Categories
Addiction Adolescence Prevention

Latest Study: Teens and RX Drugs–Provokes Call for Early Prevention

Drug Free

According to a recent study by Michigan State Researchers, the “Peak risk for misusing prescription pain relievers occurs in mid-adolescence, specifically about 16 years old and earlier than many experts thought.” (Science Daily)

It’s always been assumed that drug and alcohol use starts in the latter years of adolescence, and while that may be the average, by the time some of these kids hit high school, preventative measures may be too late. This study is suggesting that preventative programs be introduced much earlier than in current practice. I echo this sentiment and am a huge proponent of early preventative measures. How early? As soon as the questions start coming up. You can make a difference at home too:

  • Tell your child in a general way what drugs are and how they can negatively impact their life.
  • Teach the value and power  of saying “No” and walking away from people or situations where drugs are involved.
  • Store your medications responsibly: Behind lock and key if necessary.
  • Model good behavior: if you are stressed, take a deep breath instead of a drink or a pill. Your kids learn from you first.
  • Transparency: If you are in recovery, and your kids ask you a question about your history, answer them within reason.
  • Know who your kids’ friends are and who their parents are.
  • Stay in tune with current events and trends.
  • Be social media savvy so you can understand the temperature of this generation.
  • If you discover drugs or alcohol on your child, use it as a doorway to create dialogue.  If you find that the drug use is more of a pattern, please get some help.

There are definitely organizations that teach preparedness and prevention, but the first teachers our kids ever have is us. Showing our kids we’re there for them may be the best preventative measure of all.

You can also check out:

NIDA for Teens

SAMHSA

Prevention Plus

Categories
Recovery

Know Your Facts: The Increase in Prescription Drug Abuse

(part 2 of 3)

Monitoring the Future released their latest study, noting that alcohol use was down, but marijuana, synthetic marijuana, and prescription drugs were up. In part one of this series, we focused on marijuana and its synthetic counterparts, bringing attention to the
perceived harmlessness of marijuana and the growing trend toward the use of synthetics. Here, we’ll talk about the rampant use of prescription drugs and the myriad dangers which accompany their use.

When it comes to prescription drugs, the ease of acquisition is often as simple as going through a parents’ or relative’s medicine cabinet, raiding a friend’s house, or simply trading with friends at school or at parties. The use of opioid prescriptions like Oxycontin and Vicodin are rampant…and deadly. As reported in Monitoring the Future’s 2010 National Results on Adolescent Drug Use: Overview of Key Findings, “54% of high-school seniors said ‘opioid drugs other than heroin (e.g., Vicodin) would be fairly easy to get.’” Why are teens using prescription drugs with such frequency? Could it simply be the ease with which they’re obtained? Or is it the built-in societal respect for doctors and their judgment which allows us to look away when the pen flies across the prescription pad.

Take note of the behaviors and physical symptoms which surround prescription drug addiction (via Educate Before You Medicatewww.talkaboutrx.org):

Behavioral signs:

  • Sudden mood changes:
    • Irritability
    • Negativity
    • Personality change
    • Extreme change in friends or hangout locations
    • Lying or being deceitful
      • Skipping school
      • Avoiding eye contact
      • Losing interest in personal appearance, extracurricular activities, sports
      • Sudden changes in appetite
      • Sudden drop in grades and/or academic or athletic involvement
      • Borrowing money or having extra, unexplained cash
      • Acting especially angry or abusive, or engaging in reckless behavior

 Physical Signs and Symptoms (these are varied, depending on the drug being used/abused):

Stimulants can bring about:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia/nervousness
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Loss of appetite or sudden and unexplained weight loss

Sedatives/depressants can bring about:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Respiratory depression
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Slurred speech
  • Coma

Opioids can bring about:

  • Sleep deprivation or “nodding.”
  • Pinpoint/constricted pupils, watery or droopy eyes
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation
  • Slow, slurred speech
  • Slow gait
  • Dry skin, itching, infections
  • Constant flu-like symptoms
  • Track marks (bruising at injection sites)

The unfortunate, but common misconception is that prescription drug use is safer than illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin: because it’s been prescribed, it’s “okay.” The problem with this ideology is doctors consistently prescribe and sometimes inadvertently over-prescribe narcotics, A: because they work, and B: because it’s easy. What this influx of prescription drugs does, however, is provide an underground stockpile of prescription opioids in the homes of our adolescents and their friends. As patients, start asking for non-narcotic alternatives. It makes no difference to the doctor but it may make the difference of life and death for you or someone in your family.

Start disposing of any unused medications and store those that are necessary in a secured place. Honestly, these days, the medicine cabinet should probably only be used for toothpaste and Tiger Balm.

Categories
Mental Health

Adolescent Treatment: Mind and Body As One

Image via Wikipedia

Since 2002, Visions has been in the forefront of providing adolescent treatment. Being well-versed in the characteristics of adolescent behaviors and cognitive development, it was only natural for us to refine our Mental Health Track in order to provide an optimal treatment model for teens. As we’ve seen time and time again, drugs and alcohol aren’t always the sole, causative factor in behavioral issues. Often times, there’s a mental-health component which needs to be addressed with the same skill and finesse used in the treatment of substance abuse.

It’s not easy being a teenager: for one, there’s the physical awkwardness, there’s the social constructs of trying to fit in and be liked, and there’s the desire to do well in school and meet the expectations of your parents. It’s tough. There’s no denying that. For some, it’s harder than others, and the pressure of “doing it all” is simply too much, which can present as the self-deprecating feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression, et cetera. Unfortunately, the environment of adolescence isn’t always conducive to one talking to their friends about these experiences without the fear of being stigmatized. Most of the time, one’s left trying to figure things out for themselves, and that never really works out well.

This October, Visions will light the path to a refined treatment model, addressing the complex issues relating to adolescent mental health. By thoroughly addressing and updating the mental-health component to our existing modalities, we will ultimately provide an environment which will allow teens struggling with mental-health issues to truly achieve physical and psychological health. The goal is to do so while also removing the stigma typically associated with mental-health issues.

We all come with the physiological footprints of our families. On occasion, we need help navigating those seas so we may begin to create new, emotionally sound paradigms in which to live our lives. Between successfully providing mental health, substance abuse, and family treatment, I believe we are well on our way to helping families achieve this goal.

Categories
Addiction

Social Media: Helpful or Harmful?


The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University’s (CASA Columbia) recently published
their 16th annual back-to-school survey which takes a look at adolescent behaviors regarding substance abuse in relation to social media. CASA Columbia took a look at American teens ages 12-17, their social media use and how it might ultimately affect their alcohol and drug abuse behaviors, and parent involvement or lack thereof. The findings, though not terribly surprising, were substantial: “70% of teens report spending time on social networking sites on a typical day,” which come out to approximately 17 million 12-17 year olds doing participating in some sort of social media activity on a typical day.
With the naturally uncensored dynamics of teen behavior, the typical day-to-day posts can range anywhere from being tagged in a drunken photo from the previous weekend’s house party to the false braggadocio of one’s sexual prowess. From the outside looking in, sites like Facebook and MySpace certainly show implications of promoting an environment of peer pressure. After looking at the results from this study, that impression is pretty spot on:

“Compared to teens that have never seen pictures of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs on social networking sites, teens that have seen these images are:
• Three times likelier to use alcohol;
• Four times likelier to use marijuana;
• Four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, almost three times likelier to be able to get controlled prescription drugs without a prescription, and more than twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day or less; and
• Much likelier to have friends and classmates who abuse illegal and prescription drugs.”

Where parents tend to fall flat is in relation to their ignorance and denial of the powerful effects of suggestion, a key factor associated with the subversive allure of social media sites. Parents must be careful not to adopt the “Not my child” attitude and get informed instead. According to the CASA study, “Eighty-seven percent of parents said they think spending time on social networking sites does not make it more likely their child will drink alcohol; 89 percent of parents felt it would not make their child more likely to use drugs.” That’s not a particularly positive result, and frankly, it confirms the high level of denial that aids and abets the social media petri dish of reckless behavior.
This isn’t hopeless, though. The results of the CASA study present an opportunity for change. It’s a chance for us fuddy-duddy adults to learn to look at the world from the lenses of our kids. We were teens once, too, and though memories are often clouded, it behooves us to remember that we were once reckless and secretive and convinced that our parents were the enemy. Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare suggests the need for parents to “give their children the will and skill to keep their heads above the water of the corrupting cultural currents their children must navigate.” While I agree that our kids need the skills and strength of character to manage social media, I think we need to be careful not to incite a sense of imminent fear, but instead look at the results of this study as something from which we can nurture an opportunity for behavioral metamorphosis. Growing up is scary enough.
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Categories
Addiction Smoking

Can Graphic Imagery Deter Smokers?

Who actually smokes anymore? I find myself saying this every time I see someone light up; especially after all we’ve learned. It’s not like there’s some beneficial properties to smoking chemically treated tobacco!

Anti-smoking laws have been on the rise for years. Truth is, being a smoker is expensive and isolating, not to mention bad for your health. Looks like the ultimate goal is to eliminate smoking in public places once and for all. It used to be that folks could smoke in restaurants or planes, negatively impacting the communal air space. Over time this has changed. As a former smoker, I remember feeling the heat when those first changes were initiated. I remember being resentful and feeling as though my rights were being violated.  My young, feisty attitude screamed, “I can do whatever I want!” and of course, I smoked anyway. I realize now that it wasn’t my “right” to harm those around me. That self-righteousness was really the selfishness of my addiction talking. True to addict form, all I could think about was my next cigarette.

Recently, the FDA released 9 graphic anti-smoking images that are required to be placed on the top half of cigarette packaging by the Fall of 2012. At the same time, Australia will begin enforcing a ban on brand labels on cigarette packaging in an effort to lesson the intrigue and coolness factor associated with smoking. Despite the usual grumblings from the tobacco industry, the FDA is holding firm. Sadly, the graphic images haven’t really impacted the way people are smoking, though. According to a new, German study, smokers that have been deprived of nicotine for short periods of time have a lower response to fear.  “In those who stop smoking, the activity of the fear center has been lowered so much that they are not very receptive to the scary photos,” said study researcher René Hurlemann, of the University of Bonn in Germany.  They came to this conclusion after scanning the brains of 28 smokers and 28 non-smokers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)[1].  And researcher Özgür Onur of the University of Köln noted that smokers, particularly after a 12-hour abstinence, were “indifferent to fear.” Onur went on to say, “It seems that they (smokers) are mentally caught up in their addiction, resulting in a lowered receptivity for fear-inducing stimuli.” That’s a problem, particularly when fear is our body’s natural way of keeping us from doing something perilous. 

While the FDA’s imagery may be useful in deterring non-smokers from picking up in the first place, I hesitate to think that it will greatly change the way current smokers look at their legal drug of choice. The teens I come across certainly aren’t deterred. If anything, they are viewing the graphic images as a joke.

Beyond the current results of these scientific studies, the taste left in my mouth is really one of denial seasoned with a nicotine chaser.



[1] https://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/smokers-brain-fear-center-graphic-cigarette-labels-1693/