Drug Abuse Prevention
Two months after Washington and Colorado voters say yes to recreational marijuana use, a new group was launched on Jan. 10 to halt legalization movement.
Called Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), the organization is chaired by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. Other board members include Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug policy adviser and an outspoken opponent of legalizing marijuana; and David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
“Our country is about to go down the wrong road, in the opposite direction of sound mental health policy,” Kennedy told the Associated Press. “It’s just shocking as a public health issue that we seem to be looking the other way as this legalization of marijuana becomes really glamorous.”
Also member of the board is Sharon Levy, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on substance abuse, who said she joined the organization because “we’re losing the public health battle” and policy is being made by legalization advocates who might be misinformed about marijuana’s dangers.
The group argues that the U.S. can tackle issues, such as racial disparities in arrest rates and the lifelong stigma that can come with a marijuana conviction, without legalizing pot.
Project SAM hopes to raise money to oppose legalization messages around the country, shape the legalization laws taking effect in Washington and Colorado, promote alternatives to jail time for pot users, and speed up scientific research on the effects of marijuana, the article notes.
The TEDS Report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that more than 33,000 people were treated in 2010 for combined use of benzodiazepine and narcotic pain relievers. The figure is 569.7 percent higher compared with the 5,032 treatment admissions in 2000, which strengthens claims that prescription drugs are one of the fastest growing drug problem facing today’s youth.
Given prescription medications’ popularity these days, it isn’t surprising that many teens are experimenting the drugs with other dangerous substances, such as alcohol. This trend isn’t only resulting to increased emergency room treatment, it could also raise fatal overdose cases.
Here are some of the deadly drug combinations you should know so that you can help your children understand their risks even before they attempt using any of them.
Benzodiazepines and Alcohol
Xanax, Klonipin, Valium, Rohypnol, Halcion, and Ativan are some of the commonly abused drugs under the Benzodiazepines family. These drugs are general sedatives that are prescribed to treat muscle spasms, seizures, insomnia, anxiety, disturbances, and alcohol withdrawal. But when taken in combination with alcohol, the side effects may include dizziness, confusion, impaired memory, increased irritability and aggression, loss of consciousness and coma.
Antidepressants and Alcohol
Many antidepressant drugs cause side effects like drowsiness, impaired motor coordination, dizziness, and clouded cognitive abilities. When drugs like Prozac, Elavil, Wellbutrin or Zoloft (among others) are combined with alcohol, a person may experience heightened depression, increased drowsiness and dizziness, dangerously high blood pressure, and impaired alertness. The person may also be at greater risk of alcohol abuse.
Stimulants and Alcohol
Adderall is an example of stimulants that is gaining a lot of attention lately, particularly after it was reported that some high school students across the U.S. are taking the drug to improve academic performance. Other stimulants that are widely abused include Ritalin, meth, and cocaine. Mixing alcohol and stimulants like Adderall can cause a person to feel as if s/he is not drunk and in complete control of her/his senses. This is because the drug masks the actual effects of alcohol. The person may continue to drink and drink some more without realizing s/he is already binge drinking, and may lead to alcohol poisoning or even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused substance among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs. Even though the legal drinking age in the country is 21, the 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey found that 70 percent of 12th graders had tried alcohol, and 13 percent of 8th graders and 40 percent of 12th graders drank during the past month. The survey result backs previous studies that more and more teens are turning to alcohol and peer pressure isn’t the only one to blame.
For parents, it is important to understand the different reasons that drive teens to use and abuse alcohol. That’s because teens’ behaviors are often influenced not only by the people around them, but also by the events that happen to them.
School-related Stress: Children and adolescents experience school-related stress in the form of class bullies, exam week, homework, and extra-curricular activities. Additionally, many students feel the need to excel academically in order to get into college and land a decent job afterwards. While a bit of stress can be a motivational factor, too much of it can eventually put emotional strain to your teenager. A 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report indicate that for children and teens, too much work and too little play could backfire down the road. And so when teenagers are burdened by the pressure, they have a tendency to resort into something that would make them feel good, such as alcohol and drugs.
Transition: This include moving to a new city or state, changing school, moving from middle school to high school, obtaining a driver’s license, and graduating from high school. While some of these are exciting for certain teenagers, others can feel stressed with the change they are about to go through.
Family Troubles: Several studies suggest that teens find solace in alcohol and drugs when faced with conflicts at home or when their parents are into substance abuse themselves. Initially, teens would drink for fun or to relax but this can become habitual to cope with feelings and situations they don’t know how to handle.
Mental Health Conditions: Being a teenager is full of challenges and this can sometimes lead to feelings of sadness and confusion, or worse, depression and anxiety. And because they are still unfamiliar with various coping tactics, they could regard the feeling as something that would simply go away without seeking professional help or telling their parents. To numb the feeling, a teenager might drink or experiment with drugs.
Shisha smoking isn’t a safer alternative to cigarette smoking and a string of research is out to prove that claim, one of them came from the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to WHO, people who engage in a 1-hour session of shisha smoking inhale the same amount of smoke as from 100 to 200 cigarettes; about 70 times as much nicotine; and 20 to 30 times more tar and carbon monoxide.
If that finding doesn’t seem to concern you, then maybe this one will: shisha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy, the British Heart Foundation reports.
Shisha originated in India and one of the popular myths associated with smoking shisha is that it is harmless. But here are some facts you should know about it:
- Smoking shisha through bubbling water won’t filter out dangerous toxins.
- Second-hand shisha smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide, metals and cancer-causing chemicals that are harmful to your health.
- Sharing a shisha mouthpiece can expose you to infectious diseases, such as herpes or tuberculosis.
- Shisha tobacco contains highly addictive nicotine.
- Shisha smoking during pregnancy can harm the unborn baby.
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:
- 19% 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.
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.”