Categories
Addiction Parenting Prevention Recovery Safety

Prevention: The Best Way to Store and Dispose of Prescription Drugs

We see a lot of adolescents who have been abusing prescription drugs, and prescription drug use is being hailed as the new gateway drugs. Parents are often concerned their teens Blossom©saritzrogerswill experiment with street drugs and/or alcohol, but many teens are dipping into a familiar medicine cabinet, looking for a free and easy way to get high. A sticker that says, “May cause drowsiness,” can be misinterpreted to mean one can get high from it. Unfortunately, this sticker can be found on all sorts of medications, including anti-depressants and blood pressure medications.

Sometimes, prescriptions are stolen by teens for their own use, and sometimes it’s for the purpose of trading from friend to friend or at parties. Pharmaceutical bartering amongst the teen set is far too common; two driving factors of adolescent prescription drug abuse are:

1: The misperception that prescription medication isn’t harmful

2: Ease of access to these drugs at home or a friend’s house

 

Some kids start experimenting with prescription drugs because they are trying to find ways to cope with their stress or anxiety; some use it to try to get an “in” with a certain crowd. There are those, too, who have been prescribed a medication for one thing, but notice a “benefit” for something else (like more focus on a test), and begin misusing it or sharing it with friends.

 

  • According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more than 71, 000 children ages 18 and under are seen in the ER for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of teens who report abuse of prescription medications get them from friends, family, and acquaintances.
  • Among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs are the second most abused drug (behind marijuana)
  • Teens ages 12-17 have the second-highest annual rates of prescription drug abuse; young adults 18-25 have the highest rate.
  • Every day, 2700 teens try prescription drugs for the first time with the intent of getting high.
  • Nearly one in four teens have taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them.
  • One in three teens report being offered a prescription drug or OTC medication for the purpose of getting high.
  • One in three teens report having a close friend who abuses prescription pain medications.
  • One in four teens report having a close friend who abuses cough medicine to get high.
  • One in 10 teens report abusing cough medicine to get high.

 

Parents must take preventative action with their medication. It’s imperative that all medications are accounted for and kept locked up. Do you safely dispose of unused medications? Or do they reside in the dark corners of your medicine cabinet, collecting dust on their exhausted expiration dates?  Are they loosely out on a counter or tabletop for easy access?  Our kids watch us all the time; they learn from our actions and reactions, and they mimic us our behaviors. It’s important to mirror positive actions so our kids do the same. Kids will try anything on, and if taking a lot of medications is part of your habitual behavior, they may try that on too.

 

Here are some guidelines to support healthy means of communication around the use and misuse of prescription drugs, and the safe way to store and dispose of all prescription medications:

  • Communicate with your kids and educate them about the risks of prescription drug abuse. Be honest and age appropriate.
  • Don’t take medications that aren’t prescribed to you. (A recent study by The Partnership at Drugfree.org showed that 27 percent of parents have taken a prescription medicine without having a prescription for it themselves.)
  • Store your medications in a secure place..
  • Keep a record of what medications you have and how much you have – have this information before you lock the meds up.
  • Keep note of your refills;
  • If your teen has been prescribed a medication, make sure YOU monitor it, not them;
  • Educate your friends and relatives about the danger of prescription drugs and encourage them to store them properly;
  • Discard drugs that are either expired or are no longer needed;

 

See HERE for the the list of medications you can flush; beyond this list, please ensure that medications are disposed of as follows, per FDA.gov:

 

1: Remove medication from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter (this makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs).

2: Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag. Then you can toss them in the trash.

 

Please stay on top of this. The public has access to many viable resources like SAMHSAPartnership for a DrugFree America, and the Medicine Abuse Project for more information and free pamphlets. If you suspect your child is abusing prescription drugs or any drugs at all, seek help.

Categories
Adolescence Recovery Safety

Coachella: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Coachella is happening and there are tons of opportunities for sober fun!

MusicCares is in the house, representing artists in recovery. There are organizations like Soberchella who host 12-step meetings every day of the 3-day festival. Aside from listening to the varied array of musical acts (seriously, there is more variety at Coachella than at the 99-cent store!), you can enter a “Bad Dancing Competition,” or you can Hula Hoop, participate in a “Not-So-Silent Dance Party,” a Three-Legged Race, play Dodgeball, participate in a Joke Contest, or a Pinball Competition. The opportunities for sober fun are many!

 

There are tons of things to do at Coachella that don’t involve drunk and disorderly behavior.

 

Still, you should have an out, or a way to take care of yourself in the event that you get overwhelmed or someone in your party relapses or does something unwise. Know that your recovery isn’t contingent on being liked, popular, or the life of the party. It is contingent on self-care, healthy boundaries and a system of solid support. If you go, make sure you have:

1: Your sponsor’s number

2: Your parent(s’) number

3: A safe place to go if you want to leave early

 

Know your boundaries: Maybe this year, Coachella isn’t for you. Maybe you’re not in a place to be able to maintain healthy boundaries. Maybe “No” frightens you and is connected with your perception of being liked. Maybe your best friend is pressuring you to go but your gut tells you you aren’t ready. That’s tough, especially as a teen. It’s normal to think you will miss something or be left out of something über cool. The interesting thing about this: it will pass and you will begin to recognize that taking care of yourself and your recovery is far more important than being in the midst of temptation.

 

So, whether you go to Coachella or if you decide to skip it this year, remember to treat yourself the way you want to be treated. Everyone deserves to be loved, respected, and heard. Can you provide those things for yourself? I believe you can!

 

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Mental Health Parenting Prevention Safety

Cyberbullying And Teens: The Facts

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve recently talked about text bombing and sexting, with the overlying arc being cyberbullying. It is defined as pervasive, relational aggression, also known as “covert aggression.” It is carried out via the use of electronic technology, such as cell phones, computers, and tablets by means of text messages, social media sites, and online “chatting.” For example, someone may create an online rumor by posting an embarrassing, or inflammatory image or story on social media or in an email. Because it’s online, it has the capacity to spread much faster and have a longer reach.  Cyberbullying intimidates its victims with its intent to control, isolate, shame, and instill fear.

Some forms of cyberbullying are: 

1. A person pretends to be someone else and chats or messages someone online with the intent to trick, shame, or embarrass someone else.

2. Extremely sensitive or personal information is posted and shared online.

3. Lies and gossip are maliciously posted or shared online.

4. Digitally manipulated, often pornographic images are posted or distributed without consent.

5. Online threats. These can be vague or specific.

6. Exclusion, or intensionally excluding someone from an inner or online group or site

 

Why is cyberbullying different?

 

1. There is no “off” button: this type of bullying can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The aggressor can reach its target when they are alone, late at night, and early in the morning.

2. Images and/or messages can be posted anonymously to a wide audience, and they can be difficult to trace.

 

What can you do?

 

1. Monitor your child’s web activity. Take care to really pay attention to what sites they are using and how “connected” they are. Increase your vigilance if you notice your child is showing signs of depression, becomes withdrawn,  or suffers from low self-esteem.

2. Teach your kids to avoid environments rife with cyberbulling: Facebook, chat rooms, Snap Chat are some of the many sites out there that are breeding grounds for this behavior.

3. You decide what places are unsafe for your child, taking age, maturity, and other factors into consideration.

4. Arm yourself with information. Become well-versed in the ins and outs of social media sites. Get tech savvy, folks and embrace your inner geek!

5. Express the importance of keeping personal information personal and off of the Internet.

 

Unfortunately, statistics are showing an increase in cyberbulling not a decrease:

 

1. 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.

2. 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.

3. 58% of kids have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.

4. 40% of kids have had their password(s) stolen and changed by a bully.

5. Cyberbullying victims are eight times more likely to report carrying a weapon to school in the last 30 days than non-bullied teens.

6. Cyberbullying has led to at least four documented cases of teen suicide in the United States.

7. Only 15% of parents polled knew what cyberbullying was.

 

Cyberbullying isn’t going away right now; it’s an unfortunate byproduct of the increase and variability in technological tools and means of communication. We as parents and teachers need to arm ourselves with information and learn to make better, safer choices. Frankly, most kids don’t need smart phones, but they have them and as a result, they have easy access to a multitude of apps that are designed for online social activity. Some are even designed to promote anonymity or to delete messages as soon as you’ve sent them.  This is a good opportunity to have stronger, more defined boundaries and some dedicated time set aside that is technology free.

 

You can:

1. Have a no-tech zone around meal times.

2. Go on an outdoor adventure with your family that is technology free.

3. Embrace the value of direct communication. For example, call someone instead of texting.

Technology was designed to make things more efficient and interactive. It has the capacity to reach into spaces we never thought possible. Still, we must harness its dark side for the sake of safety and well-being.

Resources:

Internet Safety Project

Psych Central

Bullying Statistics

Stop Bullying.gov

Categories
Adolescence Communication Parenting Prevention Safety

What You Need to Know About Sexting

TEDxBKK – Sexting (Photo credit: isriya)

Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via your cell phone.

 

The Internet is a vast, unchartered space. Technology has expanded so much that our means of communication has forever changed to include text messaging, emailing, instant messaging, video calling, and emailing. As a result, we are faced with things like sexting. One of the most troublesome things about sexting is its wide reach. A text message can circulate remarkably fast and beyond the control of its original sender.

 

A recent study has shown the following:

  • 20 percent of teenagers (22 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys) sent naked or seminude images of themselves or posted them online[1]
  • nearly one in six teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who own cell phones have received naked or nearly nude pictures via text message from someone they know.[2]

 

Notably, researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch discovered teens that sext are more likely to engage in sexual behaviors:

 

  • 28% of teens admitted to having sent a sext.
  • 76.2% of teens who were asked to sext admitted to having had sexual intercourse.
  • 68% of Girls were asked to send a sext vs 42% of boys
  • The peak age of sexting is around 16-17 years old
  • Sexting seems to decline in people 18+

 

From the perspective of the criminal justice system, teen sexting can fall under the child pornography statutes[3]. For example, a teen that takes a nude photograph of themselves has created child pornography; as soon as they hit “send” they have distributed child pornography. The significant danger lies in the fact that these images inevitably get passed around and often spread like wildfire across a school. This creates an environment rife with bullying, shaming, exclusion, and in some cases, suicide: An 18-year-old high school graduate committed suicide after a nude photo she sexted to her boyfriend was also sent to hundreds of teenagers in her school.[4]

Thus far, only 17 states have sexting laws in place.

Here’s what you can do to prevent sexting:

  • Parents, talk to your kids in a safe, relaxed setting about the perils of sexting. Ask what they know about it. Express how you feel in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way. Create a healthy, two-way dialogue. Remember, you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
  • Some kids are responding to peer pressure in the form of bullying, sexual harassment—after a breakup, those images can be used as revenge. Sometimes it’s impulsive behavior or flirting. Help your child understand that it is always a poor choice.

Kids:

  • Think about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a comprising photograph to someone via text. You could get suspended, expelled, kicked off of a sports team, and/or get in trouble with the law.
  • Never take photographs of yourself you wouldn’t want everyone to see (classmates, parents, teachers, employers)
  • Before hitting “send,” remember that you cannot control where this image goes. What you send to your romantic partner or friend could be forwarded to their friends and friends of friends.
  • If you forward an image of someone that is compromising, you are as responsible as the original sender. You have essentially become complicit in someone else’s criminal activity.
  • Report any nude or compromising photographs you receive on your phone to an adult you trust. Do NOT delete it. Instead, immediately get your parents, teachers, and school counselors involved.

 


[1] The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Cosmogirl.com, “Sex and Tech: Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults”;https://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/PDF/SexTech_Summary.pdf  

[2] John Sutter, “Survey: 15 Percent of Teens Get Sexual Text Messages”;https://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/12/15/pew.sexting.survey/index.html 

 [3] Justin W. Patchin”Summery of State Sexting Laws, https://cyberbullying.us/summary-of-state-sexting-laws/

[4] Mike Celizic, “Her Teen Committed Suicide Over Sexting”; https://www.today.com/id/29546030/#.UnvjcpTXR8s

Reference:

Teen Sexting–The Real Issue (psychology today)

Sexting: Risky Actions and Overreactions (FBI)

Cyberbullying Research Center

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Parenting Prevention Safety

What You Need to Know About Text Bombing

are you really laughing out loud? (Photo credit: MrPessimist)

The concept behind text bombing is to save time: you can send mass texts out to multiple people telling them where to meet you, et cetera. Ultimately, it was designed to be a cheap tool for efficiency. According to this latest from Huffington Post,  text bombing is the latest technological tool used by cyberbullies to go after their victims. The sender can be anonymous and the apps can be programmed to auto-send persistent, negative messages. Text bombing someone means you are sending 1000-10000 text messages to the same person in the same day, and it can go from being simply annoying to cruel. In the banal sense, one could look at text bombing as the equivalent of crank calling someone. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, text bombing has sinister underpinnings.

 

Imagine repeatedly receiving a text message saying, “die” or “no one likes you,” in the same day.  The victim of the text bomb has to endure receiving the same hateful and/or degrading message time and time again, experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety, and even depression. Unless you have a means of blocking the text messages, there’s really no way to stop the barrage of hate. You are in a relentless technological loupe.

 

Alas, you can protect yourself!  You can download one of these spam-blocking apps, which allow you to block numbers and texts from coming in:

 

For the Android, you can use Text Bomb Defender or Anti SMS Bomber Pro.

For the iPhone, you can use NumberCop.

 

Parents, if you are worried that text bombing may be an issue for your child, look for the following:

  • A spike in the phone bill
  • Make sure your child’s phone isn’t rooted. (“Rooting an Android phone means that you give yourself, rather than Sprint/Verizon/T-Mobile/AT&T’s software, the permission to act as the administrator of the phone. New Android operating system 2.3 and higher only allows 30 SMS — texts — from the same phone at one time. Teens with rooted phones can still send thousands of texts.” – via Internet safety expert Sedgrid Lewis)
Categories
Adolescence Holidays Prevention Recovery Safety

How To Have a Safe, Sober and Fun Halloween

Happy Halloween (Photo credit: Professor Bop)

Did you know that more people drink and drive on Halloween than many other holidays?
“Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that Halloween is among one of the most deadly holidays for drunk driving. For the holiday period — from October 30 through 5:59 a.m. on November 1, 2011 — 74 people died nationwide in a crash involving a drunk driver, a 21 percent increase over the average number of drunk driving deaths per day.” via MADD

We understand that Halloween can be a trigger for some people, particularly those who are newly in recovery, so it’s important to create some guidelines and parameters with which to navigate the holiday. If you were once an enthusiastic celebrant of Halloween, doing it sober may cause you panic and despair. Don’t worry, below are some safe, and fun suggestions. Remember, if this holiday is too triggering for you, you can make it a non-event: go to a meeting, hang out with friends, and keep it simple. If it creates stress, it’s not worth it.

  • Plan something with people who are committed to being sober
  • Surround yourself with people who can hold you accountable.
  • Be honest with yourself and with those around you: talk about your triggers if you have them!
  • Don’t go to a party where you know there will be drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Create a relapse prevention plan using tools you’ve learned at Visions to create a good exit strategy if you should need one.

There are an abundance of sober activities you can do on Halloween, especially as part of the young people’s fellowship. You can:

  • Be of service to your family: take your little brother or sister out to trick or treat.
  • Have a scary movie night
  • Have a monster themed dance party
  • You can go on the Haunted Hay Ride with sober friends
  • Some fellowships may have a Halloween themed dance or event.
  • Host a sober Halloween party with spooky treats and an eerie Halloween music mix
  • Make a creepy, crawly scavenger hunt

This list can go on. I trust that you can come up with a fun sober activity! The most important thing is that you enjoy yourself, stay accountable in your recovery, and endlessly tickle that funny bone.    Embrace this new side of yourself. Being present and aware is a wonderful thing to behold!

Categories
Adolescence Communication Safety

Texting and Driving: It’s Not Worth It

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Texting and Driving: Are you guilty of doing it? Even for a second? To an extent, we all are. Even if it’s at a stoplight, and no one is moving, many of us will check our phones. Gone are the days of “just driving.” We have evolved into a culture of fast-moving, busy, multi-tasking folk, and the importance of checking a text or checking our email or checking social media outlets has consumed us.

 

When we text and drive, we are driving blind for short periods of time.  According to this study, “Texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the length of a football field at 55mph BLINDFOLDED.”

 

The University of Utah did a study, comparing drivers who are texting and driving versus those drinking and driving and found “Texting while driving is the same as driving after drinking four beers.” That same study also “found that cell phone drivers had slower reactions, had longer following distances, took longer to recover speed lost following a braking episode, and were involved in more accidents. In the case of the cell phone driver, the impairments appear to be attributable, in large part, to the diversion of attention from the processing of information necessary for the safe operation of a motor vehicle (Strayer et al., 2003; Strayer & Johnston, 2001).”

 

One of the things I do like about texting is the fact that it is a form of non-contiguous conversation. It was originally designed as a way of communicating necessary information that didn’t require an immediate result. Times have changed, however, and the need for instant gratification has trumped the original utilitarian modality of the text message. The current generation prefers using text messaging to live conversation. In fact, that is often the primary means of communication.  It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s non-confrontational. It’s not uncommon for breakups and arguments to occur via text. And with the advent of smart phones, one is afforded less character limitations, so the “text” book has evolved. Texting is so easy that one can do it anywhere and at any time; ironically, the danger is the same: you can do it anywhere and at any time.

 

Let’s make a concerted effort to be more responsible and more aware of our actions and interactions with those around us. We can start with implementing the following actions to stop texting and driving:

Action:

  • Put your phone in the trunk or the glove box when you’re driving.
  • Wait until you are parked to respond our check your phone
  • Let your friends know you won’t be responsive if you’re driving.
  • When you’re not driving, try calling someone instead of texting. Make an effort to make contact beyond your fingertips.

 Notice any changes that may occur:

  • Are you more or less stressed out?
  • Are you more or less aware?
  • Are you less distracted and more engaged with the activity of driving?
  • Are your interactions with others more or less engaged?

 

Next, take the  “It Can Wait” pledge here and make a commitment to stop texting and driving. Encourage your friends to do the same. This is how change happens: one positive decision at a time; eliminating texting and driving is a wonderful step in a positive direction.

 

Watch this trailer for Werner Herzog’s documentary “From One Second to the Next” which documents four lives that have been impacted by texting-related accidents.

https://youtu.be/SCVZqeAGY-A

Categories
Adolescence Communication Prevention Safety

Teens: For Your Safety, Don’t Text and Drive

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Don’t text and drive!” Your parents say it, your teachers say it, the billboards say it, and even some of your friends say it. But you still do it. I’d ask why, but there’s really no logical explanation for it. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t occasionally participate in texting and driving, even though I know it’s dangerous. It’s not a good idea—for any of us. Nothing is so important it can’t wait until you can pull over or until you reach your destination. The fines alone for texting and driving should be enough of a deterrent, right?!

U.S. government research shows “more teen drivers are buckling up and not driving drunk than in years past,” but texting and driving is “posing a new threat.” In fact, according to a research team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “One in three high school students said they had texted or emailed while driving during the past month.” While the decline in drunk driving incidents and the increase in buckle-ups is wonderful news, the texting issue is a deadly problem.

Texting is the primary means of communication for teens: Teens typically send upwards of 100 texts a day. I’ve seen teenagers text each other in the same room! It’s clear that there’s a whole world of communication happening via technology, some good, and in the case of texting and driving, some deadly.  According to Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center in Washington, “A lot of teens say ‘Well, if the car’s not moving and I’m at a stoplight or I’m stuck in traffic, that’s OK.'” Lenhart goes on to say, “Other teens acknowledge they know it’s not safe, but think it is safer if they hold the phone up so they can see the road and text at the same time.” Neither one of these practices is safe.

It’s hopeful that this current generation of teens is exhibiting safer driving behaviors. There are less incidents of drunk driving (from 17% in 1997 to 8% in 2011) and a 44% drop in car crashes amongst teens. This says a lot about kids making healthier choices. I’m hoping to see a positive shift in the choice to text and drive. This is a fad that really needs a short shelf-life.