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CASA and school red ribbon contests all across this NY County reinforce to kids, teens and tweens especially, that they can refuse to use alcohol. Kids then,  have a choice to make  -over and over again. To repeatedly make this choice takes persistence and commitment. Parents should recognize how difficult it can be for kids to make the “better” choice. 

Surprisingly, kids and even many parents have biased attitudes in the substance use arena. A kid’s world is smaller, relatively brief and very selective. They see what they see. Some see and encounter responsible use of alcohol or no use and assume that this is normal. Others see excessive use of alcohol around them and assume that everyone drinks, or will eventually drink. On average maybe 13% of substance abusers will actually go on to become addicts. Yet there are risk factors, genetic, social, etc that can move your risk up to 400%.  The media more often than not presents drinking and substance using as a popular and mostly harmless pastime, a simple and reversible choice and also a good coping mechanism.

Red Ribbon reminds us that we all have choices. If your friends drink, well, you still get to decide if you will drink. Accepting that everyone is doing it just isn’t accurate. It is only a convenient excuse to make the choice easier -for kids and for parents.

In an up-state NY middle school English class two debate teams have been preparing for a contest over Medical Marijuana. They asked CASA for some facts about the issue but clearly had their own ideas as well. What was suprising, in addition to having so many facts wrong, was the passion for each side of the argument. That’s why we call them arguments, I suppose. And debaters should have passion, show passion.

We have talked before about Assembly bill (A 9016) and a Senate bill (S 4041 B) that would, in effect, make marijuana a legal medical drug.

But these kids were asking about smoking. Marijuana is smoked -right! Smoking can be good, apparently.

Sure, kids will understand the difference between legal medicine and THC rich “street” marijuana. It’s not as if misuse of legal prescription drugs is already growing in school age populations across the country.  (However it is according to SAMHSA and a few teachers. I have talked to).  It’s not as if we’re confusing them even more?

Shouldn’t parents and teachers of middle schoolers in New York State participate in both sides of this debate? Maybe the kids don’t know the facts (and that’s some evidence that there hasn’t been enough discussion), but at least they are trying to find facts.

These words can create angst for teachers, moms and dads everywhere. Of course Assembly Bill A.7542, Senate Bill S.4041 is a question of “medicalizing” Marijuana not making it as legal as a candy bar. Put aside the thoughtful and studied opinions of “professionals from the addictions field” for a moment and the varied opinions of high school teens and college students that only want to make their own choices. One group remains with a big stake in the game -teachers.

Teachers and parents as a collective, seem to be overwhelmed with expectations (on them) or are moving in that direction. Their responsibilities have grown far beyond instructing. Any caring teacher, and most are, understands he or she must also be a part-time parent and a counselor.

Teachers need to be able to engage, motivate and teach. To keep kids engaged they also need to care about their individual needs and respond effectively to: health and wellness issues, self-confidence, personal safety, bullying, sexuality, domestic violence, absentee parents, addiction in the home and sometimes even parent criminality.  Teachers and parents have about the same responsibilities but at different times of the day. Teachers can be with kids more waking hours than parents and the responsibilities grow.

Should we add one more challenge and make smokable Marijuana even a little more available to kids than it already is?  What is the cost? The benefit? We hear a lot of pro and con about making marijuana more acceptable and less criminal for adults. Either way, there is always some impact on kids and classrooms. What would teachers say?

New research suggests that the various types of marketing that appear on television, billboards, etc. during sports games are more likely to influence the way youths behave then the actual behavior of athletes. The large amount of alcohol advertising that takes place at sporting events and on television is encouraging youth to drink. It appears stories of athletes wild nights out, on the other hand, don’t affect teenagers’ decisions to drink at any significant level. Continue Reading »

Graphic of revenue potential from an alcohol tax

What do you think?

A treatment center in Arizona called High Standards Recovery seems to be seeing an increase in co-occurring disorders, according to this article. An individual is said to have co-occurring disorders when they are suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction and a mental health issue (severe depression, anxiety disorders, etc) at the same time. The complex nature of both of these types of illnesses makes it difficult to successfully treat each issue separately. Instead, success is much more likely when they can be treated together. Continue Reading »

Underage drinking has been considered a problem in this country for much longer than I’ve been alive, but the problem seems to have intensified in the last 5-10 years. This is in part due to increased awareness of the tragedies that happen when teenagers who were poorly educated about the dangers involved in drinking or using drugs.

The debate for parents of teenagers is a difficult one–do you strictly prohibit drinking or promote doing so in moderation and while making safe decisions? Do you allow your children to have a glass of wine or beer in your home, or not allow any alcohol what-so-ever?

One recent article tells the story of a mother who told her son not to drink, but also told him that if he did drink he absolutely shouldn’t drive. He died of alcohol poisoning with a BAC of .41 at age 18, shortly after graduating high school and moving out with a friend, when friends convinced him to chug rum. His mother has told her younger son that she doesn’t want him to drink until he is 21, and to the best of her knowledge he hasn’t. Continue Reading »

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