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Friday, August 28, 2009

What Happened Last Night?

If your teen drinks, it's likely she may not remember what happened the night before.

Heavy drinking can cause blackouts - episodes where you can't remember what you did - sometimes for long periods of time. Black outs are common among teens who drink heavily because the part of their brains that processes memory, the hippocampus, is not finished developing.

Aaron White, PhD with the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and his former colleagues at Duke University, surveyed 772 college undergraduates. They asked them them if they ever had a blackout.

Of the students who had drunk alcohol, 51% reported blacking out at some point in their lives and 40% reported experiencing a blackout in the year before the survey.

The students later learned that what they didn't remember included stealing, unprotected sex, and drunk driving.

Equal numbers of male and female students reported experiencing blackouts, despite the fact that the boys drank more alcohol, more often than the girls. The research suggests females may tend to black out more often and have more incidents of other forms of alcohol-induced memory loss.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Do You Really Want to Die From Drinking?

She looks like she's sleeping - but she could have Alcohol Poisoning.

Nearly one million teens are binge drinkers - meaning they reach a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08. For most adults this means consuming five drinks for men or four for women over a two-hour period.

When a person’s body absorbs too much alcohol, it can have a direct impact on the central nervous system, breathing, heart rate and gag reflex. This can lead to choking, coma and even death.

Victims of alcohol poisoning can lose the ability to swallow, because their gag reflex, a motor response from the body that prevents choking, shuts down. If they're passed out they can choke on vomit, accidentally inhaling it into their lungs. If you can't breathe, you die.

Even if you survive alcohol poisoning you may have irreversible brain damage.

What are the Signs of Alcohol Poisoning?

• Confusion and stupor

• Vomiting

• Seizures

• Slow or irregular breathing

• Hypothermia

• Unconsciousness

Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E_T_NQjJDo

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kids Cannot Argue with the Science of How Drinking Hurts

I was chatting with a fellow mom recently about our 13 year-old sons, one of those reassuring parent conversations when both of you realize your child’s crazy behavior is normal for his age.

We discussed how our sons had figured out that the end of eighth grade doesn’t count toward high school. That they are scared of taking this next step but will not admit it. That they don’t appear all that interested yet in girls, alcohol, or drugs.

According to a recent study, 14 year-olds are three times more likely than 13 year-olds to attend parties where parents are “supervising” and kids are drinking alcohol behind their backs. Science can help you broach the subject without seeming preachy.

In the spring of 2009, I attended the 51st International Conference of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous (ICYPAA), sat in on more than a dozen sessions, interviewed attendees, and listened to the stories of many others. Almost all of these young alcoholics began drinking in middle school or freshman year of high school.

Why? High school can be terrifying. No matter what your child hears from friends and older siblings, she cannot imagine what high school will be like. She desperately wants to fit in. If that means chugging Red Bull, she may well do it. If her friends have upgraded to beer, she will consider and possibly do that.

Now that you’ve heard why you should talk to your adolescent about alcohol and science, and have a better understanding of how alcohol affects the body, it’s time to begin the discussion. Even though your child might be arguing with you about everything else, it’s hard to argue with science. That’s what we’re counting on.

Here's a YouTube video you and your teen should check out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alcohol Affects Every Body System

You cannot understand how a computer works just by listing its parts. The connections and processes must be understood to determine what makes the computer work. The same is true of the human body.

Since it travels in the body through the blood alcohol affects every body system. The main ones affected are the digestive, central nervous, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems. When an outside chemical like alcohol is introduced into the body, it affects parts of these systems and different organs within them in different ways.

Alcohol dilutes itself in the water volume of the body to travel through its systems. Vital organs such as the brain, that contain a lot of water and need an ample blood supply, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol.

Why do women drink less and feel alcohol's affects more? Muscle tissue contains more water than fat tissue, so men, who have more muscle and less fat on their bodies than women, will have about 10% more water in their bodies.

Yes, different kinds of alcohol affect the body in different ways. For example, undiluted alcohol (such as a shot of vodka or tequila) is generally absorbed faster than diluted alcohols (mixed drinks), which are absorbed faster than wine or beer.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why do teens drink?

When I interviewed teen alcoholics they told stories about how they always felt different until they took that first drink. Drinking gave them a feeling of normalcy of finding what they'd been looking for. The world grew brighter. They were smarter, less shy, more willing to be part of the crowd.

But it was a false normalcy if you will because with it came the inability to control how much they drank. They make a powerful argument for genetics playing a big role in early drinking.

Here's Some of Holly's Story:

Growing up, alcohol was rarely served in Holly’s house. Yet in her early teens, she took a bottle of whiskey from a small bar in the living room to the basement, mixed it with grapefruit juice, and drank all of it. She doesn’t remember much after that.

The first time Holly got drunk at a party, she blacked out and was gang raped. That gasp you hear is other parents reading this. One of her four brothers is an alcoholic. She found out much later that her grandfather was an alcoholic who drove his car onto her town’s railroad tracks, passed out, and got hit by a train.

“I drank by myself and at parties,” Holly said. “I never knew about the history of alcoholism in our family until I was much older. “ Holly is sober now and has been for a long time. She's a middle school teacher. And she still goes to AA meetings.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cool Science and Alcohol Sites for Kids

It's not easy to find sites that will help kids learn the science of alcohol but we're trying. I've been reviewing and researching sites and here's what I've found.

The Cool Spot
Washington, DC
Created for kids ages 11 to 13 by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the site, which is colorful and uses cartoon drawings of kids to get its points across, has a lot of good, clearly written information for kids. Created by the NIAAA, there is a section for teens to tell their stories.

If you're looking for information you can trust about kids and teens that's free of "doctor speak," you've come to the right place. KidsHealth is a general health site that includes valuable information for younger children and teens about alcohol and science. http://kidshealth.org/teen/drug_alcohol/alcohol/alcohol.html

BBC Science and Nature: Human Body and Mind
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/body/index_interactivebody.shtml - This excellent web site provides activities to learn about each body system. Check out the organs game, muscle game and skeleton game.

This site has 15-17 minute videos of each body system. The information is very good even though your child may not be willing to sit through more than one of them. Start with the one on the CNS. http://videos.howstuffworks.com/hsw/20869-human-body-systems-the-nervous-system-video.htm

Neuroscience for Kids
Created by Dr. Eric Chudler, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and director of education and outreach at the University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials in Seattle, WA, this site focuses primarily on neuroscience. Check out the section on neurons which show how they work within the human body.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Think Your Kid Isn't Drinking in Middle School - Read This

Tracking reports of middle school drinking for six months revealed multiple incidents that made it to online news or were discussed on blogs. Here are a few:

At Gulf Breeze Middle School in Santa Rosa, CA, the 2008-2009 school year ended with four students expelled for possessing and distributing alcohol on school grounds. Eleven students from other middle and high schools were expelled that same week for alcohol and/or drug possession.

At Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk, CT, 22 middle school students were caught consuming alcohol on school grounds. Principal Linda Sumpter said the students included boys and girls from sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Allegedly, three of the students were selling alcohol they brought from home disguised in iced tea and Gatorade bottles.

At Timberland Middle School in Plaistow, NH, principal Michael Hogan sent a note home to parents telling them only clear bottles could be brought to school. Students were caught with alcohol on school grounds, and because the bottles were colored they could not immediately tell the kids were drinking alcohol. The police were not called.

At Redland Middle School in Rockville, MD, nine sixth and seventh grade students were disciplined after alcohol was brought into the bleachers before the start of school. Former principal Carol Weiss recommended them for suspension or expulsion.

In Norfolk, VA, three weeks after the death of Taylor Meyer, a 17-year-old Plainville girl who drowned after wandering away from a teen drinking party, kids drank alcohol like it hadn’t happened. Thirty three teens, most of them schoolmates and neighbors of the deceased girl were arrested for underage binge drinking at two parties. Parents expected her death would act as a warning to other area teens. Not a chance.