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Monday, December 27, 2010

The Role that Parents' Play in Teen Drinking

Our book is featured on NPR Morning Edition today - thank you Allison Aubrey.

Here's the beginning of the story -

For teenagers, friends play a big role in the decision to take that first drink. And by the 12th grade, more than 65 percent of teens have at least experimented with alcohol. But what parents do during the high school years can also influence whether teens go on to binge drink or abuse alcohol. Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that teenagers who grow up with parents who are either too strict or too indulgent tend to binge drink more than their peers. . . Go to the link for more.


The Role of Parents in Teen Drinking

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Binge Drinking Can Cause Alcohol Poisoning - What to Watch For

Even though you may think someone who is drunk is “sleeping it off,” alcohol levels in the blood can continue to rise. High levels of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning which can affect breathing, heart rate and the gag reflex. If the gag reflex is impaired, a person can choke on vomit or accidentally inhale it into the lungs, with a risk of causing coma and even death.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

·         Slow breathing, or less than eight breaths a minute
·         Irregular breathing, or a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths
·         [el1] Blue-tinged skin or pale skin       
·         Confusion or stupor
·         Low body temperature, also called hypothermia
·         Unconcious and can't be awakened.

If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. If someone who was binge drinking is conscious but confused or incoherent call poison control. Never leave an unconscious person alone

Here's a video you can show your kids: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E_T_NQjJDo

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Can Lowering the Drinking Age Stop Binge Drinking - Did it Before?

A new study has challenged the theory that lowering the minimum legal drinking age would help curb binge drinking on campuses.

Richard A. Scribner, of the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, one of the researchers on the new study, and colleagues used a mathematical model to estimate the effects that a lower drinking age would have on college binge drinking.

The model, developed based on survey data from students at 32 U.S. colleges, aimed to evaluate the "misperception effect" emphasized by the Amethyst Initiative - that is, the idea that underage students widely perceive "normal" drinking levels to be higher than they actually are

The researchers concluded that the campuses that were most likely to see a decline in binge drinking from a lowered legal drinking age were those that had the poorest enforcement of underage drinking laws - being surrounded, for instance, by bars that do not check identification - and a significant level of student misperception of 'normal' drinking.

Wouldn't it be simpler to just look back to what happened when the drinking age was 18? I realize the world was a different place now but legal drinking at 18 didn't stop anyone I knew from drinking everything in sight and then some. I mean really. College kids binge drink - I personally don't think it has anything to do with the drinking age. It has to do with college culture which is centered around drinking in so many ways it's ridiculous.

I was just reading the Facebook page of a friend's daughter who is living in London. The drinking age there is 18. Many of the posts - not by her fortunately - are about going out and getting wasted. Does she have 5-6 drinks in an hour? She's doing in fine in school. It's culture and the only way to change it is change culture. I am not sure anyone has figured out how to do that.

Here's a link to the study: http://news.oneindia.in/2010/12/11/loweringthe-drinking-age-wont-curb-binge-drinkingstudy.html

Friday, December 3, 2010

Forget Four Locos - Here's the Newest Way Manufacturers Try to Get our Teens Drunk

Spiked whipped cream? This is not a joke.

One of the less known facts about the science of how alcohol affects teen bodies is that kids prefer sweeter drinks that mask the taste of alcohol. The sugar in those drinks mixed with the alcohol can be a deadly combination. Liquor manufacturers have recently launched a new product that teens will love - and can put on top of the sweeter drinks to make them even more alcoholic. Read on. 

Just as products that combine alcohol and caffeine like Four Locos are coming off the market, a new, sweeter with a cherry on top version is starting to appear on supermarket shelves. Called Whipped Lightning (pardon me if I skip the trademark symbol), it's the world's first alcohol infused whipped cream.

Reports are the spiked whipped cream is on sale in IN, MA, HI, OH, and other states. The whipped cream comes in sweet flavors such as hazelnut espresso and chocolate which completely disguise the taste of alcohol. Students are putting Whipped Lightening on top of jello shots and other mixed drinks as well as just eating it right out of the canister.

The whipped cream is 15% alcohol, or 30 proof.

Here are links to a couple of articles. 



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It Happened Last Night and These Kids Could Have Died

Do you want your kids running around like maniacs, vomiting and potentially stopping their hearts? If you don't read this story.

A neighborhood teenager was telling me yesterday about an incident involving these new drinks Axis, Max and Four Loko which combine the equivalent of five cups of caffeine and 12% alcohol in a single drink. Local kids trust me because they know I won't tell their parents. And she wasn't one of the kids involved anyway - she was talking about something that happened with kids she goes to school with.

In case you are living in Siberia, these new drinks sell for $4-$5.00 which is a cheap and an easy way for kids to get wasted. The problem is it's also deadly - alcohol plus massive quantities of caffeine makes kids not feel the alcohol's effect right away. And so they keep drinking. A long time ago we did this too except we took speed and then went out drinking at a bar in college. Someone discovered that you could drink more alcohol and not get tired if you took drugs too. One of my friends had a psychotic episode that I had to get her through - so did I. We stopped doing it not long after we started. We were lucky.

On a recent high school trip to a competition, the seniors decided to get the smart kids who'd never been drunk - wasted. They were in a hotel and I guess no one was watching. They combined these energy drinks with vodka and dared the younger kids to drink them? What do you think happened?

The kids who had never been drunk before took the dare of course, and got trashed. They went running around screaming through the hotel, one fell in the pool, almost drowned and had to be revived via mouth to mouth. Almost all of them threw up and several got violently ill.

Then they all went to bed and got up the next morning sick as dogs and went to the academic competition they were traveling for and did quite well.

I heard of this second hand but I know it's true. And of course, I've been sworn to secrecy. My message is very simple - when you hand your teens over to the school or another group to go out of town you need to know who is watching, how they will be watched and what the heck happens. From what I can tell the school has no idea and no one has told their parents.

This story has all the elements of how kids get drunk for the first time and bad things happen.

  • Older kids dare younger ones to do something they ordinarily wouldn't do.
  • They want to appear cool so they do it.
  • They get sick and maybe learn a lesson but the story is passed from kid to kid as a hilarious tale.
  • Parents and the schools never hear about it.

What can you do? Talk to your kids and keep talking to them. Get as much information as you can before you let them go anywhere that you're not going to be - particularly overnight. And when they come home listen to the conversations in the back of the car. The neighborhood kid told me. But most of them don't and since my own kids weren't involved and I don't know the kids who were I can't do anything except write this blog.

I'm not saying that these things don't happen - they do. They happened to me. But these caffeine/alcohol drinks are deadly and these kids were lucky. They should be taken off the shelves and banned.
The manufacturers who make these drinks should be locked in a room and made to consume massive quantities of them and left there to deal with the consequences.

This isn't about making money, this is about our children's safety. I don't know how they get up in the morning and live with themselves. I couldn't.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Does Anyone Who Writes Advice for Parents of Teens Have One?

I was having a discussion the other day with a peer about middle and high school kids and how much more sophisticated they are than we were. I grew up in a suburb of Long Island and I didn't even know what homosexuality was until high school.

I never met a lesbian until college - and the reason I found out that this girl was one is because I was seeing a guy she was really close friends with, she was beautiful and I was jealous. He wasn't even the one who told me she was gay but when I found out, I felt like a total idiot.

This blog is about science and alcohol but more and more it's also becoming about what it's like to raise a teenager and what signs we should watch out for. I have a 15 year-old and an 11 year-old who know so much more about sexuality, alcohol and drugs than I did at their age. My son is debating legalization of marijuana in his tenth grade class. When my daughter was in 3rd grade, I asked her if she knew what sex was and she turned around and explained it to me in detail. Then I felt better when she said Eeeew. 

But my point is the discussion we had was about how so much of the material developed for young adolescents is more appropriate for first graders than a 10 or 11 year-old. I saw a presentation awhile ago developed by a PR firm for middle school kids that featured a character named King Candy Tooth. First of all, how that ever saw the light of day I don't know. But when we asked about the age range of the kids and they proudly said middle school, the parents in the room shuddered. It was the equivalent of that board game that they play in pre-school these days - Shoots and Ladders. Middle school - my goodness.

Is it that those of us who have kids today live in a parallel universe from everyone else? Is it that the people who develop material for kids (I'm not talking about the schools but the contractors and many of the advice givers) have no clue what today's kids are like? 

Or is it more - as a teacher said recently that sarcasm was offensive to her but the kids responded well to it. 

Then there's the other end of the spectrum. A parent that I like very much, who is from Scandinavia, was worried about taking a group of 11 year-olds to the new Harry Potter movie because it might scare them. These same kids have read The Hunger Game - a dark, extremely readable and well told story about a futuristic world where everyone except the leaders are starving and two kids from every "district" that is left on earth are chosen to fight to the death in an arena each year with the entire world watching. 

The winner gets to live a better life. I read it and wouldn't let my daughter read it for awhile - even her brother recommended that she not read it because there is a scene where wild dogs rip apart a child. She wasn't old enough to understand the satire and political implications - she would just read it as is. This past summer I relented because it's so hard to get her to read anything. And she really liked it - but she chose not to read the sequel.

Kids today are so sophisticated - cartoony and silly is meaningless. They watched the World Trade Center fall. The news is violent and frightening. You can turn off the television in your own house - but you can't turn it off in someone else's. And your average 8 year-old knows how to get around every parental control on a computer.

Today I came across this material for parents that is so sanitized and unusable I had to share some of it. Maybe that's where this unawareness of what kids are really like is coming from - the Advice People. Here's a little bit about how to talk to your children about their sexuality. It's supposed to be for 8-18 year-olds. If I ever tried this stuff on my kids they would laugh me out of the house. 

This is from the 10 Essentials Your Teen Needs to Know about their Sexuality by a fairly popular advice columnist. 

Essential #2: He/She will need to become aware of how his/her sexuality is tied to his/her body image. Your teen will need to understand that how he/she feels about his/her self and his/her appearance is a big key to whether he/she will be happy with in his/her sex life. 

Essential #4: He/she needs to discover the normalcy of sexual feelings. As your teen learns to recognize them and accept them as normal feelings he/she will learn to deal with these feelings maturely. 

Essential #5:  He/she needs be taught about physical act of sex. Not only do teens need to know what intercourse is, he/she should also be made aware that intercourse is pleasurable and why it’s pleasurable for both sexes. What's more, teens need to learn that there is more than one way of having sex.

All I can say is WOW.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hypertexting Teens More Likely to Drink and Have Sex

The Associated Press reports that teens who text 120 times a day or more — and there seems to be a lot of them — are more likely to have had sex or used alcohol and drugs than kids who don't send as many messages, according to a new research study to be released today at a meeting of the American Public Health Association in Denver.
The new study is based on confidential surveys with more than 4,200 students in Cleveland high schools. The  authors told AP they aren't suggesting that "hyper-texting" leads to sex, drinking or drugs, but say it's startling to see an apparent link between excessive messaging and that kind of risky behavior.
The study concludes that a significant number of teens are very susceptible to peer pressure and also have permissive or absent parents, said Dr. Scott Frank, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
The study was done at 20 public high schools in the Cleveland area last year, and is based on confidential paper surveys of more than 4,200 students.
It found that about one in five students were hyper-texters and about one in nine are hyper-networkers — those who spend three or more hours a day on Facebook and other social networking websites. About one in 25 fall into both categories.
Hyper-texting and hyper-networking were more common among girls, minorities, kids whose parents have less education and students from a single-mother household, the study found.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Insidious Result of Bullying - Will Kids Drink to Escape?

I was talking to my son in the car this morning about bullying and all the media coverage it's been getting, and in all of his 15 year-old wisdom he said, "I don't think bullying in school really exists, I've never seen it." Wow.

I researched bullying and what affect it has on early alcohol use.While there is some research on this topic, I couldn't find anything that linked the two decisively. But it makes sense that bullying may well cause kids to try and escape through alcohol and drugs. It's documented that kids going through a divorce, death of a parent and other major family trauma, may try to escape into alcohol Anything that makes them feel better is a possibility.

I was bullied in elementary school and what was then called junior high. As the new kid in a new school and a new town, there was one girl in particular who tormented me. In those days you could fight back, and I did. I won a fight with her in front of a crowd of 4th graders behind the school. She never bothered me again, but even today the thought of that experience makes me shudder.

I've also had work issues with adult bullying as I'm sure many of us have. In my experience, male bosses are the worst offenders, and the research data bears this out. While sexual harassment is a prosecutable offense, there are no laws in this nation that allow those who are bullied much recourse unless you can link it to discrimination.

One of the common responses to office bullying - although certainly not the answer - is to have drinks with co-workers. The alcohol can have a calming affect and in a restaurant or bar enables you to talk about how upset you are with less reservation than at the office. But venting is a short term fix. All of the published information suggests going to your supervisor, reporting it to HR, etc. But in my experience, it doesn't really do much and confronting them only makes it worse. The only thing you really can do is get another job. The bully won't stop his behavior, but at least it won't be you he's tormenting.

What's my point? Adults know what bullying and harassment are and even though it can make them feel small and inadequate, cause physical illness, sleeplessness, depression and more, at least they get that what's happening is wrong. But a 12 year-old who is shoved in a locker, screamed or yelled at, or the much more insidious tactics of snide remarks, public humiliation, underhanded comments, notes, emails, Facebook posts, etc. doesn't  understand what's happening. All she knows is she feels terrible and wants more than anything to just make it stop. That's when alcohol use can start.

Those of us parents who are talking to our kids about alcohol and drug use, should also be talking to and monitoring our children and their friends for potential bullying. Think about it. While suicide is rare, even though much publicized, misery is not.

Adolescents are loathe to go to their parents with anything that may get them in trouble with another kid at school. Part of talking to our kids about bullying, similar to conversations about alcohol and drugs, is to let them know they can tell you anything without fear of repercussions. It's a hard place to be with your child, when you know that someone is hurting them, and you don't immediately take action if they ask you not too. But gaining your adolescents' confidence is worth it.

Whatever works for you to protect your kids is the right approach. We need to stop the bullying now. Remember the playground and school bullies of today, are tomorrow's parents who will be bullying their kids and spouses. They're also the next generation of workplace monsters.

Many states have introduced anti-bullying legislation and it's stalled because corporations are afraid of getting sued as are schools. Well it looks like the schools are finally going to do something. Let's make sure companies to do too.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Alcohol More Dangerous than Crack and Heroin - Tell Me Something I Don't Know

The Economist reports on a new study suggesting alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack.

Researchers led by Professor David Nutt, a former chief drugs adviser to the British government, asked drug-harm experts to rank 20 drugs (legal and illegal) on 16 measures of harm to the user and to wider society, such as damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime.

They found that Alcohol is the most harmful drug in Britain, scoring 72 out of a possible 100, far more damaging than heroin (55) or crack cocaine (54).

Duh! Let's start with the fact that alcohol is legal. Of course that makes it more dangerous - just about can get it. Alcohol is addictive - yes so are heroin and crack cocaine but many people are functional alcoholics while we don't really hear much about functional heroin addicts or coke heads.

The British media and to some degree the American media, jumped all over this study with headlines screaming that alcohol is the worst drug.

One thing they missed - is alcohol is the commonly used drug among teens and has been for decades. If a teen has a family history of alcohol use or is going through death of a friend/parent/relative/etc. or divorce or fragmented family, alcohol is often the drug of choice. It's open and in our homes and many people will buy alcohol for underage kids.

We're advocating that parents and caregivers forbid their kids alcohol - to a teenager that's a license to go out and get drunk. But talk to them - the science of how alcohol hurts teen brains and bodies is very persuasive. Here's a great guide written by yours truly with lots of help.

A new e-book from AAAS  entitled Understanding the Effects of Alcohol from the Science Inside Alcohol project, explains in language aimed at adolescents how alcohol affects their bodies. When used with a companion book for parents, Delaying that First Drink: A Parents’ Guide, by Aimee Stern, the entire family can learn the science behind why drinking young is a bad idea.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

How Much Should You Trust Your Child?

A recent survey of 1,000 kids and 300 parents by CASA Columbia found that 50% of kids who come home after 10:00 PM say they were out with people who were drinking and taking drugs.

Staying out late - particularly on the streets or at house where no parents are present - means trouble. I remember that from my youth too.

Should you let your kid stay out later than 10:00 - how much can you trust them? Here's my dilemma.

I know I've raised my son well. We've had our rough spots, a divorce, a meltdown that resulted in family therapy, some screaming fights that I probably had as much guilt in starting as he did.

Still he's basically a good kid. He does his homework now. He participates in It's Academic and his team is a winner. He has a network of friends whose parents I admire and trust.

So what am I doing wrong? I have this nagging thought in the back of my mind that the other shoe will drop soon. He's 15. I know because of the book I just finished that he is going to parties where there are alcohol and drugs. I found out the other night that he and a friend walked to another friend's house to go to bed at 2:00 AM. I'm not comfortable with that, and I told him. And he said, "Yeah well I don't do that at our house."

There it was - slapping me in the face. The nagging doubt. My son sleeps over at friends' houses on the weekends. On Friday night he often doesn't come home after school. Despite constant reminders that it is required of him, he rarely remembers to call me to tell me where he is. Oh when I call he picks up the phone and there is a night's plan. Sometimes I get the plan ahead of time. With teenagers the plan changes constantly anyway.

But it's the others parents' rules that worry me. Our kids have reached the age where they are allowed to go out by themselves at night. I always insist that Ian come home by 11:00 PM. But what happens when he goes to someone elses' house and their rule is 1:00 PM. I've never really questioned that before and if I do it now it will start a war with him and the other parents.

So we've kind of reached a compromise. He must give me a plan before he goes out. If that plan changes he must call me by a certain time - usually 9:00 PM or so. If he doesn't call - I call him and remind him he was supposed to call. But I don't make a terrible fuss because so far he's always been where he said he would be - and never come home later than I've asked him too.

We have a similar deal with the Internet. I cannot control his Internet viewing. A 15 year-old kid in a communications and arts magnet knows how to get around just about every firewall they can build. He was able to do it at 10. So I have to trust.

So what do you think? How much should we trust our children? And what happens when they betray that trust or better yet if they don't?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Genetic Link to Addiction Can Spur Early Drinking - Talk, Listen, Learn

Kids who drink before the age of 14 are 5 times more likely than those who don't, to have problems with alcohol later on. Why? Mostly it's genetics. If members of your immediate family have had problems with alcohol, chances are your kids may too. The younger you tell them, the better off you are.

When I was researching my new book Delaying that First Drink: A Parents' Guide, I met a number of alcoholics who had started drinking young. The most disturbing was a boy who began drinking at the age of nine - no he didn't raid his parents liquor cabinet. He went to the kitchen cabinet and drank the lemon extract, then vanilla and it goes on. He said it made him feel better. At the age of 28, he is a recovering alcoholic.

A young woman I interviewed who is in her early thirties now, said both her parents had drug and alcohol problems. Her earliest memory was her mother lighting a joint in the bedroom when she was three. By high school, Kat was drinking and taking ecstasy, spending her high school tuition money on both and falling apart.

What woke her up? She went home to visit her mother and the house was filled with vermin, filth and it made her sick. Her mother, who was nurse, had lost her job for forging prescription drugs and went home to do them full time.

Kat went to AA and is now sober - her mother died of ovarian cancer while she was in recovery.

Another woman went to her first high school party, drank half a bottle of gin, and was sexually assaulted. She had a long history of alcoholism in her family, and no one ever told her.

What's my point? If there is a genetic predisposition towards alcohol in your family history talk to your kids early and often. Don't scare them but let them know that grandfather had a big problem and how it affected his life.

Let your kids know that if they ever feel alone or scared or anything else they can come to you.

Continue the conversation as they grow. And hopefully, they will come to you. Just keep reminding them they can.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Does My Drinking Influence My Kids - More Than I Ever Imagined

Almost half of all teens who start drinking alcohol before the age of 14, the research tells us, become dependent on alcohol at some point, compared with 9% of those who began drinking at age 21 or older. That statistic should be enough to convince parents they need to convince their kids to wait.

Drinking young is not really a precursor to alcoholism. Family, environmental factors, genetic make-up of personality and ambition of the child all play a role. Dr. Sandra A. Brown, a professor in psychiatry and psychology at the University of California in San Diego says that only half of all children with two alcoholic parents, become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives.

Psychologists and researchers who work with alcoholics point out that when it comes to drinking teens role models are their parents. If mom comes home at night and immediately mixes a martini, wine is served every night at dinner, or dad puts away a six-pack on a Saturday afternoon, your children notice.

If there’s no designated drive children see that. Children observe their parents from a very young age, and they follow patterns that are familiar to them.

“We do a lot of things in front of our kids we are not supposed to do. You have to remember that kids are influenced by who and what is around them,” says Dr. Mitch, executive director of C.A.R.E. Florida, a treatment facility in North Palm Beach. “It sends the wrong message when parents ask kids to go and get them a beer.”

Drinking surrounds children from the day that they’re born, points out Ian Newman, director of the Nebraska Prevention Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the University of Nebraska.

“There is no point in sitting kids down and talking to them about alcohol in middle school if you are not thinking about the value structure you’ve created for them at home, both formally and informally in pre and elementary school. Alcohol is a normal part of life for most people and we must be more aware of how our drinking affects our kids,” Newman explains.

I have friends who drink and smoke in front of their kids all the time. At parties, the bottles pile up as do the cigarette butts. They grew up with it and they continue to do what they know. But the big question is how will affect their kids behavior? My bet is they'll drink and smoke too.

I never have more than a glass of wine or two in front of my kids. Why? Well I don't have much tolerance to begin with but more than that I want them to know that their mom is a responsible drinker. Once in awhile on weekend night, I'll get a call from my teenage son asking me if I can pick him up somewhere.

If I've had a couple of drinks I will tell him so - and ask if someone else can drive him home or if can spend the night at a friend's That way he knows, I practice what I preach.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The World You Grow Up In Can Take a Potential Alcoholic and Change their Lives

I got drunk at 13. Why? My mom died, my father disappeared into a new marriage and I had no one. I thought alcohol could help. Instead I got violently ill and threw up down my boyfriend's shirt. I did drink again, many times when I was young. But I never wanted to throw up so I cut myself off when I'd had too much. My environment didn't improve, in fact it got worse. But my body said "No Way."

The role of the environment you grow up in should not be underestimated in its power to convince kids alcohol can make them feel better. When you talk to alcoholics they describe this moment when they took their first drink and everything became crystal clear. They were comfortable. There lives suddenly made sense. The feeling was overwhelming.

Wonder why even though there are several alcoholics in a family, some family members don't have an alcohol problem?

Researchers found even if there is a genetic pre-disposition towards alcoholism in a family, environmental factors can help reduce the lure of liquor. Love, attention, support and family meals - those all matter. Kids who lived in rural areas, perhaps because they spent more time with their parents, were at lower risk than those who lived in urban areas.

Researchers used data from Finn Twin12, a study that followed more than 5,000 twins ages 12-18 in Finland. They found that girls who had behavioral problems at 12 were much more likely to start drinking by age 14. A lot of the times the bad behavior came from a reaction to family problems.

My closest friend comes from a family of drug abusers and alcoholics. Her father was an alcoholic, her brother is an alcoholic. Her sister got AIDS in the early years of the epidemic from sharing needles and died in her early thirties. She was a heroin addict.

Yet my friend barely drinks. In this case, she overcame an environment that was destined to turn her into an alcoholic. Instead she went to college and graduate school. She is now a nurse practitioner who spent five years in the Peace Corps in some of the most remote places on earth. She works in a hospital and a doctor's office. She has tried to help her brother with little success. Her parents are gone.

What saved her? She was the oldest. She got the most support early on. She had her mother and stepfather in her corner. She also had a network of close friends who were there for her when she needed them. And she couldn't bear the thought of turning into her father.

What can you do? Get your kids help. The school counselors are ridiculously overworked but they will make time if they know the issue is serious. There are support groups for kids whose parents have died or are getting divorced. Many have sliding scale rates.

What your children need to know if there are emotional upheavals in your family is that they're not alone. Help them understand that.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fear Factor - Navigating the Public School Gang Wars

CASA Columbia just came out with its new "Fear Factor" study (OK that's my term) on gangs in middle and high school. Although the New York drug and alcohol research arm of Columbia University can over do it sometimes, there's no way to downplay what this year's study found.

About one in four surveyed teens attending public schools reported the presence of both gangs and drugs at their schools, and 32% of 12- and 13-year-old middle school children said drugs were used, kept, or sold on school grounds -- a jump of 39% in just one year.

The 12- to 17-year-olds who participated in the survey were asked about the presence of gangs at their schools. Among the findings:

* 46% of public school students, but just 2% of private and religious school students, said there were gangs at their school.

* Compared to teens in schools without gangs, those in schools with gangs were nearly twice as likely to report that drugs were available and used at school (30% vs. 58%).We know where there are drugs, there is alcohol too.

* Compared to teens attending schools without gangs and drugs, teens attending schools with drugs and gangs were 12 times more likely to have tried cigarettes, five times as likely to have used marijuana, and three times more likely to have used alcohol.

Although I find this data chilling, my kids go to public school and it's not really a big surprise. There are gangs in our schools and they cause trouble. The police found a locker full of guns at Einstein High School (our feeder high school) two years ago.

The principal called in all the parents to reassure them that the guns were not meant to be used - "JUST SOLD." How did they find out there were guns? A kid reported hearing a shot coming from the bathroom. Comforting isn't it?

Another kid got on a bus in our downtown area to head back home and was shot for arguing with a boy who turned out to be a member of MS-13.

A boy in our neighborhood who was adopted from El Salvador as a toddler, was smoking marijuana and starting to fail out of high school when he asked his parents if he could go to boarding school. Why? The gang kids from his home country were pressuring him to join. Now he's a happy, studious, kind of nerdy kid - a much better option.

What's the answer? We don't have the money to live in the private school bubble. There are a handful of public high schools in our area that don't have gangs. But they are basically segregated schools and you have to be able to buy in "certain neighborhoods" where the prices have stayed higher than the one we live in.

Given a choice between the rich white kid school and the diverse math/science, communications arts magnet high school, my son chose Montgomery Blair. So it's 116 on the list of best high schools in the nation, not 80 something.

He hated the white kids' school where BMWs were awarded with learner's permits. Of course, that school just outside of Washington, DC is not really segregated according to government terms, but the boundary lines are drawn so only a fraction of kids from the slummier parts of the area can attend. When I went to back to school night, it was a sea of well-dressed white people. I hadn't seen that even in my own childhood.

So now my son is happier, with a large group of kids he really likes, and quietly navigating the various gangs in his high school, while staying out of all of it. I guarantee he'll grow up a well rounded, more savvy and a much more compassionate person than those whose kids who get whatever they want when they want it.

The truth is running away from the gang problem - and believe me there are plenty of families in our area who do - doesn't really solve anything.

So with all the billions of dollars that our government and private foundations are spending on public school improvements - why can't they do something about the gangs?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why People Fall Asleep at the Wheel

I have fallen asleep at the wheel of my car stone cold sober.

Years ago, I was visiting my dad in Fort Lauderdale at the height of spring break and coming back from meeting a friend for dinner. I was drinking Coke. Yet I fell asleep and my car went through a red light and then luckily I woke up.

But there were police everywhere and they stopped me, made me get out of the car and walk a straight line then take a breathalizer test. They were shocked that I hadn't been drinking. It was late and I had gotten there the day before, after staying up very late for a couple of nights to finish a paper that was due before break. I was just really tired.

So imagine what it must be like for someone who has had a couple or more drinks and decides to get behind the wheel of a car.

The science of why we fall asleep at the wheel is useful to know. It's also important for explaining to your teen why drinking and driving are a really deadly combination.

Drinking alcohol can harm a teen’s ability to reason and weigh options instead of just doing something because it is fun or feels good.

The cerebellum works with the primary motor cortex to control movement, balance, and
complex motor function. Drinking alcohol can decrease motor function and slow reaction time. When drunk, you may not be able to stand or walk a straight line.

The frontal lobe controls judgment, behavior, and emotion. Alcohol may change your
emotions leading to crying, fighting, or a desire to be close to someone else.
The medulla controls heartbeats, breathing, and other functions. These may slow or stop working during heavy drinking, endangering your life.

Neurons connect nerve cells in different parts of the brain. Alcohol is a depressant that slows those connections.

Blood vessels in your brain can swell when you’ve been drinking, causing pressure that results in severe headaches.

The reticular activating system controls sleeping and waking. Alcohol abuse can depress these systems, causing you to pass out.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Parenting Style Influences How and When Your Kids Drink

This seems like common sense but how many of us don't use it when it comes to taking care of our children? Easy to see faults in someone else's kids but when they are yours it's not that simple.

A new Brigham Young University study found that parenting style strongly and directly affects teens when it comes to heavy drinking -- defined as having five or more drinks in a row.

This strikes a chord within me because my mom died when I was 13 and my father disappeared into a new marriage. Guess what I did? It started with a bottle of cooking wine and a lot of vomiting.

The researchers surveyed nearly 5,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 about their drinking habits and their relationship with their parents. Specifically, they examined parents' levels of accountability -- knowing where they spend their time and with whom -- and the warmth they share with their kids. Here's what they found:

* The teens least prone to heavy drinking had parents who scored high on both accountability and warmth.
* So-called "indulgent" parents, those low on accountability and high on warmth, nearly tripled the risk of their teen participating in heavy drinking.
* "Strict" parents -- high on accountability and low on warmth -- more than doubled their teen's risk of heavy drinking.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

If You Think Middle School Kids Aren't Drinking - Think Again

Is your child headed to middle school this fall. Welcome to the Brave New World.

Fitting in and finding friends are the middle school child’s whole
world. What their friends tell them to do guides much of their thinking.

Friendships also start to shift, and as children become more of the
people they will be in high school, they choose the kind of children
they’ll hang out with for years to come. If that crowd has changed
or is one you don’t trust, now is the time to talk
with your child and pay attention to where he goes
and with whom.

Don’t expect to hear about drinking problems from school
Administrators, unless information leaks out or your
child is involved.

In 2008, some eighth graders brought alcohol into the lunchroom
of my son’s middle school and I never heard a word from the
school about it. How did I find out kids poured vodka and grain
alcohol into soda bottles and passed it around at lunch? My son
told me. The principal explained the facts of the incident when
I called her – how many kids, where it happened, and how she
found out.

But her answer to additional questions was, “It’s being
addressed, and I cannot say any more because of privacy issues.”
Here are a just a few incidents across the nation that we found researching this book.

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 in Santa Rosa were expelled that same week
for alcohol 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
suggested they be suspended or expelled. She is no longer there.

Know that your child will see drugs and alcohol in middle school and start talking them about it now. Persist - even if they push you off.

Monday, July 5, 2010

End of School Year Madness - How Can We Moms Cope?

This blog was originally written for the Partnership for Drug Free America's Decoder Blog.

I am sitting at my 10-year-old daughter’s fifth grade “promotion” ceremony (that’s what we call graduation at Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park, MD) and the school band is playing the “Star Spangled Banner”. They have vastly improved from “Hot Cross Buns” a year before – but they still have a long way to go. One of the teachers has a fabulous baritone which is managing to drown out most of the squeaking. But still, my head is beginning to ache.

The hot and humid gymnasium is making us all question why we are not wearing shorts and flip flops. The woman next to me has freed her toddler from the stroller and is trying to keep her from running right into the middle of the ceremony, with limited success. Parents are standing up and cheering wildly for their children.

My 14-year-old son has come along only because of a girl on whom he has a massive crush is there. He points her out to me and instructs me not to act weird.

I always forget to bring a camera but this time I didn’t. And just as luck would have it, the only shots I can get are the backs of other parents’ heads. At one point, as the entire fifth grade belted out “Lean on Me”, I simply walked to the front, kneeled down amidst a small group of the more aggressive parents, and took photos of the side of my daughter’s head singing to the boy next to her.

The next day there is an hour long “clap out” ceremony – where the parents and the entire elementary school claps and cheers as the fifth graders proudly walk through the halls. Then there is a school picnic, a party in a local park, a pool party, and three birthday parties for good friends which require thoughtful presents.

And all of this is only for one of my two children.

I also have to return school books to the high school my son transferred from and retrieve a trumpet, get the pediatrician to fill out camp health forms, search frantically to find a last-minute camp for a week that isn’t filled and buy a teacher’s gift.

Professionally, I have multiple deadlines, a couple of lunch meetings and several conference calls.

Welcome to the end of school and the beginning of summer, probably the hardest time of the year for working and stay-at-home moms. While the dads come to most events, and some help more than others, for the most part we moms are the drivers, schedulers, organizers, finders of missing items one second before walking out the door, and huggers of children who at some point will realize they will not see their friends every day for the next two and a half months. I’d compare it to a roller coaster ride but it’s really more like a full-blown tornado.

I have screamed twice – once alone at the house and once at my kids who are incapable of not dumping everything they walk in the house with onto the living room floor. Yoga helps – if I can find the time to do it.

When I finished fifth grade, I got on the bus with my friends, went to someone’s house and we rode our bikes around the neighborhood and squirted each other with a hose.

When did the end of the school year become so complicated?

We’ve all read about overscheduled children but what about overscheduled parents? What about overscheduled end-of-the-year activities? Why does everything your child does have to be celebrated in a way that requires parental attendance? Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children and would do anything for them. But enough is enough.

Even if we try to keep after school activities to a minimum — to one or two activities per child — they still have to get there and get home. Throw an entire other layer of obligations on top of that and a corporate executive would crack under pressure.

I should be able to give some salient advice to other parents about this end of school time, since my kids are a bit older and I have plenty of practice. But whatever I say is going to end up sounding like every parenting article you’ve ever read.

So instead, I will tell you what a parent whose kids are in college said to me the other day about coping with the end-of-the-school-year madness.

She said, “You don’t have to always say yes.” And that, although we may feel guilty about following it, is great advice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tough Love Works According to a New Study

A Brigham Young University study reveals that parents with an authoritative, nurturing style were the least likely to have children who drink heavily. The study was reported in Britain’s Globe and Mail.

Dr. Baumrind and others have tweaked a model developed in the 1960s to examine four parenting styles – authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent and neglectful (also called indifferent) –and the results they bring.

The new study found that these four categories help determine whether teenagers binge-drink. Peer influence remains the single strongest indicator, “But even if their [children’s] friends drink, parenting style does make a difference,” said study author Stephen Bahr, a sociologist. The results add to a growing body of research advocating authoritative parenting.

Some researchers believe that the authoritative nurturing style makes a child more receptive to parental influence. They say a combination of support and control can help a child learn to control himself. Or in other words as they say in pre-school and beyond – don’t be your child’s friend be their parent and use a lot of positive reinforcement of good behavior.

Psychologist Laurence Steinberg of Philadelphia’s Temple University has found that both younger children and teenagers raised in authoritative homes show advantages in psychosocial development and mental health.

These teens have also been shown to score higher on measures of self-reliance and self-esteem and are less likely to engage in anti-social behavior, including delinquency and drug use.

For more information go to: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/authoritative-parents-better-at-preventing-kids-binge-drinking-study-finds/article1617118/

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Love Fest for the Young and Sober

For parents looking for a place their teens can go, share their issues with alcohol and find support without judgment, I would highly recommend The International Conference of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous. I went to their annual meeting in Atlanta in 2009, sat in on many of the sessions, and interviewed members.

While there are many ICYPAA members in their late teens and twenties there are many older people too. The bond: They all began drinking young and now form an enormous support group that openly embraces all comers.

I'm not supposed to talk specifically about what happened in individual sessions, but I can tell you that people got up and told gut wrenching stories about their alcoholism and how they are addressing it. The meeting was one of the most positive, supportive places I've ever been - a love fest for the sober.

They were still kids too - parties went late into the night but instead of alcohol there was juice, cookies and a great deal of dancing and karaoke. The four days were filled with meetings for those ensconced in AA's 12 Steps, and if attendees choose to, they coul literally go to meetings all day long.

Like AA for older folks, attendees only use their first names and last initial. One of the highlights: ICYPAA is growing in strength around the world, and there are now members groups forming in Europe, Asia and a some other places.

The meetings are well organized and include a bidding process for the next one that pits supporters of cities against each other in friendly rivalry.

The next ICYPAA meeting will be held in Manhattan's Times Square October 26-29th, 2010. For information go to http://www.icypaahost.org/

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Zero Tolerance Can Lead to 100% Stupidity

Sometimes administrators take the zero tolerance for alcohol policy way too far – creating ludicrous situations that only make teens disregard the underlying message.

David Hanson, a professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Potsdam, suggests the zealots take a look at this case.

"Carter Loar, a senior at Park View High School in Loudoun County, Virginia was suspended for ten days in February for violating the school's alcohol policy,” Hanson reports.

Carter's violation was using mouthwash at school. School officials confiscated the contraband. He was charged with violating the school's alcohol policy which prohibits the possession or use of alcohol on school property. Mouthwash contains a small amount of alcohol.

As part of his ten day suspension, Carter was required to attend a three day Substance Abuse Program sponsored by Loudoun County.

Mr. Loar was a victim of "zero tolerance," which is now all the rage, says Hanson. But what does such a zealous level of intolerance accomplish and what messages does it send our young people? It probably achieves about as much as the scare tactics characteristic of the temperance movement and is almost certainly counter-productive.

Those who promote such intolerance have lost touch with youth and are unrealistic and impractical. Their alcohol education messages are naïve at best, says Hanson.

I would say the same is true for sex education. Abstinence, while a noble goal, isn’t a realistic one. Teens are hormonal beings. They want what they want, when they want it. By putting a giant Just Say No message in their heads, we end up with teens who do everything but. . . because what they’re doing isn’t really sex as defined by what they are taught.

I don’t know about you, but as a parent I’d rather my kids have sex and take precautions than experiment with doing things in other ways.

Plug into your Kids’ Reality

The sobering voice needs to be parents who are plugged into their childrens' reality. My son is in 9th grade and goes to parties where there is alcohol. He tells me about it, and also assures me that he’s not drinking. He wouldn’t tell me there is alcohol at the parties, if he was drinking it. As for sex, I’m sure there’s some of that going on. But it hasn’t entered our household yet as far as I can tell. And he's had the condom lecture multiple times.

So what’s the real message here? When you forbid something, and your reasons for forbidding it are to put it plainly lame as hell, the forbidden is a lot more seductive. If you are talking to your child and keeping an eye on texts, emails, phone conversations and most important in the chauffeur years, listening to what’s being said in the back of your car, you can have a very positive affect.

Forbidding a teenager from doing anything doesn’t work unless you lock them up. Helping them understand the reasons why alcohol is harmful to their bodies and their minds is much more effective.

Also get your child involved in activities. I’ve got a soccer player and an Its Academic budding star. Neither of them will be able to take drugs or drink and continue those activities. So if I see a change, I will know what’s going on.

As for Dr. Hanson, he’s a voice of reason in a world that’s gone way too far on absolutes. Check out his Alcohol Problems and Solutions web site. www.alcoholinformation.org

Monday, May 24, 2010

R Rated Movies Push Middle Schoolers Towards Drinking

Here's a Monday morning OMG for you.

A new study out of Dartmouth, building on other work, shows that middle school students who watch R-rated movies are more likely to start drinking young.

Students from 15 northern New England middle schools were surveyed. At the time of the initial interview the students had never tried alcohol.

The data is pretty compelling. The study found that:

2.9% of kids who had never watched R-rated movies started drinking
12.5 who watched them once in awhile started drinking
18.8 who watched them sometimes drank
24.5% of those who watched them all the time drank

Why? Kids want to do what they see, explained Dr. Susanne Tanski, lead author of the study. The study, which was published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, is part of a larger body of research at Dartmouth Medical School that examines whether movies influence adolescent behavior.

The study, which was published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, is part of a larger body of research at Dartmouth Medical School that examines whether movies influence adolescent behavior.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Parents Believe Kids are Drinking "But Not Mine!"

"Parents are assuming that other parents are letting their kids drink, but they don't think that their own child is drinking," said Kerri MacLaury, program manager for Southshire Partnership for a Healthy Community in Vermont. "There's an obvious perception gap that ‘my kid never drinks, but so many other kids are drinking.'"

MacLaury's remarks are related to The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a federal government research tool used by states to assess how much drinking is going on in their schools. Survey results concerning teenage alcohol use, were completed by more than 200 parents of teens in Southwestern Vermont. Here are some of the highlights:

High percentage of parents don't think their child is drinking - 83 percent of parents with children in middle school and 65 percent of those with children in high school answered that their child had not consumed alcohol in the past year.

But parents do think other kids are drinking. Just 11 percent of middle school parents and 2 percent of high school parents said they thought most students the same age hadn't drunk alcohol in that time.

Students said actual drinking is contradictory to what parents thought. Thirty six percent of Vermont students saying they drank alcohol in the previous 30 days on the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

So this is only a microcosm of the entire nation but it does emphasize a persistent trend that there is a lack of clear and honest communication between kids and parents about alcohol use.

I hate to sound like a broken record but talk to your kids about alcohol as young as you can and keep the conversation going.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is My Child Drinking?

There are multiple warning signs that your child may be developing a problem with alcohol. Many of these could also be signs of other things. But if you see several signs it's time to learn more.

Here are a few signs to watch out for:

Your teen becomes more argumentative – Have you noticed that one minute your child is happy and giddy, then becomes withdrawn, depressed, or explodes into fits of anger or rage? This type of volatility can be a sign that he is altering his mood with substances. Be particularly wary of manic behavior and then depression. Then again, it could just be hormones.

Your teen stays in his room a lot – If your child is drunk or on drugs at home, or sneaking alcohol, he will be scared you’ll find out. This means when he’s using, he’ll avoid you by remaining in a place where you don’t usually go. His room is a sanctuary where he can be high or drunk in private. It doesn't hurt to knock on the door and see what happens.

Your teen’s sleep patterns change – You know your child better than anyone. Many teens stay up and sleep late. A sudden shift can be a sign of substance abuse. It could also be that teens' sleeping patterns are mystifying.

Your teen has a new group of friends – Adolescents who drink often seek out others that can help them obtain alcohol or start attending parties where they can find it. Some kids move from group to group to hide their drinking from everyone.This a big warning sign - if your kid changes crowds this could be why. A number of alcoholics I interviewed for this book said they changed their friends so they could be around kids who had alcohol.

Your teen’s grades decline – If your child’s grades suddenly decline it could be a big red flag something is wrong. Again adults who had drinking problems told us their grades started slipping and then tanked.

Your teen asks for money without a good explanation – If your child recently started asking for more spending money, or cash starts disappearing from the house? That could be an indication of alcohol purchases. It could also be an indication that he's dating.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Summer's Coming and With It Can Come Binge Drinking

Spring break is over and summer is just a couple of months away. With time on their hands many kids drink – and adolescents who usually don’t have a lot of experience with alcohol often end up drinking too much.

Here’s some data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) that can help you tell your kids why binge drinking is really dangerous.

Alcohol-related consequences for college students between the ages of 18-24:

Death: 1,700 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes
Injury: 599,000 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol
Assault: More than 696,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking
Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape
Unsafe Sex: 400,000 have unprotected sex and more than 100,000 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex
Academic Problems: About 25 percent of students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall
Health Problems/Suicide Attempts: More than 150,000 develop an alcohol-related health problem

If the data doesn’t do it for them here are some videos from around the world that drive the point home. Unfortunately, Blogger's linking tool is not working once again. If you want to watch these you'll have to cut and paste the URLs into your browser. I've checked all and they do work.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Causes Teen Alcoholism and How Can We Prevent It

Still cannot believe that I'm a guest blogger for the Partnership for a Drug Free America's Decoder Blog. Check out my latest post on nature versus nurture and what scientists believe can cause teen alcoholism.

The signs are there. One adolescent explained how he started drinking the vanilla and lemon extract out of the kitchen cabinet at the age of nine. Another was assaulted at her first high school party because she got so drunk she didn't know what she was doing - and her parents had not yet told her there was a family history of alcoholism.


Friday, April 16, 2010

A Window Into the Teen Brain - What Questions Do Kids Ask?

I came across a really interesting video today - Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse talking with kids at Harlem High School and answering their questions about the science of drugs and how they affect the adolescent body. One of them actually said after wards "I think it's the best method ever in regard to drug abuse awareness."

Here are some of the questions that they asked:

What is the role of environment versus genetics in addiction to drugs?

Is a quick learner more likely to be addicted to drugs?

How serious an issue is Internet addiction becoming and what do psychologists suggest you do about it?

Does the way you consume marijuana affect your trip?

For more information go watch the video - it's a bit dark and grainy but Dr. Volkow is really good.


Monday, April 5, 2010

What Rules Will Kids Obey - Here's New Research

"Kids don't just resist parents across the board," says Larry Nucci, a research psychologist at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California at Berkeley.

"It isn't the situation where kids are just driven by their impulses, and they simply reject all the rules that parents have."

Nucci believes that if you look closely at which rules children obey and which they reject, there are clear patterns to be found.

Although the study was with elementary school kids parents of adolescents may learn something here.

Rules they listen too:

Moral Rules: Don't hit, do share.

Safety rules: Don't cross the street alone, don't run with scissors.

Social convention: You must say "sir" and "madam."

Rules They Don't Always Listen Too

The gray area is rules kids consider to be their own business and that they consider to be private. These include who they play with, what sport they want to play, clothing they wear, etc.

These are the rules in which the vast majority of conflicts between parents and children occur.

"Kids don't argue at all with parents — or very little argument with parents — when parents come up with reasonable safety rules or rules about not stealing from other children or not hitting other kids," says Nucci. "Virtually all of the conflicts that parents are having with kids are over these personal areas."

For more on this story go to the NPR story at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125302688&sc=nl&cc=hh-20100405

So what's a parent to do? Make sure you clearly explain the reasons why you have certain rules and link them to core issues like those mentioned above. Give a bit on the gray areas - and don't try to control everything your kids do.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mom - Did You Ever Drink or Take Drugs

What's a parent to say when it's time to discuss alcohol and drugs with her kids? Does she lie about her past? Does she only tell them the bad things?

Yours truly is now a blogger for the Decoder, the parent blog of the Partnership for Drug Free America. Check out my post at www.drugfree.org.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Break: Tell Your Girls Why they Can't Drink Like Boys

Spring break is here and many teenage girls may be tempted to take their first drink.

There’s reason to worry. The number of teens who use alcohol rose 11% from 2008 to 2009, according to a new report from the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Teens are drinking younger and more often.

In the 1960s, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only 7% of girls reported having their first drink between the ages of 10 and 14. Now, 31% try alcohol before high school.

Here’s some of the science to share with teen girls:

* Girls have less water in their bodies than boys. Girls have a slightly higher proportion of fat to lean muscle tissue, concentrating alcohol more easily in their lower percentage of body water. This means they become intoxicated faster after drinking less alcohol.

* Girls have fewer enzymes to break alcohol down. Alcohol dehydrogenases are a group of seven enzymes that help break down alcohol so the body processes it. Girls have fewer of them, so it is not as easy for their bodies to metabolize the alcohol they drink.

* Girls are smaller and often weigh less than boys. When drinking the same amount as a boy, a girl will experience a quicker rise in her blood alcohol level, and she may stay intoxicated for a longer period of time. Girls who drink heavily can be at greater risk for alcohol poisoning because it takes less alcohol for them to get really sick.

* Girls often prefer sweeter, carbonated mixed drinks. Such drinks can speed up the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.

If the science doesn’t sell girls on abstention or drinking less, here’s another reason. Boys don’t like it when girls drink heavily.

A Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, study found that seven out of 10 of the college-age women surveyed thought their male peers wanted them to have five drinks during social occasions, while the men preferred they drink half that or less.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Alcohol is Drug of Choice for Campus Rapists

Many of us have heard of the “date rape” drug but we often forget that the most common one is legal: Alcohol.

Psychologist David Lasik who spoke to NPR from the University of Massachusetts asked 2,000 men over a 20 year period questions like this: "Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?"

He also asked: "Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn't want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn't cooperate?"

About 1 in 16 men answered "yes" to these or similar questions. None of these men had ever been to jail or formally accused of rape.

What Lisak found was that students who commit rape on a college campus are pretty much like those rapists in prison. In both groups, many are serial rapists. On college campuses, repeat predators account for 9 out of every 10 rapes.

And these offenders on campuses — just like men in prison for rape — look for the most vulnerable women. Lisak says that on a college campus, the women most likely to be sexually assaulted are freshmen.

Lisak says "The basic weapon is alcohol/ If you can get a victim intoxicated to the point where she's coming in and out of consciousness, or she's unconscious — and that is a very, very common scenario — then why would you need a weapon? Why would you need a knife or a gun?"

For more information go to NPR’s story http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124272157&sc=nl&cc=hh-20100315