Not My Kid: Dealing with drug use of your child’s friend

Post by Sarah Wilde

You pick up your child and a friend from a party and notice something is off.   Not with your child but with the friend who is sleeping over.  What do you do?   Shrug it off to teenage behavior?   Let them sleep it off and pray your son/daughter finds new friends?   You may think … “it’s not my child, who am I to say anything?”    Well, one thing is certain:  not being their parent may mean you have a bigger impact on this child than you estimated.   You have the power to be a positive influence in this child’s life, as well as the obligation as a parent to protect your own child.

Research shows that kids start using drugs because they think it will help them feel better – especially from stress or depression, fit in, or they just want to take risks.  Spending time with a friend who is using will increase the likelihood that your child will use too.  Statistics show that every day approximately 4,500 Americans under 18 try marijuana for the first time.   Treatment for marijuana is the primary reason children are admitted into treatment programs – more than for all other illicit drugs combined.

Scientific research tells us that addiction is not a matter of will and is actually a disease of the brain.  While not all teenage drug or alcohol use will lead to addiction, there is no certainty over when use may turn to abuse or dependence.   Regardless of full-blown addiction, many negative consequences may develop such as poor grades, loss of interest in athletics or extra-curriculars, problems at home or in relationships, even trouble with the law.

You can make a difference in the life of a child who is using.  Sometimes kids aren’t aware of the harmful and lasting effects that can occur with drug use and need an understanding person to talk to.   Many kids have parents with alcohol or drug problems of their own and alerting the parent isn’t going to help the matter.   As an adult and parent there are resources available to you that will help you learn more about how to help children of substance abusers.  The National Clearinghouse  for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) can help – call 1-800-788-2800 or visit www.health.org.

If you have an open ear with the understanding parent of the child in question, talk with them.   Explain everything you have used to educate yourself on the topic and explain what you know about the harms and consequences of even “recreational” use.   Stay involved and it could be a matter of changing the course of both that child’s life and your own.


Teenage Drinking Has Lasting Detrimental Effects

Post by Sarah Wilde

Adolescent binge drinking is increasing and causes long-term effects on the brain.  While often considered a problem, it creates more damaging effects than just poor decisions, illegal behavior and regretful exchanges.    According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, yet another study shows that binge drinking interferes with normal brain activity, in a manner which has lasting effects.   Heavy alcohol consumption over 11 months “dramatically and persistently decreased” cell activity, including the division of a certain type of cells, and significantly altered certain cells, creating a lasting alcohol-induced reduction affecting development.  

The study concludes that the period of adolescence is highly vulnerable to alcohol and that alcohol decreases neural turnover by altering the ongoing process of neuronal development.  The lasting effect was still seen 2 months after discontinuation of alcohol.  This lasting effect, the study says, may underlie the deficits in cognitive tasks that are observed in alcoholics.

The next time your teenager tells you that their drinking is “no big deal,” remind them that it actually is.   Binge alcohol consumption in teenagers means that they are not only getting drunk in the moment but negatively impacting their ability to function in the future.   These kids are in fact reducing hippcampal neurogenesis, which is the process of creating new neurons, and is essential to the growing brain and activities such as learning and memory.    Drinking excessively after this weekend’s football game or for next weekend’s parties and events is setting up impaired memory and reasoning ability for years to come.   Parents do not always seem to understand the long-term ramifications of teenage drinking.   Some parents think it is the easier thing to cave into their teens desire to drink, and others choose not to know or ask too many questions.  

As a parent it is our job to keep our kids healthy and set them up for a successful future.   Just like sunblock is needed today to prevent cancer tomorrow, intervention on our teenagers drinking is necessary today to prevent dramatic effects to their growing brains tomorrow.   If you need help, LifeSkills Authorities provides consultation to families and schools on how to speak with your kids about alcohol and its consequences.  Contact us now so that we can help you educate your family and children before they’ve set unhealthy patterns that are more difficult to break.

Full study available here.    Have you discovered a helpful way to teach your children about the harmful effects of alcohol?   Share with our community – post your comments here.


Can your child “JUST SAY NO?”

Post by Michael Plahn

The idea of just saying “NO” to drugs or alcohol when I was going to school became a popular slogan.  The idea Nancy Reagan got behind was, in theory, a noble attempt at dealing with the alarming addiction rate and cocaine epidemic of the early 1980′s.  However, after much more study has taken place, it is a more complicated issue than just saying no to drugs and alcohol, or having strong willpower.  Especially if the addicted person is an adolescent or young adult.

reason is that an area of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex, which regulates judgement, impulse control, and self-monitoring, does not fully develop until the individual is approximately twenty-five years old.  Therefore,it is much different than just a willpower issue or solved by hanging out with a new crowd.  Your teenager or young adult may be virtually handcuffed by their addiction and lack the ability to “just say NO” because the part of their brain that could help them in that cpacity has not been fully developed, or even worse, likely damaged by the alcohol and drug use.

What can be done?  In my opinion, this is definitely a situation that requires professional help.  The addicted young person has likely shown signs of psychiatric issues and may be acting out in a manner that has the family feeling as though “this is not our son/daughter/sibling” … “they have changed.”  Well, they very well may have changed.  As the founder of  LifeSkills Authorities, and someone in recovery myself, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help immediately.  This is not an issue that is likely going to get better by getting them into college and living on their own.  That false hope often leads to more problems and tragedies during the first years of college.  I urge you to get a professional opinion and go into it with an open mind.  Successful treatment is likely going to be a long-term solution, goes beyond a simple intervention or 30-day treatment program, and can be costly.

I have personally sat with countless families who think things will get better and their child will somehow just change.  Don’t be the parents that take that chance with your child’s life.  Addiction is a progressive and terminal disease that requires professional help to treat, particularly when the addict in question is a young adult.  After a tragedy, hindsight may make it painfully obvious to see where the path was leading.    Perhaps it would have been the answer to use the college money you saved for education, and instead pay for the proper long-term professional addiction treatment for your son/daughter.

If you are reading this and can relate to this topic matter or have a personal story to share, please comment and let us hear from you.


Michael Douglas’ Lessons Learned About Childhood Drug Abuse

Post by Sarah Wilde

Michael Douglas was on the Today show this morning speaking with Matt Lauer about the sentencing of his son, Cameron, for drug charges.    Cameron has spent years suffering the effects of untreated addiction despite numerous attempts at sobriety.    The story is certainly heartbreaking and one that surely hit too close to home for many parents in the same position of having children fall victim to drug abuse.

Matt Lauer asked Michael Douglas what the lesson is that he could offer other parents with a child abusing drugs or alcohol.   Douglas’ response was, “You have to catch it early.  Your options once your children turn eighteen are limited.  Most of the time 30 days ain’t gonna do it.   But see what you can do when they’re under eighteen because after that it has to be all with their permission.”

We couldn’t agree more.   Help is available and we at LifeSkills Authorities encourage parents to help “raise the bottom” for their children by intervening early.   We work with parents to approach their children in a loving way, through an invitational intervention - never with surprises or coercion.   If your child is abusing drugs or alcohol take action now.    A qualified invitational interventionist can help you sort through next steps.


Are Females More Susceptible to Addiction?

Post by Sarah Wilde

Teenage girls and young adult women are particularly at risk when they abuse drugs and alcohol.   Bad habits stemming from an early age lead to decisions that may impact them for the rest of their lives.  Female drug abuse is a problem in this country that often extends beyond the female user.   Moms abusing drugs affect their children and pregnant women affect the developing fetus.  

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., the Director of National Institute on Drug Abuse says that “research increasingly suggests that women may be more vulnerable than men to particular consequences of drug abuse, including addiction. This greater vulnerability may stem from gender-specific differences in motivations for drug use, differing sensitivities to drug effects, and a host of other biological and environmental factors. And while more research is needed, animal models and clinical studies alike suggest that females may be more vulnerable than males to the rewarding effects of drugs, which could increase their risk for dependence.”

The NIDA also tells us “among the youngest age group (12- to 17-year-olds), males and females had similar rates of current drug use for cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, and the nonmedical use of prescription psychotherapeutic drugs in 2007. Moreover, young females surpassed males in current cigarette use in 2006 and in dependence on or abuse of alcohol in 2006 and 2007. This is particularly troubling given that the adolescent brain is still developing, and we are just beginning to understand how drug exposure could affect brain structure, connectivity, and function during this vulnerable time.”

Drug use during pregnancy (including the use of tobacco and alcohol) presents injurious effects on both the mother and fetus.  Females using during pregnancy set up a heightened drug abuse risk for the offspring in adolescence and young adulthood, according to Volkow.  It is scary and sad to learn that in 2006-2007, 5.2 percent of pregnant women aged 15-44 had used an illicit drug in the past month and 16.6 percent were current users of tobacco products.

If you or someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol it is never too early or late to get someone help.  Both Mother’s Day and Women’s Health Week are approaching in May.   To honor this, tell the women in your life how important their good health is to you, and if they need help do your part to intervene.   If you feel you may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, take the first step toward recovery and ask for help.


Teenage Drug Use by State

Post by Sarah Wilde

Teenage use of illegal drugs is indeed an issue, as more and more teenagers are becoming addicted across the country.   The below map shows the prevalence of illicit drug use in the past month among persons aged 12 to 17, in the U.S. by State.   Percentages and annual averages are based on the 2006 and 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (SAMHSA).   The majority of states show more than 1 in 10 teens using illicit drugs in the past month.  Do you know how your state is affected by teenage drug use?

 States listed here in alphabetical order within each group were divided into five groups based on the magnitude of their percentages. States in the highest group (10.76 to 12.92 percent) were Colorado, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. States in the next highest group (10.10 to 10.75 percent) were Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. States in the mid group (9.59 to 10.09 percent) were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. States in the next lowest group (8.79 to 9.58 percent) were Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia. States in the lowest group (7.15 to 8.78 percent) were Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.

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