Archive for December, 2012

Substance Abuse Stats to Encourage Parents to be More Vigilant of Their Kids’ Activities

Kids these day have a lot of things going on in their lives, many of which are probably unknown to most parents. But what is really frightening is when your child experiments with banned substances and get himself/herself injured because of such activity.

The 2012 Monitoring the Future survey showed that although marijuana use among teens’ holds steady, their perception about the harmfulness of using marijuana was down which may signal future increases in marijuana use. Some of the negative side effects of marijuana use include distorted perceptions, memory impairment, and difficulty thinking and solving problems.

SaukValley reports that in a recent survey of high school seniors in Whiteside County, Illinois, some alarming statistics were found that will hopefully inspire parents to become more involved in their kids’ lives in order to help them avoid drug abuse. The findings said:

  • teen drug abuse19% of the respondents admitted driving after drinking alcohol
  • 24% admitted driving after using marijuana or other drugs
  • 69% feel it is easy to get alcohol when they want it
  • 36% regularly use or have used alcohol or drugs on a weekly basis
  • 28% have no clear rules at home about drug/alcohol use
  • 53% feel their parents would never catch them if they drank alcohol without permission
  • 57% feel their parents would never catch them if they went to a party where alcohol is served
  • 55% feel their parents would never catch them if they rode in a car driven by a teen who had been drinking

Some addiction specialists and health experts say it wouldn’t be wise to think that your child would NEVER engage in any illicit substances, because they might already be doing it without your knowledge. Parental involvement and educating your kids about the risks of substance abuse are considered as among the key components in ensuring that they remain drug-free.

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Long-term Use of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Impairs Visuospatial Memory

In the medical field, anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS), or more commonly known as anabolic steroid, is useful in treating conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as delayed puberty, as well as diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS. But in sports, the drug is widely used to enhance performance and/or improve physical appearance.

steroid abuseOver the last 20 years, a string of reports have indicated that a growing number of non-athletes are also abusing anabolic steroids to beef up their bodies. What these people might be missing is that, prolonged use of the drug may severely impact their visuospatial memory, according to a new study published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Researchers from McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School investigated 44 individuals, aged 29-55, with 31 having used AAS for an average of seven years, the Science Daily reports. Each participant was asked to complete five cognitive tests that assessed a wide range of brain functions, including memory for shapes and locations of objects, memory for lists of words, reaction time, ability to maintain attention, and speed of information processing.

The researchers found that long-term AAS users have poor score than nonusers on a test called “Pattern Recognition Memory,” where participants are asked to try to remember a collection of patterns that they have been presented on a computer screen.

“Our work clearly shows that while some areas of brain function appear to be unaffected by the use of AAS, users performed significantly worse on the visuospatial tests that were administered. Those deficits directly corresponded to their length of use of anabolic-androgenic steroids,” explained McLean Hospital Research Psychiatrist Harrison Pope, MD. “Impaired visuospatial memory means that a person might have difficulty, for example, in remembering how to find a location, such as an address on a street or a room in a building.”

Pope and colleagues are not sure whether extended use of AAS could result to cognitive defects, but they are hoping that their findings would lead to larger studies and increased awareness regarding the possible dangers of anabolic steroids abuse.

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How to Discuss Prescription Drug Abuse to Kindergarten Through Grade Three Children

Talking about prescription drug abuse to children ages 5 to 8 years old isn’t easy for most parents. There’s the thought that they might not be able to understand yet the nature of the abuse, plus finding the right words to properly explain the topic  can potentially leave some questions unanswered.

Yellow tabletsHowever, just because children between kindergarten and grade three are still very young doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to know the dangers of misusing and abusing prescription medicines. After all, communication remains an important component for children to make well-informed decisions about substance abuse.

Keep in mind that 5 to 8-year-olds already have an increased interest in the world beyond home. They are beginning to see ads about prescription and OTC drugs on television and may hear people talking about them.

To help you make the first move, here are some guidelines from a document released by Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy:

  • Explain that prescription and OTC medicines are drugs that can be taken when a person is sick or has an injury, and when they are taken properly, they can be very helpful. Explain that they can be harmful when misused.
  • Use “teachable moments” while watching television or when taking medications to talk about how these drugs can be harmful or dangerous.
  • Reinforce that your children should only take medicine that’s given to them by you or someone to whom you’ve given permission such as a grandparent, babysitter, doctor or school nurse.
  • Explain what alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs are.
  • Help children learn that it isn’t always necessary to take medicine when they don’t feel good. If they have a headache, for example, eating something or lying down for a while might make them feel better.
  • Praise your children for taking good care of their bodies and avoiding things that might be harmful.
  • If your children take medicine during the school day, make sure they know that the nurse or other school official will give it to them, and that he or she has your permission to do so.
  • Continue to keep medications, vitamins and other similar products out of reach.

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Parents Are In Denial About Drug Abuse by Their Kids

A former federal drug enforcement agent revealed that drug abuse by Grand Forks teenagers is rampant and most parents have no clue about it.

Robert Stutman recently told members of the Grand Forks Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition at a Dec. 6 meeting that parents would be “totally shocked” at the level of teenage drug abuse in one of North Dakota’s largest city, the Grand Forks Herald reports.

“I have a strong suspicion that some doctors in this town are writing a high number of prescriptions for hydrocodone,” Stutman noted.

Stutman served as a special agent for the U.S. Department of Drug Enforcement. He spent the past 25 years working with kids and communities on drug abuse prevention. He shared that of the several groups of students he’s spoken with, only a few said their parents know about the drug problem but don’t do anything about it.

“I had more kids come up and want to talk with me after my presentation than parents who attended the evening session,” Stutman said, referring to the substance abuse situation in East Grand Forks. “That tells me there’s a level of denial in this community.”

Stutman told members of the prevention abuse coalition that they enlist a trained clinical substance abuse counselor who is not a school employee and could work with kids “under different rules.” He noted that in some schools, students who report having a problem with drugs are immediately suspended and their parents are informed.

“If that’s what happens when they come in, why would they ever come in again?” Stutman explained. “You gotta give kids a haven to go to, where they’re safe.”

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Personalities and Behavior Patterns Typical of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction can affect any age, gender, race, social status, and demographics. But perhaps, you somehow wondered why some people are more susceptible to substance abuse than others. You might even ask: how come willpower isn’t enough to discourage someone from using drugs?

teen drug abuseIf only the answer is as simple as reciting the ABCs, it would probably be a lot easier to curb the problem of drug abuse. But sadly, that isn’t the case. However, some experts like Dr. Sherry Hoppe, author of Hooked but not Hopeless: Escaping the Lure of Addiction, can explain what makes other people vulnerable to banned substances.

“In some cases, susceptibility to addiction is genetically wired—neutron pathways are predisposed to rerouting by alcohol or drugs. Vulnerability can be magnified if a person fails to develop emotional, intellectual, and social skills—sometimes because of dysfunctional families,” Dr. Hoppe said.

Inability to find solution to problems, fragile emotion, trauma, shame, denial, emotional avoidance, numbing-avoidance of feeling, quick-fix mentality, and controlling are all common personality trait of people who take refuge in drugs.

“The most common behavior pattern frequently stems from guilt or shame. Addicts feel they have failed—themselves, family members, or others—in some way and sometimes rationalize their actions by blaming others,” Dr. Hoppe added.

Sometimes what starts as a harmless attempt to seek relief for pain and sufferings could eventually turn into a dangerous addiction. For example, a person may begin taking anti-depressant or sleeping pills as means of temporary relief, but when that person starts to look at his/her medications as the ideal solution to mask life hurts s/he could become increasingly dependent to the pills until it becomes harder to stay away from them.

“The inability to cope with life’s problems and stressors leads the addict to seek other ways to escape, and substance abuse becomes the easiest route,” Dr. Hoppe said.

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How to Talk to Your Kids About Marijuana in the Aftermath of Legalization in Colorado and Washington

It has been over a month since voters from Colorado and the Washington decided it is time for the two states to legalize recreational marijuana use. The ruling is, without doubt, a major triumph for marijuana proponents. But for many parents, it created a personal dilemma in terms of explaining to kids how the once-banned-substance is no longer illegal.

marijuana“This is a great time for parents to sit down with their kids and explain the fact that just because something is no longer a crime does not mean it’s necessarily good for you. We need to have a heart-to-heart and say, ‘Please don’t do this until you’re older and the risk is less for you,’” Alison Holcomb, the drug policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington and a mother to a 4-year-old child, told Healthland Time.

Roger Roffman, a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Washington (UW) who has studied interventions for high schoolers who use pot, said that in some families it is still possible for teens to make good decisions despite having parents who drink alcohol or smoke marijuana. “In principle, if parents can drink alcohol or smoke marijuana responsibly in front of teens, they can also do it responsibly in front of young kids,” he said.

For Rick Steves, a Washington-based travel guru, discussing marijuana to his kids even before the legalization measures were passed in Colorado and Washington has greatly help them in making informed decision even now that recreational use of pot is no longer prohibited.

When Steves joined the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in 2003, he invited the group’s president to his home to discuss pot and pot law with his children.

“I wanted to explain to my kids that this is not pro-drugs but pro-civil liberties,” says Steves, whose children are now 21 and 25. “I told them this is something adults should be able to do, but it is not any more appropriate for kids than driving a car or using a chainsaw.”

But while not all parents can have the privilege to invite professionals to their homes like what Stevens did, there are still several ways to help your kids understand why it’s important to become well-informed about the dangers of drug use and abuse, as well as respect the laws. Experts agree that parents should be a good role model to their kids.

“…think about how their marijuana use is being construed by kids. I personally think it’s a bad idea to use marijuana in front of your kids,” said Inga Manskopf, a prevention specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

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