5 Essential Tips To Protect Your Teenager From Drug Abuse

Concerned about approaching your teen about the consequences of illicit substances? Our guest blogger provides advice on how to approach this tricky topic in a loving and cautious manner. MWM. 

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Every parent worries about their child, especially when it comes to those tricky teenage years. Alcohol and drug abuse remain a serious issue in our society today in both adults and an alarming number of youths.

Statistics shockingly reveal that by the time kids reach the 8th grade 28% of them have consumed alcohol, 15% have smoked cigarettes, and 16.5% have used marijuana. Even more worrying, approximately 50% of high school seniors do not think it’s harmful to try crack or cocaine and 40% believe it’s not harmful to use heroin once or twice.

It is understandable that as a parent you are highly concerned and finding out if your child is using drugs is a delicate situation and a difficult one to confirm. If you suspect your teenager may be at risk of alcohol or drug abuse or you have already discovered your child is experimenting and is heading towards addiction, there are many ways you can help prevent that from spiraling out of control.

The aim of this article is to look at 5 ways in which you, as a parent can educate and support your teenager to avoid the serious health and mental risks associated with drug abuse and addiction.

1. Give them unconditional support

Every parent wants their child to be successful in life but sometimes it is difficult to understand the kinds of pressure they are exposed to these days. Supporting your teenager with positive reinforcement is a way to make them feel they are doing things right and may help them avoid suffering from stress too much.

Some of the main reasons teens turn to alcohol and/or drug abuse is because of stress, anxiety and a fear of failure. If you discover your teen is using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism for stress, instead of punishing them help them understand the dangers of substance abuse and help them get through the tough times with other means like exercise or encouraging healthy hobbies.

2. Help them understand negative consequences without demonizing their actions

The first response of many parents is to blame their child for being irresponsible or giving into peer pressure. The typical course of action is to punish them which can only fuel the cause of their want to abuse drugs and push them further towards addiction. Instead, try to understand what might be the reason behind their drug use and show them how the consequences of addiction can be harmful not only to themselves but to the family too.

Reaching a delicate balance between being strict and supportive can be tricky but it is best to deal with the situation with a cool head and an objective approach. Your child might think twice before doing it again if they know their family will be affected too.   

3. Learn real facts about drug types and how to identify drug abuse

Education is key and you should be the first person to research and find out what drugs are out there, what effects they have and what are the signs of a teen abusing drugs or alcohol. Your teenager probably has a lot of questions about drug use and addiction but will most likely feel you are not the person to ask.

If you educate yourself you will be able to handle the questions your child may have about drug use and therefore be a vital aid in preventing the situation getting out of control.

4. Addiction does not discriminate

How many parents have said, “That would never happen to my child” only to find out the dark secrets and experiences their children are living. Addiction can happen to any person regardless of age, race, social or economic status and upbringing. You can’t presume that addiction only happens in certain environments or is a result of bad parenting.

Each unique case is different and in many instances, drug abuse can begin from simple curiosity or a trigger such as bullying. Never presume your child is immune to the temptations of drug abuse rather stay aware of the signs and changes in behavior in your teen to determine if the cause may be addiction related.

 

5. Not all drug abuse comes from illicit substances

Most likely when you imagine drug abuse you immediately think of illegal and illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana or pills like MDMA but you might be surprised to know that 60% of teens abuse prescription drugs such as Vicodin a narcotic pain killer, Oxycontin another high dose painkiller and the ADHD drug Adderall which is a psychostimulant designed to enhance focus and relieve stress.

Dealing with your own child in this situation can be terrifying and daunting as a parent but the best way you can help prevent your child from becoming another victim of drug abuse is by communicating and showing support.

Your teenager may be going through a difficult time and needs all your support to help direct them to make the right choices. Listen to them when they need to be heard and look out for the tell-tale signs they might be in trouble.

We love to hear from our readers. Do you have any advice for parents out there who suspect their child might be involved in drug abuse or on the verge of addiction? Leave us your comments below.

 

About the Author: 

andyHi, I am Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Los Angeles, California. I have been clean for 9 years now! I spend my time helping others wit their recovery and growing my online business.

 

 

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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Never Too Early: The Draw of #NOverdose to an Elementary-school Parent

A mother of young children recently attended a community event about drug alcohol use among young people. It was hosted by her school district and the local sheriff’s department. Why did she attend? Today’s guest blogger shares her thoughts. I hope more parents will engage early to prevent and address future issues that may lead toward a substance-use disorder. MWM

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I remember watching my three-year-old son Harrison standing on one of the five boulders separating a playground from the parking lot. My friend and I were waiting by our cars for our respective stragglers, when we observed Harrison on the boulder glancing from his feet to the adjacent rock. Calculating the distance. The risk. The wrath.

Knowing that I couldn’t reach him in time, I said, “Harrison, do NOT jump over to the other rock. You’ll hit your head and get a black eye.”

Without a word he turned to face us, and we thought he would just jump forward into the grass. But no. Sure enough, he turned back, jumped toward the adjacent boulder, and missed sticking a top-of-the-rock landing. As predicted, he hit his face. I ran to my sobbing child to comfort him and assess the damage.

The experience left Harrison with a black eye and me with a clear view of my son’s emerging personality. Today, Harrison is eight years old, and just this week we had to coach him down from two different trees in our backyard. And it’s only mid-April.

In addition to his propensity for age-appropriate risk-taking, Harrison loves to make his buddies laugh. Farting? Check. Poop jokes? Check. Singing silly songs? Check. Eating gross kitchen concoctions? Check. At this age, it’s all pretty harmless.

But it won’t always be.

As a parent of three elementary-school-age kids, I want to do everything that I can now to help them develop the tools, skills, healthy habits, and positive relationships to ward off future battles with addiction, knowing full well that I could do everything “right” and still face the struggles confronting many in the Our Young Addicts community.

So when I got the email from Wayzata Public Schools about the March 20 #NOverdose community forum at the high school, I immediately put it on the family calendar.

NOverdose flyer4 FINAL (1).png

Why did I choose to spend two hours on a Monday night hearing harrowing statistics and stories when my biggest safety concern right now is the giant rock at the base of Harrison’s favorite climbing tree?

  1. The statistics scare me. The opioid prescription rates, deaths from heroin overdoses, increased ER visits, and the rise in overall addiction, among other alarming trends, terrify me as a parent and as a community member. I want to do what I can to help reverse these trends.
  1. Drugs today seem more lethal. At my 25th high school reunion this fall, a classmate remarked to me that one of his biggest concerns of living in his wealthy suburb was the rampant heroin use among teenagers. He said, “I did my share of drugs in high school, but nothing that was going to kill me. Kids today are doing heroin, and they’re dying. We never touched that stuff.” When my husband and I warn our kids about the dangers of drugs, we tell them that it only takes one time for a drug to kill you.
  1. Kids are under too much pressure today. Two years ago in the midst of planning my 20th college reunion, my classmates and I were discussing programs that we could contribute to the college’s overall reunion schedule. A friend suggested having a session on what we could do now to better prepare our kids to get into Amherst. I said, “Your son is 10! How about we do a session with a child psychologist on what we’re doing to our kids?” I worry that stress over performance expectations is contributing to the increase in drug addiction.
  1. Personality traits in my kids concern me. Among my three children are a range of traits that are compelling and engaging – and potentially concerning. Stubborn, change averse, indecisive, intense, perfectionist, a need to please others, and self-critical: it’s a list that I personally know all too well, and one that would be familiar to my own mother in raising me! I’ve thought a lot lately about the pride I took in being unique; in middle school I wore a shirt that said, “Why Be Normal?” My kids and I talk a lot about being true to yourself, and not feeling the need to follow everyone else, yet at the same time maintaining high standards for personal conduct and respect. It’s a fine balance.
  1. I wanted to learn what I can do now. Bottom line, I want to know what I can do right now to help my kids grow up to be kind, happy, healthy, resilient, and drug free. I want to learn from the experience of experts and other parents, and then share that knowledge with my parental cohort. I also want to work to create a space where parents in my circle can talk openly about their challenges without fear of being judged or rejected…or having their child judged or rejected.

I attended #NOverdose to determine how I can contribute to the overall community effort to combat opioid and heroin use. Writing this blog is my first step.

Kristen Spargo is a freelance writer and communications consultant who specializes in health care and nonprofits.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved.

Five Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse in Your Teenager

Substance-use prevention is a year-round necessity, but it’s particularly timely during the first month of kids being back at school. This week’s guest blogger, Allison Walsh, offers tips for parents of teens. MWM

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Let’s make no bones about it: parenting a teenager is tough. If you’re the parent of a teenager, your own adolescence likely didn’t involve cell phones, the internet or Pokemon Go. Today, our kids face a whole new set of challenges and benefits, since they have unprecedented access to information, opportunities, and unfortunately, drugs.

The good news is that you can take tangible steps to steer your child away from substance abuse. Even if it feels like you are the last person your teenager wants to emulate, studies continually show that teens are far less likely to engage in substance abuse if their parents have healthy conversations with them on the matter. Here are some tried and true tips for helping your teen stay sober and healthy:

  1. Don’t Confront, but Converse – There’s a right way and a wrong way to talk to your teenager about drug use. Avoid making accusations — try to open up the lines of communication via a conversation. Ask questions; really listen to what your child is saying. Even if it feels awkward at first, you may want to begin by asking your teen about their opinion on drugs and alcohol. If they admit that they have engaged in substance use, don’t get angry. Instead, keep asking open-ended questions and strive to understand the reasons why they made those choices.
  2. Be Involved in Your Child’s Social Life – No, I don’t mean that you should tag along to the laser tag arena with your 16-year-old and their friends. Rather, simply keep your finger on the pulse of your teen’s social circle. Invite their friends into your home so you can get to know them. This will give you a better understanding of the environment in which your teen is immersed every day. Also, it’s smart to get acquainted with the parents of your child’s friends, who most likely share your goal of keeping your kids safe and sober. After all, it takes a village, right?
  3. Know the Signs of Substance Use – If you can nip it in the bud, substance abuse is less likely to cause major or continuous problems in your teen’s life. Learn about the signs of drug addiction and drug abuse, and keep an eye out for them in your teen.
  4. Talk to Your Teen About the Consequences of Substance Abuse – You don’t have to show a bunch of gruesome images of suffering drug addicts, but you should ensure that your teen understands the effects of drug abuse and the risks associated with using mind-altering substances. Too many times, teens start using because it seems fun, yet they do not consider the long-term physical and emotional consequences.
  5. Lead by Example – Plain and simple, if you or another adult in your home is abusing substances, that sends the message to your teen that this behavior is okay. If you are struggling with substance issues, you need to get help for yourself if you are to set a positive example for your child. Oftentimes, children who witness their parents abuse substances grow up to do the same thing, creating a perpetual cycle.

Parenting teens is not always easy, but your hard work pays off as you watch your child grow into a healthy, happy young adult. Do everything in your power to keep your teen away from drugs and alcohol. For more detailed information on talking to your child about substance abuse and teen drug rehab, check out this resource on talking to your kids about substance abuse. It’s a quick read, and chock full of concrete communicative steps you can take.

If you find that your child is already abusing substances, now is the time to get teen drug rehab. For free, confidential guidance, visit TeenRehabCenter.org.

About Allison Walsh

Allison Walsh - Guest BloggerAllison Walsh has personal experience with professional treatment. During her teenage years, she sought treatment for the life-threatening eating disorders bulimia and anorexia. Treatment saved her life, and she has dedicated her career to helping others receive the professional help that they need. Today, Allison serves as Vice President of Business Development and Branding at Advanced Recovery Systems, a network of substance abuse recovery programs, including free web resources like TeenRehabCenter.org. Check out Teen Rehab Center on Facebook for inspiration, advice and news about teen substance abuse.

[sources]

https://www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/growing-up-drug-free.pdf

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

10 Tips for Raising a Successful Child

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This week’s guest blogger is Joronda Montaño from notMYkid. She shares some good reminders for parents, especially when it comes to communication, honestly and consistency, which lay the foundation for healthy decisions about substance use.

From the day our children are born, as parents, we ask ourselves a million questions. How do I make sure my kid lives a healthy life? How do I make sure he or she is making the right decisions? It becomes a never-ending self-interrogation.

It’s every parent’s goal to raise a successful child. As difficult as it may seem at times, this is not impossible. There are numerous books and studies that give us tips on how to raise successful kids, but I’ve included a few of my own below:

  1. Define what you want – What is your vision for your child? As they get older, be sure to include their own vision in regular discussions about where they are going and how they will get there. Before you know it, they will be implementing everything they have practiced with you as their coach.

 

  1. Know your values – What values are important to you? Share them with your kids and let them share their own values with you. These values may change as your child gets older. Keep talking about them along the journey to adulthood so they are constantly reminded about what’s important.

 

  1. Communication – Teach your child to speak up for what they want and need. Like the old adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” support their ability to use their voice. You should also regularly speak up for what you want from your kids. Have the conversations, even the difficult ones.

 

  1. Allow Honesty – Give your child the space to share their ideas, wants, needs and fears. Most parents are unaware that the average age for first-time drug experimentation is 13 for example, and when a child starts using drugs, it is typically two years before parents realize there is a problem. Knowing that honest communication is acceptable can preempt difficult situations they sometimes find themselves in.

 

  1. Be Consistent – Kids will play the game the way you want IF they know the rules. Changing the rules in the middle of the game creates uncertainty so make sure you are consistent with rewards, consequences and ways that you let them know about both.

 

  1. High (achievable) Expectations – Expect them to do what they set out to do. Expect that they will follow your instructions. Expect that they can achieve their goals AND encourage them to believe in their own abilities.

 

  1. Encourage Positivity – Being positive is about making sure kids are tapped into the part of themselves that encourages and supports their thoughts, ideas and actions. This includes positive self-talk, and positive talk to others.

 

  1. Take Responsibility – We always have a choice so teaching kids to take responsibility for every action can help prepare them for thinking before they act or react.

 

  1. Build Skills – Whatever they want to be successful at will require some skill building. This is the ultimate preparation for the goal.

 

  1. Forgiveness – Being successful requires a tremendous amount of learning. Teaching kids to allow for learning and possible mistakes on the way is a healthy way to be prepared for bumps and more importantly to keep pressing on despite the bumps.

 I do not mean to make these tips sound easy, as so many adults know, being a parent can be the toughest job on earth. We do the best we can to prepare our kids for the real world and all of its harsh realities, but it is up to them to implement what we teach them.

About Joronda Montaño:

Montaño works as a program director at notMYkid, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating individuals and communities about the consequences of destructive youth behaviors such as substance abuse. First Check Diagnostics, the leader in high-quality home diagnostic test kits, supports notMYkid by providing drug tests kits to thousands of families in an effort to discourage kids from experimenting with drugs.

Montaño is a master level Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainer (ASIST). She is also an Arizona Credentialed Prevention Professional Level 4 (ACPP IV) and is a two-time graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcasting and a Master’s of Public Administration. Montaño is a mom of four beautiful children.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Prevention, Perceptions, and…Puppies – Oh my!

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Prevention is an important public health initiative and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Minnesota’s Regional Prevention Coordinator Lindsey Smith this past year. She’s been key to our events with Anoka-Hennepin Schools and was a panelist for our conference, From Statistics to Solutions. As this week’s guest blogger, Lindsey offers distinctions between reality and perception when it comes to young people and substance use … along with effective actions we can take to curtail this.

“Isn’t it inevitable that youth will use alcohol and drugs in high school?” “If only we could do a better job of educating everyone about the dangers.” These are things I hear on a regular basis in my work as a substance use prevention specialist. My response to both is: not quite.

(Mis)Perception of Youth Use

Perception is our reality, as the familiar saying goes. What we believe to be true is influenced by a number of factors. The way information is reported to us through the media and by word of mouth are great examples. Both communication vehicles look for compelling stories to tell, which often emphasize extremes. Gossip isn’t interesting if it is about a mundane trip to the grocery store. It is interesting if a car went crashing through the front door though. I should expect to see a car in the produce section the next time I stop at Cub, right?

The more unusual, extreme, or concerning something is, the more likely we are to hear widespread conversation about it. This also happens with youth substance use. Students who used over the weekend tend to talk about it more than students who spent their time babysitting or watching movies. Media coverage of substance use related stories tend to focus on teen use, not on teens who choose to abstain. We are inundated with messages about teens using substances, so it is not surprising the common perception of youth substance use is it’s “typical” and, thus, a somewhat acceptable norm.

Here lies the difficulty: our perceptions are inaccurate. The majority of youth are making positive, healthy choices about substance use. For instance:

  • According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 34.7 percent of 15-year-olds report they have had at least 1 drink in their lives. By default, this statistic also means 3 percent of 15 year olds surveyed report having never consumed alcohol.
  • The NSDUH also found 22.8 percent of 12-20 year olds reported drinking alcohol in the past month. This also means2 percent did not drink alcohol in the past month.

The use rates shared above are nothing to ignore. The concern over this information should not overshadow the hope we find in the other side of each statistic, however. We need to do a better job of highlighting the truly typical choices our youth are making. Let’s remind young people, parents, and community members that it is not abnormal to choose health and safety. Everyone looks for opportunities to feel connected and a part of a common experience. Let’s not allow misperception of what that experience is to fool us into a mindset which is both inaccurate and detrimental.

A Community View of Prevention

Breaking down misperceptions about substance use to fuel new community norms is one example of a prevention strategy. Educating youth, parents, and other caring adults about the harms of substance use is another, but is often mistaken as the only option. Prevention strategies can also include a change in business practice such as checking IDs or community policies which limit youth access and exposure to substances.

Whether you think of these as system changes, environmental strategies, or work that takes a really long time, you may wonder why public health professionals bother with them. I think the answer is best understood through analogy, a dog analogy to be specific.

In my household, the family member most often at the doctor is our dog, Brooks. This poor guy has had quite the battle with allergies, torn ACLs, etc. These issues do not stop him from being a young dog who wants to play and run though! After his first ACL surgery, the vet told us he should not run, jump, or fuss with the wound on his knee (which is like telling a fish not to swim). How did my husband and I try to prevent these things from happening? At first we focused our energy on scolding him each time he tried to jump on the couch or started licking his wound. I’m convinced Brooks started to think we changed his name to “No” because we used the word so often.

After a couple of days, we got smarter. Brooks loves to jump on our bed, so we shut the door to our room anytime we were away. We had Brooks wear a cone to make his wound inaccessible. We even went so far as to leash him every time we went outside so he wouldn’t chase after rabbits. Instead of continuing to tell Brooks to change his behavior, we created environments for him which prevented the risky behavior from happening at all.

This is what we do in public health. We work to create environments which inherently promote health and prevent risky behavior from happening. Rather than relying solely on education to stop youth from using alcohol and drugs, we use strategies that impact the entire community in which youth live.

Concepts into Action

What might you do to put these concepts into action? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Think critically. Question information you receive that suggests it is normal for youth to use alcohol and drugs. Know that you have the majority on your side.
  • Talk to youth about misperceptions. What do they believe the norm is? Why? Remember that youth do care about what their parents think, even if they try to convince you otherwise. Find talking points and conversation starters at samhsa.gov/underage-drinking or www.drugfree.org.
  • Ask the same of adults. What do they believe is normal and why? Empower parents and caring adults to express their concerns about substance use for the young people in their lives.
  • Find confidence in your healthy choices. It can be uncomfortable for both youth and adults to be open about their belief youth substance use is unhealthy. Be an example of the majority who believes this too. Find inspiration from others who already have at myonereason.com and www.abovetheinfluence.com.
  • Find local data to learn what this looks like in your community. For those in Minnesota, sumn.org is a wonderful resource to locate this information.
  • Get involved! Join a neighborhood group, a community coalition, or another effort working to promote youth health. Community collaboration has shown to be one of the most successful ways to change the environment and reduce substance use. For more information, visit cadca.org or www.rpcmn.org.

Bio

Lindsey Smith Lindsey Smith is the Regional Alcohol, Tobacco, & Other Drug Prevention Coordinator, serving Minnesota’s seven county metro area. In this role, she supports local communities working to prevent substance abuse by providing resources, training, assistance, and consultation. By engaging multiple sectors of the community and using public health principles as a guide, she assists community collaboratives in reaching their goals.

http://www.rpcmn.org

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Addiction Science: The Teenage Brain and a New Online Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program

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Guest Blogger, Kim Bemis, founder of Gobi.

Every human culture has its intoxicating substances—and in each culture there is a subset of users who become addicted.

In the U.S., 21st century addiction problems are appearing earlier in life[1], according to the latest scientific data revealed in May by the nation’s foremost addiction experts at a New York conference I attended.

Addiction science reveals that abuse and addiction occurring in the biologically sensitive period of adolescence can harm a vulnerable brain—so much so that abusers’ and addicts’ brains may not reach their full potential or function normally. This is because repeated and chronic use of substances targets the paired system governing behavior: the brain’s reward center (nucleus accumbens) and the impulse-control center (prefrontal cortex). As the keynote speaker, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, put it: “Addiction and drugs attack the reward centers we need to survive. They hijack that system” by radically disrupting the neurochemical signals to produce constant reward-seeking behavior with no checks or balances from the impulse control center. “When executive function is decreased you are at risk of seeking rewards without sound judgment.”

Dr. Volkow also emphasized that the prefrontal cortex—that brain capacity so critical to making executive decisions in the person’s and society’s best interests—is not fully developed until age 25. Yet in our society, we have 15-year-olds—and younger—at risk of jeopardizing their developing brains with excessive use of drugs and alcohol. Not only do these chemicals have the power, over time, to change the circuitry of the developing adolescent brain, but extensive or continued use robs adolescents of normal and necessary growth experiences central to identity formation, positive affiliation, family/community connection and a sense of purpose.

This concerns me because I am an entrepreneur who has spent the last 11 years working in the drug and alcohol recovery field—and the scientific insights my background gives me suggest we are, as a society, at risk of creating a culture that promotes access to substances in a way that leads to easy use, frequent overuse and, too often, to abuse.

Of course, addiction doesn’t happen overnight; one drink won’t hurt. But the science suggests it is essential to educate the public to understand that teen substance use is a public health problem and that addiction is a complex brain disease that, in most cases, originates in adolescence. Our health systems must work to prevent or delay the onset of substance use through effective public health measures.[2] I want to do all I can to help prevent teens from abuse and addiction, to help them make better decisions. Here’s who I am and what I do:

  • A gratefully sober man for over 27 years, able to enjoy the blessings of family and friends because of my recovery from drug and alcohol addiction
  • A former executive of an internationally renowned treatment center helping people get sober, stay sober and reconnect with life
  • Now, the CEO of Gobi, a new, accessible and affordable approach to intervening to help teens who might be in trouble because of their substance use. Gobi (gobi.support) is a novel online tool for teens and their family members. It is science-based and developed by expert clinicians in addiction science, parents and teens, Gobi is intended to reach digital natives in their own space—online, with social media follow-up and support. At the same time, Gobi also supports parents, with research on adolescent substance use and tips on communicating effectively with teenagers. Figures 1, 2, and 3 convey sample findings from our recent user survey during the 60-day course of Gobi online programing.

Figure 1: Fig1_Gobi connects

Figure 2:Fig2_Gobi offers keys to change

Figure 3: Fig3_Gobi results

In May 2016 I had breakthrough experiences at two tremendous addiction conferences: “From Statistics to Solutions Prevention Summit: Addressing Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Abuse,” in the Twin Cities, with sponsors and partners including Know the Truth, Our Young Addicts, Minnesota Teen Challenge, and more, and “The Addicted Brain and New Treatment Frontiers: Sixth Annual Aspen Brain Forum,” sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Aspen Brain Forum in New York City.

Below, I share several key messages from the New York summit. In my next post, I’ll elaborate on my Minnesota conference aha moments, and the tremendously encouraging things happening.

  • Over time and frequent use, substance-induced changes to the brain impair a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, while sending intense impulses to continue to use—just to feel “normal.”
  • Our brains develop from the bottom to the top and from the back to the front until approximately age 25. Brain circuitry during this developmental stage is particularly vulnerable to substances of abuse.
  • Data show that teenagers are more likely than adults to experiment with alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal/prescription drugs, and also have a higher rate of addiction: Among addicted Americans, 1 in 4 began using before age 18, which compares to 1 in 25 who started using at age 21 or later[3].
  • Underlying youth addiction is a complex network and interplay of neurobiology, psychology, social and family dynamics and genetics.
  • Brains do recover! Never lose sight of this.

Early detection and intervention in teen substance use, with the explicit goal of preventing the progression to abuse and addiction, is really where we need innovative approaches and programs to help youth and families.

My goal with Gobi is to foster better communication in families and to help teens make better decisions around using drugs and alcohol before the “brain hijacking” occurs. I look forward to sharing some preliminary user data that suggests despite worrisome trends in adolescent drug and alcohol use, there is also encouraging news, hope and help.

[1] In my next post, I will share demographics from our early research with teens participating in the program we designed to prevent early experimentation from leading to abuse and addiction.

[2] This is a stance I share with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. http://www.centeronaddiction.org/

[3] Data from a national survey of use patterns, Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem.

http://www.centeronaddiction.org/newsroom/press-releases/national-study-reveals-teen-substance-use-americas-1-public-health-problem

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

#SoberSummer kicks off for 2016

Certain tunes and lyrics get stuck in my head. One of these is the theme-song from the Disney series Phineas and Ferb, a delightful cartoon about making the most of summer vacation by having fun every day:

 There’s 104 days of summer vacation

And school comes along just to end it

So the annual problem for my generation

Is finding a good way to spend it.

It reminds me of my youngest son’s  innocence amid the chaos of his older brother’s addiction.

As we near Memorial Day – the unofficial kick off to summer – it’s time to bring back the Our Young Addicts #SoberSummer campaign. Each day from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Our Young Addicts will post substance-use prevention tips for parents, professionals and other adults of influence.

Please follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Linked in, by liking, sharing, retweeting and quoting these tips. Use the #SoberSummer hashtag. And, by all means, share your tips with us and we’ll incorporate these into our postings – after all, we have 104 days of summer to fill!

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts    All Rights Reserved

Let’s Get Local!

Anoka-Hennepin OYA Screen Shot 2016.png

This week, my school district is hosting the second of a three-part series on drug and alcohol prevention and use among teens. I am grateful that local media is helping drive attendance and attention. (The picture above shows the district’s website homepage following our first event.)

http://kstp.com/news/anoka-hennepin-school-district-community-forum-drug-alcohol-prevention/4062141/

http://anokahennepin.schoolwires.net/site/Default.aspx?PageID=2&PageType=17&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=1&EventDateID=11699

The more the story gets out, the more we can address the underlying issues of youth substance use.

What are you doing in your community? If you’d like ideas or resources, please reach out. Together, we can spread the word.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Why “Prevention” Doesn’t Sit Well With Me

When we become parents, we have a list of things we hope – and never anticipate – will never happen. Among these things, we hope our kids will never use drugs. If there is addiction in our family, we hope we will be effective in preventing them from experiencing addiction. If there’s no history of addiction, we hope they will never be “stupid enough” to use drugs … as if it’s “stupidity” that underlies it.

Chances are, though, we view underage drinking as a rite of passage; the same with marijuana. As for other “hard” drugs, we shake our heads in disbelief that our kids would even consider use.; after all, we are doing our best to be good parents.

Fast forward to the tween and teen years. Things change.

If your kid is using drugs and alcohol, it’s reason for concern. No bones about it. Whether it’s experimentation or out-right dependency, no use is good use for a developing brain. I think we can all agree, that youth substance use has the potential of leading nowhere good.

We must stop youth substance use. Better yet, we must prevent it in the first place. Heck yes.

Substance-use prevention, in theory, is fine and dandy. It’s predicated on good communication, good relationships, good boundaries. In fact, it’s our obligation as parents and as adults of influence (teachers, coaches, faith leaders, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, et al), to do everything in our power to prevent our youngsters from trying and using drugs and alcohol.

However, if your kid is using, prevention is a thing of the past. It’s too late, and many parents are kicking themselves wondering where they failed.

Reality check. If your kid is using, it is NOT your fault. You did not fail as a parent. You did not fail at prevention. This is not shirking responsibility – in fact, it is the ultimate in acceptance and the foundation for addressing and arresting addiction even as it spirals out of control.

Let’s face it. Addiction can happen. Not to all kids who use, but to some. Even to your kid.

It happened to mine. It might happen to yours. Sorry, it might.

But wait. What if you diligently employ the 35 ways to prevent addiction? What if you do “all the right things”? You’re immune, right? Your kid is safe, right?

Think again.

No kid wants to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. No kid believes they will be. Until they are. Until it’s too late. That’s addiction. It sneaks up and grips. It arrives with little warning, and it stays longer than ever imagined. It creates chaos, drama, trauma and more.

While I wholeheartedly embrace prevention in theory, I realistically acknowledge that it’s a bit of a crock. Yes, it is.

All the dogma about prevention provides a false sense of security. Prevention pundits, without meaning to, shame parents of young addicts because they flaunt all the things we could have, would have and should have done.

Oh, wait. These ARE the things we did … and it still did NOT prevent our kid from trying drugs and alcohol AND it did NOT prevent the kids with a predisposition (known or unknown) to addiction from developing a substance-use disorder.

If anything, these lists of “things to do” to prevent substance use set us up for unfortunate reality checks when experimentation escalates.

Certainly, there are mitigating circumstances – situations that contribute to substance use among young adults; that’s sad and unfortunate. There are underlying issues from self esteem, depression, anxiety, dysfunctional family dynamics, family history with addiction, and more that might lead to trying drugs – to “fit in” and to self medicate.

For the rest of us, the prevention message is somewhat insulting. By no means does this mean we are perfect parents who flawlessly parent in a prevention positive manner, but we are well intentioned and we’ve done our best. Beyond that, our kids sometimes do choose to try a substance and some of our kids are hooked from day one. There’s no way we can predict, and really, there is no way we can prevent.

One of my phrases, “been there, done that,” implies that I can offer you insights to prevent substance use; but really, it’s about connecting with you as a parent who has done your very best and in spite of this finds your kid using.

Instead, you find out your kid has tried drugs and alcohol so you’re now wondering what to do to halt your kid’s use, to reverse the situation. In my mind, this is of infinite value because we can’t control whether our kid will try substance, whether they will abuse them, and whether they will develop an addiction.

But we can intervene early and often. We can parent them through addiction. We can encourage treatment and support recovery. We can accept that we can’t MAKE them stop, but we can set boundaries and we can be there when they are READY. We can weather the treacherous, dangerous path that is addiction. We can face the ugly possibility of the worst, most horrifying potential outcome, More importantly, we can hope, pray and believe that sobriety is possible.

To recap, prevention is admirable and is our obligation as parents and adults of influence; but we must recognize that prevention isn’t always possible. Instead, if we find ourselves as parents of young addicts, we must be ready to meet this head on without guilting ourselves because prevention didn’t work. That is one of the reasons that the Our Young Addicts community exists – to surround and support each other, to embrace parents and professionals in addressing the number of kids trying and becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

I realize this may not be a popular perspective, but from my “been there, done that” experience, it offers liberation and empowerment to move from statistics to solutions.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

#TBT – Do “All The Right Things” But Kids Can Still Lose Their Way – Addiction Happens

In 2012, Midwestern Mama contemplated the dichotomy of doing “all the right things” but still having a kid who was struggling with addiction. It seemed to run counter to the recovery principles of “you didn’t cause it, you can’t change it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it …” Which is it, she wondered? (And still does wonder.)

A Real Mom 5-7-12 – All the Right Things

To me, this is where parents and professionals need to come together for the sake of family consensus, treatment and recovery – for ourselves and our young addicts.