Talking to Your Child About Drugs and Alcohol – Part 1

TalkingtoYourChildAboutDrugsandAlcoholTalking to your child about drugs and alcohol (part 1)

No one: child, parent, grandparent, or family is immune to the effects of drugs and/or alcohol abuse. Good kids can end up in trouble, even when they have made an effort to avoid drugs and alcohol and have had great guidance from their parents.

The issue of drug and alcohol use can be very confusing to kids. For instance, they may think, “If drugs are dangerous, then why do we take so much medicine for headaches or coughs? And, if drugs are so bad, then why does the media make them look or sound so cool through TV, movies, or music?

Beginning the conversation with kids about drug use early is key. Open, honest talks can prevent drug and alcohol abuse and can help answer the many questions kids have. Kids need to know what is true and what is not. reports that, “National studies show that the average age when a child first tries alcohol is 11; for marijuana, it’s 12. And many kids start becoming curious about these substances even sooner.” This shocking statistic shows how urgently we need to get started in talking to our kids about drugs and alcohol.

Listening and communicating are extremely important when it comes to talking to your child about drugs and alcohol. When parents listen to their children’s feelings and concerns, their kids feel comfortable talking with them and are more likely to stay drug-free.

Another strategy often discussed when talking to your kids about drug and alcohol use, is role-playing. Role playing can help your child be prepared with responses when difficult situations arise. By practicing these conversations, you enable your child to have the power to say “no” in a way that they are familiar and comfortable with.

Knowing your children’s friends and encouraging good friendships will go a long way with drug prevention. Certain groups of kids may be more likely to use drugs than others. It’s a fact that kids who have friends who use drugs are likely to try drugs themselves. Also, those who feel socially isolated-or like they have no friends- are also at risk for turning to drugs or alcohol. So, it’s important to know your child’s friends and their parents and their friend’s siblings. Be the “question-asker” in your child’s life. Know what’s going on, where they are, who they are with, what they are doing. Be involved. Recognize if your child has friends who are not making good choices or are not building your child up in a healthy way. Be aware if your child seems friendless or lonely.

Providing information to your children about the dangers of drugs can also empower them to make the right choices. While pointing out to younger children that we take care of our bodies so we can be healthy, we can also add that things like smoking harms our bodies and we shouldn’t do that. Older children need to know the dangers of drugs and the risks involved. You may want to specifically talk with them about how smoking can affect them in the long term. They may want to know what drugs look like or what their street names are. If your child has questions, answer them the best you can. If you don’t know all of the answers, do your homework and follow up with them. Quick conversations that happen often are much more effective than one long talk in your child’s developing years.

Next week’s post will include information on talking to your child specifically about the dangers of marijuana. There will be future posts about talking to your child about other specific drugs as well.

Geography and Drug Abuse

PrintGeography and drug abuse

Certain areas of the country or even the state in which you live seem to have higher rates of reported drug abuse.  Many wonder what these trends are and may even move or relocate accordingly.  For instance, some cities may have a reputation for having a lot of heavy drinkers, while other cities may be known for meth labs.  Often, people in rural communities report that there is drug abuse in their community since, “there is nothing else to do.”

Several government studies and reports from rehab centers suggest that and geography not only influences drug use, but also rehab initiation. Many additional factors can influence drug abuse but looking at the trends of geography in relation to addiction can be insightful in understanding drug abuse. reports that, “The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a national survey in 2011 and found that among people age 12 or older, 10.5% of the West Coast population, 9.2% of the Northeast, 8.5% of the Midwest, and 7.5% of the South reported using an illicit drug in the past month (SAMHSA). Actual rates may be somewhat higher as some survey-takers may have been reluctant to admit to using drugs. The SAMHSA survey also found that the rate of illicit drug use among people 12 or older is higher in more populated areas with 9.2% in large metropolitan areas, 8.7% in small metropolitan areas, and 7.2% across nonmetropolitan counties. These nonmetropolitan areas were further broken down to reveal some interesting trends in addiction and rehab: that illegal drug use rates are higher, 8.5% in urbanized counties, 6.3% in less urbanized counties, and 5.7% in completely rural counties.”

Further research indicates that while rural areas and smaller cities can appear to have lower rates of drug abuse, these same locations have higher rates of binge drinking, heavy alcohol use, tobacco use, inhalants, and illicit pharmaceuticals (prescription drugs) than larger cities. Also, studies show that while more residents of smaller cities and rural areas disapprove of illegal drug use, these same individuals are less likely to disapprove of the abuse of legal drugs such as alcohol.  This information suggests that in rural areas, or smaller cities, individuals are more concerned about the type of drug that is being abused rather than the level of drug abuse.

These correlations between geography and drug abuse may not be the reason people become addicts, but they do show some interesting influential trends.

Drug abuse: Men vs. Women

drugabuse-menvswomenDrug abuse: Men vs. Women

There are so many differences between men and women that it seems natural to wonder if there are variations when it comes to gender and drug abuse.  For instance, do men or women abuse drugs earlier? Longer? Certain types?  Is it easier for men or women to break addictive cycles?  Are there differing factors that initially set the addiction in motion?  Although it may seem trivial, studies have shown significant differences between men and women when it comes to specific kinds of drugs and the likelihood of becoming addicted to them.

For instance, The National Institution on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicate that there is, in fact, a difference between male and female exposure to drugs and likelihood of drug abuse/addiction and has provided research that shows that gender differences play a key role when it comes to drug abuse.  Interestingly, they report that men are more likely than women to have opportunities to use drugs, but men and women given an opportunity to use drugs for the first time are equally likely to do so and to progress from initial use to addiction. However, women and men appear to differ in their vulnerability to some particular drugs.

Further, both men and women are equally likely to become addicted to or dependent on hallucinogens, tobacco, cocaine, heroin, and inhalants. Moreover, studies reveal that women tend to use cocaine to self-medicate when feeling depressed and unhappy. Men, on the other hand, generally use cocaine when they are feeling good, in order to feel even better.  When it comes to tobacco, cigarette smoking also shows gender specific patterns.  Men are more likely to smoke cigarettes to improve their attention and performance at work, ease feelings of aggression and relieve pain, while women tend to use smoking to regulate their mood and suppress their appetites.  Also, women are more likely than men to become addicted to or dependent on drugs and sedatives that treat anxiety or sleeplessness, and women are less likely than men to abuse alcohol and marijuana.

The NIDA study also indicates that there are also differences between men and women who seek treatment for drug abuse. For instance, women in treatmentprograms for drug abuse are more likely than men to have other health problems, to have sought previous drug treatment, attempted suicide, and to have suffered sexual abuse or other physical abuse.  Also women who struggle with drug abuse are less likely than men to have graduated from high school and to be employed.


Alcohol Ads and Kids

Woman and young girl in living room with flat screen televisionAlcohol Ads and Kids

How many times, while viewing TV (especially sports related programs) do you see alcohol ads played one after another?  Have you ever thought about the impact these ads have upon young kids or teenagers in the room?  Studies show that you should be concerned about the effects upon those under age in the room.  In fact, it has been shown that if children are exposed to ads that feature alcohol, they have a much higher chance of being at-risk for underage drinking. For some kids, this constant influence has been shown to get them drinking as early as seventh grade.  Also, study results show that the more that kids are exposed to alcohol advertising, and the more they enjoy the ads, the higher the chance that they will try alcohol by the time they are in tenth grade.

So, while you may believe these ad to be harmless, consider the following facts: alcohol ads have been shown to be linked with various other alcohol-related problems in later life for those kids, including declining grades and academic performance, passing out from alcohol, booze-fueled fights, and going to school while drunk. Though you can’t always control what kids may be watching, it is critical to talk with them and explain the dangers of alcohol and what it can.  Studies also show that if you do the talking, they’ll be at a lower risk for alcohol abuse., a Canadian website for digital and media literacy, recommends some strategies for talking and discussing alcohol related ads with kids at different stages of development:

“Early years: Current research suggests Grades 3 and 4 are critical years in the formation of expectancies about alcohol, so this is a good time for parents and teachers to start helping children think critically about what they see and to introduce them to the marketing strategies advertisers use to create positive associations with alcoholic beverages.

Middle years: This age group represents a critical period for decision-making about alcohol consumption. Today in Ontario, 66 per cent of students in Grades 7-12 drink, with 25 per cent drinking at least twice a month and 12 percent drinking at least once a week.  Although young teens may lack the life experience to judge mass media messages, with guidance they can develop the critical skills they need to understand: explicit and implicit messaging in ads, the perspective and intentions of programmers and characters, and the impact of production techniques.

Older teens: Studies have shown that once teens start to drink, alcohol ads on TV do not affect their drinking habits.  However, it has been found that wine and alcohol consumption by 18-year-old girls is directly related to television viewing between the ages of 13 and 15, and that young men who are good at remembering beer ads at 15 years of age, tend to be heavy drinkers when they are 18.” (Source:


This information goes to show that we need to be sensitive to watch kids who are viewing and discuss alcohol ads with them to ensure healthy thinking and awareness.


College and Alcohol Abuse

College and Alcohol AbuseCollege and Alcohol Abuse

It’s that time of year again: fall leaves, football games, sweaters, and, for some, college.  Many parents feel concerned about sending their kids to college and wonder if their kids will be wise when it comes to alcohol.  Parents of college freshman (or college students younger than 21) wonder how and why alcohol seems to be available to their kids (since it’s been reported that as many as 80 percent of college students admit to drinking alcohol during their time in school).

Below are 4 main points to consider:

  1. Older students buy alcohol for younger students : Individuals of all ages interact during college
  2. Kids will be kids – even if they are college kids!  Colleges have rules about underage drinking but whether or not students choose to obey those rules is up to them.
  3. Parties and events: ID is generally not required to obtain alcohol when attending a party or event during college.
  4. Stealing alcohol: College students have been known to do crazy things and theft is definitely one of them.  Sometimes young college students steal alcohol to drink before they are 21.


Having open, honest, discussions with your child as they grow up and as they leave for college in relation to alcohol use will help facilitate responsible attitudes and behaviors for your college student.


Robin Williams’ Addiction and Depression

"Old Dogs" Premiere - Los AngelesRobin Williamsaddiction and depression

Many know that Robin Williams struggled with addiction to alcohol and cocaine during his lifetime. He admitted to being a cocaine addict in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when his fame grew tremendously.  However, he quit cocaine cold turkey when comedian John Belushi overdosed to death in 1982 on a combination of cocaine and heroine. After this immediate stop, he was sober for 20 years.

Williams’ struggle with alcohol was public knowledge.  He had struggled with alcoholism before Belushi’s death and reports that, “in 2006, he gradually became addicted to alcohol again. By his own account, it happened the moment he walked into a store and saw a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. He claimed that it was one of those times when he was having thoughts such as ‘Oh, come on, just a sip’ and then the next thing he knew, he had dove back into drinking. By his own account, he was purchasing bottle after bottle within just a week.”

Williamsaddiction will definitely not be forgotten.  Addictions like these are often wake-up calls to the public to actively seek professional help for their own addictions or that of a family member if his or her life is in danger.  There is such a strong link between alcoholism and depression that many wonder which comes first – which causes which?  According to, “research is currently split on the issue as to whether clinical depression leads to alcohol abuse or if alcohol abuse causes depression or both. What is known for sure is that alcohol has a very calming effect within the brain and that is why people are likely to turn to it when stressed. According to a recent study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly one-third of those who struggle with depression of some kind have a tendency to abuse alcohol. It has also been shown that children with tendencies to clinical depression are more likely to develop alcoholism in their teens.”

Robin Williams’ tragic death should serve as lesson to all that both addictions and depression are not to be taken lightly.


Drug Abuse Trends in the U.S.

DrugAbuseTrendsDrug abuse trends in the U.S.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (, illegal drug use in America is increasing. They report that in 2012, “an estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older—or 9.2 percent of the population—had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant, or tranquilizer) in the past month. This is up from 8.3 percent in 2002. The increase mostly reflects a recent rise in the use of marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug.”

The institute further reports that marijuana use has increased since 2007 indicating that in 2012, there were 18.9 million current (past-month) users – about 7.3% of people aged 12 or older – compared to 14.4 million (5.8%) in 2007.

However, it is interesting to note that the use of other illegal drugs declined over the past decade or so. Again, referencing the info reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the use of psychotherapeutic prescription drugs non-medically (without a prescription or in a manner or for a purpose not prescribed), hallucinogens (a category that includes Ecstasy and LSD), cocaine, and methamphetamine has remained steady or even declined.

Perhaps marijuana use is on the rise the most due to the fact that more than half of new illicit drug users begin with marijuana. Also of interest is that drug use is highest among people in their late teens and twenties. In 2012, 23.9 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds reported using an illicit drug in the past month although drug use is increasing among people in their fifties.  This trend is, at least in part, due to the aging of the baby boomers, whose rates of illicit drug use have historically been higher (


Support in Recovery

 Support in RecoverySupport in Recovery

Recovery from addiction takes time and a lot of personal effort. Having support from any source is helpful for individuals in recovery. Support can be found in group therapy settings, a sponsor, an addiction counselor, family or friends. Someone who is supporting another in recovery is simply someone who can help when an individual is struggling and the impulse to turn back to the addiction is strong. For many individuals, support in recovery begins with a drug rehab treatment program as a foundation.

Recovery is general a long and difficult process.  Having support through the days, weeks, and months can be critical. Most individuals leave rehab with a support system intact and are encouraged to continue to reach out further for more support if necessary. Support following addiction recovery can provide the structure for staying clean day after day. Although having support wont guarantee full long term recovery, it can minimize many of the burdens that come from addiction and withdrawal. Many difficulties faced in recovery and in life in general can be eased with a helping hand and feeling understood and supported by others.


Elderly and Prescription Drug Abuse

ElderlyandPrescriptionDrugsElderly and Prescription Drug Abuse

As human bodies age, they naturally experience a gradual decline in physical health.  The normal aches and pains of childhood, youth, and middle age become more painful and debilitating.  One’s ability to fight off infection and disease decreases, and the healing process is slower after an illness or injury. Because of this, an increasing number of elderly persons are using and abusing prescription medications to provide relief for the discomfort of aches and pains associated with illness and aging.

However, not all elderly individuals stop at taking prescription medications for aches and pains.  Drug abuse among this age group is increasing.  Among the elderly, the overuse and abuse of prescription medication is the most common form of drug abuse. In fact, even though only 13 percent of the U.S. population is 65 years and older, they consume approximately one-third of all medications prescribed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that elderly persons use prescription medications three times as frequently as the general population and have the poorest rates of compliance with directions for taking medications. It is now estimated that 17 percent of persons aged 60 or older are affected by prescription drug abuse. (

The two most commonly prescribed and abused drugs among the elderly are narcotic analgesics and sedative-hypnotic drugs.


Narcotic analgesics mostly prescribed to the elderly include morphine, Demerol, codeine and some closely related synthetics.  These drugs are prescribed to the elderly because of their pain-relieving properties. Morphine, one of the most powerful pain relievers available, is used to treat severe pain on a short-term basis. Codeine, on the other hand, is prescribed for milder pain. Other examples of commonly prescribed narcotic analgesics derived from codeine include Oxycontin, Darvocet and Vicodin.


Sedative-hypnotic drugs are also prescribed to and abused by the elderly. Prescription sedatives are drugs that reduce feelings of stress and nervousness and induce mental calmness. Hypnotics are drugs that are used to promote sleep. However, the categories are not mutually exclusive. In fact, when sedatives are given in relatively high doses, they induce sleep similar to how hypnotics do. Further, when hypnotics are given in low doses, they can induce daytime sedation; and impair cognitive functioning and coordination.  This can increase the risk of falls and other accidents. Commonly prescribed sedative-hypnotic tranquillizers such as Valium, Xanax and Soma as well as sleeping drugs such as Ambien.


Clearly, abuse of prescription drugs by the elderly is a growing problem in the U.S. that society needs to be aware of and attentive to.

Butane hash oil (BHO)

Butane hash oil (BHO)

A hot new product on medical marijuana shelves and on Craigslist is butane hash oil: a potent hash oil most often made at home with the help of DIY  (do-it-yourself) YouTube clips and canisters of butane.  Also known as amber, honey, wax, earwax and by its initials BHO, butane hash oil is a highly concentrated form of the active ingredient in marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol).  Using BHO is often called “dabbing,” because of the way BHO is ingested.  To ingest BHO, users place a small dab of the substance on a hot, metal surface, and then inhale the resulting puff of smoke.

Dangerously, the high is much more intense than regular marijuana: It’s not uncommon for people to lose consciousness after inhaling BHO.  Dale Gieringer, of NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, told, “Things like this never happened until the popularization of hash oil in recent years.  The dangers are dire enough to merit a special warning.”

BHO is especially dangerous due to its flammable nature.  BHO is consumed by using portable hash oil pens or water pipes heated with propane torches, which comes with a cost. reports, “butane-fueled blasts have sent 17 people to a Portland burn unit with serious injuries in the past 16 months, including one Northeast Portland man who later died from his injuries.”  Further, reports that there were, “nine major BHO-related blasts in Oregon since 2011, four of them in homes or hotel rooms where children, including a newborn, were present. In one case last year, a 12-year-old girl suffered multiple broken bones after leaping from the second floor of a Medford apartment building rocked by a butane (BHO) explosion.”