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Monday, December 6, 2010

Time to Change the Culture of Drinking on College Campuses

All-nighters, midnight pizza runs, bottomless coffee cups, fraternities and sororities. Unfortunately, college binge drinking has become so popular, that it too can be considered a college tradition - but it’s a dangerous one.

Statistics available on drinking on college campuses reveal that just about half of all college students engage in binge drinking defined as having five drinks in a row for males and four for women in one “episode.”

This activity contributes to approximately 1,700 deaths of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 years. It is also a factor in 600,000 injuries and 97,000 cases of sexual assault or rape. It is estimated that around 70 percent of the on-campus student body drinks. 80 percent of women living in sorority houses and 86 percent of men living in fraternity houses engage in binge drinking.

At its website, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says the tradition of drinking on college campuses has developed into a culture entrenched in every level of college students’ environments. The website notes that customs handed down through generations of college drinkers reinforce students’ expectations that alcohol is a necessary ingredient for social success.

The NIAAA says that these beliefs and the expectations that come with them greatly influence how students view and use alcohol. Keg parties, drunken scenes at sporting events, and weekend get-togethers at bars have become the norm at many colleges. Too often, otherwise sensible young people engage in dangerous drinking activities because of peer pressure (often indirect) that permeates their school environment.

Fortunately, a custom or tradition is not a predisposition. High school students don’t graduate hard-wired to binge drink, so the key is to challenge those longstanding expectations and change the culture of drinking on college campuses. To help do this, we need intervention at three levels: the individual-student, the entire student body, and the community.

Changing a culture is no easy matter. It is well known that interest around prevention efforts is keen and immediate if a student dies as a result of excessive drinking. However, the drive to make deep changes or explore root causes often wanes after a crisis recedes. It takes time and energy to implement an effective, research-based prevention program, and it is essential that administrators obtain external support from the community, alcohol beverage and hospitality industries, foundations, and other organizations.

And there things schools can do now. For example, schools could tailor programs to address their specific alcohol-related problems. Since no two schools are alike, environmental influences as well as individual student characteristics can impact alcohol consumption, therefore effective strategies need to extend beyond the campus itself to encompass the surrounding community.

There is a need for colleges to implement better and more sustained efforts of informing students of the dangers of binge drinking.

While nearly everyone is aware of the dangers of activities like drunk driving, they are not always familiar with the inherent risks of drinking too many drinks too quickly. Presentations to incoming freshmen and students groups can help raise awareness of the detrimental effects of binge drinking.

Many schools have also launched successful marketing campaigns warning of the dangers of binge drinking through posters, public service announcements and newspaper advertisements.

Colleges can also lessen the likelihood their students will participate in binge drinking is by providing alcohol-free activities for students. Many schools plan dances, performances, movie showings and even arts and crafts projects on those nights when traditionally students like to “party.” Making use of student unions and activity centers can keep students on campus and away from places where drinking will occur.

Unfortunately, many colleges and universities send mixed messages about drinking, which makes the binge drinking problem worse. School administrators need to send clearer messages about drinking on and off campus. They need to seriously consider banning alcohol-related advertising on campus or stop selling beer mugs and shot glasses with the school logo on them.

We are sure that there are other ideas out there designed to help change the culture of drinking on college campuses. We are always happy to join the conversation and to work with any task force tasked with this important mission. We welcome your input. We’d love to hear from you.

To learn more about what can be done and what strategies can be implemented in order to affect a change about college drinking, contact NCADD today at 732-254-3344.


Bullying. A New (Old) Problem

"A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself."

Over the past few months, NCADD has published several articles in our various newsletters that have dealt with bullying from different perspectives. We’ve written about bullying among girls, cyber bullying, and more. New, recent events and the media’s focus on this issue have prompted us to focus on this issue in greater detail.

As you know, NCADD’s mission is to promote the health and well-being of individuals through the reduction or elimination of substance abuse problems. Bullying interferes with the well-being and emotional stability of individuals in our communities. As a coping mechanism for bullying, both the bullies and their victims may turn to substance abuse.

What do we know about bullies? Research suggests that kids who bully suffer from a lack of parental warmth and involvement; overly permissive parenting and a lack of clear, consistent rules governing their behavior; parents who often don’t know where the kids are or who they’re hanging out with; and parents who use very harsh, corporal methods of discipline. Kids who bully may have also been victems of bullies themselves.

Kids who bully their peers are also more likely to be engaged in a variety of other anti-social, violent or disturbing behaviors. We know that kids who bully are more likely to get into frequent fights, steal or vandalize property, drink alcohol, smoke, be truant, even drop out of school. They perceive a more negative climate at their school and are more likely to carry a weapon. Worse still, 40-60 percent of adolescent bullies go on to be criminal offenders as adults.

Fortunately, bullying is finally getting the attention it deserves. No longer is it being shrugged off as “kids being kids.” Recent history shows that bullying has contributed to school violence and adolescent suicides. Just in the last three months alone, there have been six bullying related suicides of kids between the ages of 10-18 years old.

So why has bullying become an epidemic? It’s due to a combination of genetic factors, brain chemistry and new environmental trends. Some young people are bullies because they are bored and crave excitement; some do it to feel powerful; some engage in this behavior as a response to family problems; some do it for attention and to be popular with their peers.

Bullying can take on many forms. It could include verbal bullying that features derogatory comments and bad names; bullying through social exclusion or isolation; or physical bullying which includes hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting. Many are familiar with bullying through lies and false rumors or having money or other things taken or damaged by students who bully; but there is also racial bullying, sexual bullying, and of course, cyber bullying (through the internet or cell phone.)

Bullying has resulted in about 160,000 US students skipping school daily to avoid being bullied. Thirty-two percent of students report being bullied at school during the school year. Available research indicates that verbal harassment increases the likelihood of alcohol use (by middle school students as they move on to high school) and further suggests that peer harassment may be fueling aggression and antisocial behaviors. Most disturbingly, 86 percent of LGBTQ youth report being bullied, and 40 percent of identified LGBTQ youth attempt suicide before the age of 18.

We are pleased that in 2002 New Jersey passed a law (AB 1874) which requires each school district to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying on school property, while at a school-sponsored function, or on a school bus. The policy must include a definition of bullying behavior, consequences for engaging in such behavior, a procedure for investigation of reports of such behavior, a statement prohibiting retaliation or reprisal against persons reporting bullying behavior, and consequences for making a false accusation.

The law also requires school employees, students or volunteers to report any incidents of bullying, intimidation, and harassment to appropriate school officials. The law also grants immunity from any cause of action for damages arising from a failure to remedy the reported incident to persons reporting these incidents. In 2007, New Jersey also passed a new cyber-bullying law, which essentially adds electronic bullying to the issues schools must address in their anti-bullying policies.

Bullying affects us all. The media has given us a window of opportunity to act before this issue once again fades into the background. The legislature has given us the tools to make our schools safer. Now, it’s up to the rest of us to ensure the safety of our youth everywhere else.

  • Journal of Clinical Child and Family Psychology. Sept 2008

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stress: Reducing. Preventing. Coping.

Stress. What does it mean to you? Is it the issues you face every day at school? Is it the fact that there are never enough hours in the day for all your errands, your career or family responsibilities. They all demand your time and attention. But do you realize that you have a lot more control over all of these issues than you might think? In fact, the simple realization that you’re in control of your life is the foundation of stress management.

Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun – plus the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious, and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines. But maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands that leads to deadline stress.

Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.

Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that compound the problem and find unhealthy ways of coping with stress.

These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run. Examples include: smoking; drinking too much; overeating or undereating; zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer; withdrawing from friends, family, and activities; using pills or drugs to relax; sleeping too much; procrastinating; filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems; or taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence).

If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.

Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.

If you or someone you know is experiencing stress and is turning to (or using) unhealthy solutions, call NCADD. Our Jason Surks Memorial Resource Center holds lots of information in the form of brochures and videos on how to deal with stress and making unhealthy decisions.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Average Day In The Life Of American Adolescents

According to results of a survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 508,000 adolescents aged 12-17 in the United States drink alcohol on an average day; 641,000 use illicit drugs; and more than 1 million smoke cigarettes.

The report, which highlights the substance abuse behavior and addiction treatment activities that occur among adolescents on an average day, draws on national surveys conducted and analyzed by SAMHSA’s Office of Applied Studies. The study, titled A Day in the Life of American Adolescents: Substance Use Facts Update, presents a stark picture of the daily toll substance abuse takes on America’s youth. Among the report’s major findings is that on any given day during 2008, 563,000 adolescents used marijuana, nearly 37,000 used inhalants, 24,000 used hallucinogens, 16,000 used cocaine and 2,800 used heroin. Essentially, this report is a wakeup call about the extent to which the nation’s youth engage in risky behavior by using
illegal and potentially dangerous substances everyday. It emphasizes that parents, families and people working in the public health and public safety professions can prevent substance abuse and promote emotional health. In the long run, efforts by these individuals can improve health status and lower costs to families, businesses and governments.

The report also sheds light on how many adolescents used illegal substances for the first time. On an average day in 2008, approximately:
  • 7,500 adolescents drank alcohol for the first time;
  • 4,360 adolescents used an illicit drug for the first time;
  • 3,900 adolescents smoked cigarettes for the first time;
  • 3,700 adolescents used marijuana for the first time; and
  • 2,460 used prescription pain relievers nonmedically for the first time;
  • 1,400 used hallucinogens for the first time;
  • 1,310 used inhalants for the first time;
  • 650 used cocaine for the first time;
  • 630 used licit or illicit stimulants nonmedically for the first time;
  • 125 used methamphetamine for the first time; and
  • 95 used heroin for the first time.
In addition, the report also highlights how many people under age 18 were receiving treatment for a substance abuse problem during an average day in 2008. These numbers included:
  • Over 76,000 in outpatient treatment;
  • More than 9,000 in non-hospital residential treatment; and
  • Over 700 in hospital inpatient treatment.
The study showed that in 2008, there were about a quarter of a million drug-related
emergency hospital visits among adolescents of which 170,000 visits involved the use of illicit
drugs, alcohol or intentional misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals. On an average day in 2008:
  • 151 visits involved alcohol;
  • 129 involved marijuana; and
  • 86 involved prescription or nonprescription pain relievers.
Finally, the report notes that there were over 141,00 admissions for adolescents aged 12 to
17 to substance abuse treatment programs nationwide. That means that on an average day, over 370 youth were admitted for treatment, lead by over 260 cases presented with marijuana and 76 with alcohol.

This report was drawn from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Treatment Episode Data Set and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, and the Drug Abuse Warning Network. The report contains many other important facts about adolescent substance abuse, treatment and treatment admissions patterns. The full report is available at:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Substance Abuse Prevention for … Older Adults?

When considering substance abuse prevention, many think only of how we can keep our youth
from using and abusing drugs. However, there is a growing population of older adults who are in need of prevention education, as well. In the United States, 4.3 million adults over the age of 50 have used an illicit drug in the past year. About 1 in every 6 adults over 60 regularly abuse or misuse substances— primarily alcohol, prescription, or over-the-counter medications. Between 1995 and 2002, admission rates for substance abuse treatment rose 32% for older adults. When more recent data become available, it is projected that we will not only see this increase continue, but also see it rise at an even steeper rate. The older adult population is growing larger as the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) ages. In New Jersey, the
population over 60 makes up 17% of the total population.

Moreover, one in four residents of Ocean and Cape May counties is over the age of 60. You may be surprised to learn that New Jersey is home to more senior citizens than Florida. Adults are largely unaware that age changes the way their bodies are able to metabolize alcohol and drugs. The same glass of wine that had a minor effect at 40 years of age may have a much more profound impact at 60, due to the slowing of the body’s metabolism.

A lack of recognition of the side effects of drug therapies put older adults at an increased risk of adverse effects, particularly since older adults are more likely to be on multiple medications, which increases their risk of suffering negative drug-related consequences. All adults should understand how their prescription and over-the-counter medications interact with each other and with alcohol. Mixing alcohol with certain medications can be deadly. Age-related stresses, including loss of a job or loved one, declines in physical and mental functioning, or feelings of depression or isolation increase the risk for alcohol consumption in older adults. Many adults do not realize that consuming alcohol puts them at risk for “late-onset alcoholism,” a form of alcoholism that does not become evident until the user is over the age of 50. Knowing these
current facts and statistics already calls attention to the serious needs of the older adult; but a recent report indicates that substance abuse treatment for those over the age of 50 is expected to double by the end of this decade. We can no longer afford to neglect the needs of the seniors.
Prevention agencies can make a tremendous impact on this population and decrease their need for future treatment through proper educational activities.

The New Jersey Prevention Network (NJPN) has created a program tailored to the specific prevention needs of the older adult: the Wellness Initiative for Senior Education, or WISE program. WISE offers a comprehensive approach to wellness in the older adult and celebrates healthy aging. Participants are given the opportunity to discuss a variety of issues relevant to the older adult and increase their knowledge on how aging can affect them. They leave the program armed with tools they can use to make healthier life choices and are empowered to share their new knowledge with friends and family.

The WISE program was awarded the 2009 National Exemplary Award for Innovative
Substance Abuse Prevention Programs, Practices, and Policies by the National Association of State Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Directors. The program was also featured in an article in The Journal on Active Aging, which suggested, “If individuals understand how their lifestyle choices and behaviors impact their health, they will make more positive choices and experience better health.”

In addition to the WISE program, NCADD offers five different one-hour education programs
for seniors on topics including: Grief and Loss, Depression, Conflict Resolution, Alcohol and Medication Issues, and “Senior Jeopardy,” which includes Nutrition and Stress Management.
To learn more about these programs and to schedule a presentation at your facility, please call Alexandra Lopez, Deputy Director at 732- 254-3344.

  • New Jersey Prevention Network, www.
  • Merck Manual Home Edition,
  • U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA,, NSDUH, Dec. 29th, 2009, SAMHSA press release Jan. 8th, 2010
  • Journal on Active Aging, Nov/Dec 2009

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Importance of Advocacy

Advocacy means to speak up, to plead the case of another, or to fight for a cause. Derived from the Latin word advocare, which means “coming to the aid of someone.” It describes a wide range of expressions, actions and activities that seek to influence outcomes directly affecting the lives of the people served by the organization.

Advocacy should not be confused with lobbying. Lobbying, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service, involves attempts to influence legislation at the local, state or federal level. Advocacy is more about issues than specific legislation. Lobbying always involves advocacy, though advocacy does not always involve lobbying. Both are important tools for most non-profit organizations and our constituencies.

Government regulations and laws have a significant and powerful impact on every nonprofit organization and the people we serve.

This makes it imperative for nonprofits like NCADD to become involved with policymakers at the city, county, state and national levels who affect our organizations and constituencies. While the services we provide are critical to the various communities we serve, so is speaking out on the issues that concern those in need.

Nonprofits traditionally serve constituencies and issues that have a limited voice in the policy process. Nonprofits providing services frequently have the best, if not only, information on the social needs they exist to address.

NCADD is driven by its commitment to a broad community – all those who may be affected by the harmful consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. With the stigma still attached to substance abuse and addiction, those most affected are often the most silent – we must speak on their behalf!

Reduced to its most basic level, effective nonprofit advocacy is about communication and relationships. Usually changes come about slowly, and advocates need to exercise persuasiveness, persistence and patience in representing an issue. Effective advocates are flexible and resourceful, willing to compromise, negotiate, collaborate, and prioritize to accomplish our goals.

NCADD’s advocacy work takes many forms.

While we do reach out to our elected officials directly, more frequently we aim educate the public by researching and reporting on addiction issues and problems facing those we serve, making effective use of the media through TV, radio, and newspaper coverage and inspiring others to act.

In recent years, NCADD has taken a lead role in advocating successfully for Lifeline legislation, which allows underage drinkers to call for help in a medical emergency without fear of prosecution; municipal private property ordinances, which hold underage drinkers themselves accountable when police break up house parties instead of only the owners of the homes; and clean air legislation, allowing citizens to enjoy a smoke-free environment in all public facilities and many of our local community playgrounds.

Together, we can, and must, do even more.

We are once again looking for individuals to commit to joining NCADD’s Advocacy Team.
Responsibilities primarily involve responding to select action alerts by contacting local elected officials and writing letters to the editors of local papers. It also means you will commit to not only staying informed about the issues connected to NCADD’s mission, but also spreading the word with those you know. If you are interested, contact Ezra Helfand at 732-254-3344 or via email at