixed together.

What can you do to help prevent teens or any other person from getting involved with prescription drug abuse? The best thing to do is keep your prescription drugs in a safe place: don’t put them in the medicine cabinet in your bathroom because that is the first place teenager’s will look. If possible, lock them up in a cabinet or safe box. Know what your teen is doing and who they are doing it with. And perhaps most importantly, talk to your teen and warn them of the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

There are many options for available to parents who have a child involved with teen substance abuse. Some of these options include: enrollment in a specialty boarding school or residential treatment center or a short-term drug detox hospital.

But first, call NCADD of Middlesex County, Inc’s Referral Hotline at 732-254-3344. We have the information and resources to put you in touch with the best course of action for your teen. Remember that there is a great deal of help available if parents are able to get the troubled teen the appropriate intervention.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Basics of Addiction

So how does addiction affect us? The fact is that abuse and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and illegal substances cost all of us upwards of half a trillion dollars a year. That happens when you take into account the combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact addiction has. Each and every year, abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans, while tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year. Our children are starting to drink at an earlier age and lately, they are turning to prescription and over-the-counter medications to get high.

Essentially, addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain - they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.

So why do people take drugs and abuse alcohol? There are a variety of reasons.
Many do so because they want to feel good. The drugs they take produce intense feelings of pleasure. This initial sensation of euphoria is followed by other effects, which differ with the type of drug used. Cocaine gives the abuser the "high" he or she desires and is then followed by feelings of power, self-confidence, and increased energy. Heroin also provides its user feelings of relaxation and satisfaction.
Some people use drugs to feel better, because they suffer from social anxiety, stress-related disorders, and depression. They begin abusing drugs in an attempt to lessen feelings of distress. Stress can play a major role in beginning drug use, continuing drug abuse, or relapse in patients recovering from addiction.
People also use drugs because they want to alleviate the pressure they feel to do better or improve their athletic or cognitive performance. Similarly, some people do so because of curiosity and because “other” are doing so. Peer pressure, especially among adolescents play a major role in people’s initial experimentation and continued drug abuse.
The problem is that at first, people may perceive what seem to be positive effects with drug use. They also may believe that they can control their use; however, drugs can quickly take over their lives. Consider how a social drinker can become intoxicated, put himself behind a wheel and quickly turn a pleasurable activity into a tragedy for him and others. Over time, if drug use continues, pleasurable activities become less pleasurable, and drug abuse becomes necessary for abusers to simply feel "normal." Drug abusers reach a point where they seek and take drugs, despite the tremendous problems caused for themselves and their loved ones. Some individuals may start to feel the need to take higher or more frequent doses, even in the early stages of their drug use.

It is important to understand that as with any other disease, vulnerability to addiction differs from person to person. In general, the more risk factors an individual has, the greater the chance that taking drugs will lead to abuse and addiction. And there is no one single factor that determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs. The overall risk for addiction is impacted by the biological makeup of the individual - it can even be influenced by gender or ethnicity, his or her developmental stage, and the surrounding social environment (e.g., conditions at home, at school, and in the neighborhood).

The good news is that addiction is a treatable disease. Discoveries in the science of addiction have led to advances in drug abuse treatment that help people stop abusing drugs and resume productive lives.

The key to successful treatment is long-term engagement and this does not only means inpatient treatment. Today, a heart attack patient may stay in the hospital for a few days to get stabilized. He then begins a long-standing relationship with a cardiologist that may include medication and regular follow-up visits as the patient works to restructure his life in a healthier fashion. This is true with the addict in recovery.

We know that addiction need not be a life sentence. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction's powerful disruptive effects on brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.