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Friday, December 16, 2011

A Little Good News About Teens and Alcohol for a Change

The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) 2011 Monitoring the Future study of eighth, 10th and 12th-graders has a little good news for parents. It found that rates of teen smoking are slowly declining but that use of other tobacco products (e.g., hookahs, small cigars, smokeless tobacco), are climbing.

Alcohol use has shown definite declines over the past five years. This year, 63.5 percent of 12th-graders reported use, compared to 74.8 percent in 1997. And 26.9 percent of eighth-graders reported alcohol use in 2011, compared to 46.8 percent in 1994.

Marijuana, however, is a different story. Among 12th-graders, 36.4 percent reported past year use, and 6.6 percent reported daily use, up from 31.5 and 5 percent, respectively, five years ago.

Perhaps even more troubling, the risk and fear associated with marijuana use has dropped. Only 22.7 percent of high school seniors saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 25.9 percent five years ago.

Forty three percent of eighth-graders reported that they saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 48.9 percent five years ago. Use of synthetic marijuana like K2 or spice is also climbing.

The painkiller OxyContin is still quite popular among teens although Vicodin use was down slightly. Many of us have these prescription drugs in our homes from a past surgery or injury of some kind and we forget they are there. Now’s the time to get rid of them.

Almost 50,000 students from 400 public and private schools participated in this year's MTF survey.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mommy Don't Smoke - I Don't Want You to Die

When my son was nine, and I was getting divorced, I started smoking cigarettes again. I had not smoked for a long time and I am fortunately one of those people who doesn’t easily get addicted to them. I know I am lucky in that regard, and that it is rare.

My son was in fourth grade at the time, and he and his younger sister saw smoking as something that could take their mother away from them.

So my son sat me down at the computer and showed me what he’d been learning about smoking cigarettes in school. He went on the American Lung Association site and showed me a healthy lung, pointing out its color, texture, hue, etc. Then he showed me a coal miner’s lung, pointing out the dark spots, black hues, and hints of disease.

Finally he showed me a cigarette smoker’s lung, and said “See mom, it’s the worst of all.”

I’d like to be able to say that this was my ah ha moment, the one in which I threw the cigarettes out and never touched them again, but that’s not the case. It took me awhile to stop smoking, and I was badgered by my children until I did. My daughter who was in early elementary school would cry and say “Mommy I don’t want you to die.”

My point in all of this is that anti-tobacco campaigns work. They make an impression on young minds. I know my children will never smoke and I know that most of their friends won’t either. That doesn't mean other kids don't and we shouldn't be vigilant.

But the anti-smoking education appears to work far better, in my limited world, than anti-drug and alcohol efforts.  It starts young and it scares kids. It uses science and visuals to drive home the point that smoking has no benefits and many dangers. The anti-smoking campaigns don't send mixed messages at all. If you smoke, you die. It's pretty straightforward and kids are listening.

How do we take that approach and apply it to alcohol or drugs?  Science helps. So does connecting with other parents struggling with similar issues. Visit our Facebook page and join the conversation