Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sue Scheff: "Supervised" Underage Drinking

“It's kind of like [parents] open the door as soon as you get to the party, and they have a bowl to the side where they take your keys before you even start drinking.”

– Cameron Herron, 19

New research from Penn State University reports that high school kids who aren’t allowed to drink alcohol are far less likely to drink heavily when they get to college. This contradicts the conventional wisdom that forbidding alcohol turns it into a kind of “forbidden fruit” that causes kids to go wild in college.

But still, every year there are parents who break the law: they host a party and serve teens alcohol.

How often does this happen? According to teens, all the time.

“It’s kind of like they open the door as soon as you get to the party,” says 19-year-old Cameron Herron, “and they have a bowl to the side where they take your keys before you even start drinking.”

Why do some parents allow underage drinking?

“Because they would rather it be at their house and for them to have the control,” answers 19-year-old Marlena Flesner, “and for them to know where their kids are.”

“I hear that a lot,” says Dr. Michael Fishman, an addiction specialist, “and the fallacy is ‘to keep the kids safe’.”

That’s the assumption, but is it true? Is it really safer when kids drink with adult supervision?

“I’ve been at parties where I’ve seen a mom say, ‘hey, this kid is a little too drunk - no more for him,’” says 19-year-old Anthony Machalette.

The problem, kids say, is that sometimes there is no supervision.

“And it was pretty much all of us downstairs partying,” recalls 19-year-old Ryan Soto. “The parents are upstairs doing - nothing. They just kind of minded their own business and let us have a party downstairs.”

“Usually they are not around,” agrees Marlena Flesner. “They just kind of host it and sometimes buy the alcohol - or they just allow it.

And often, the kids start drinking at home - but they don’t stay there.

“In fact, some people are going to leave that house intoxicated,” says Dr. Fishman.

“It was a lot of the wealthy parents who had a big house,” says 20-year-old Jessica Holt, about one party she attended. “A lot of people could come. They wouldn’t collect keys or anything.”

Finally, experts say, allowing kids to drink at home sends a message.

“You’re introducing a lifestyle to your 15, 16, 17 year old and that lifestyle is alcohol. And so by allowing them to drink in your home, you’re basically giving them permission to drink in the world at large and any time they’d like,” explains Stacey DeWitt, President of Connect with Kids.

She says it’s easier for kids to say no if you make a stand against underage drinking that is loud and clear.

“I know my mother would kick my behind if I was drinking underage,” says 20-year-old Erin Smith.

Tips for Parents
Research shows that adolescents may be more vulnerable to brain damage from excessive drinking than older drinkers. Alcohol impairs brain activity in the receptors responsible for memory and learning, and young people who binge drink could be facing serious brain damage today and increased memory loss in years to come. If one begins drinking at an early age, he/she is more likely to face alcohol addiction. Consider the following …

■Imaging studies have revealed a connection between heavy drinking and physical brain damage.
■Neither chronic liver disease nor alcohol-induced dementia, the most common symptoms of severe alcoholism, need be present for alcohol-induced, physical brain damage to occur.
■Alcohol-induced brain damage usually includes extensive shrinkage in the cortex of the frontal lobe, which is the site of higher intellectual functions.
■Shrinkage has also been observed in deeper brain regions, including the cerebellum, which helps regulate coordination and balance, and brain structures associated with memory.
■Alcohol abstinence has shown positive results. Even three to four weeks without alcohol can reverse effects on memory loss and problem-solving skills.
Adolescents have a better chance of recovery because they have greater powers of recuperation. If you suspect your child has alcohol-related brain damage, it is imperative to have him or her assessed by a medical doctor or psychologist. Treatment depends on the individual and the type of brain damage sustained. People with impaired brain function can be helped. Often it is necessary to reduce the demands placed on the patient. Also, a predictable routine covering all daily activities can help. Consider the following points when easing your child’s routine …

■Simplify information. Present one idea at a time.
■Tackle one problem at a time.
■Allow your child to progress at his or her own pace.
■Minimize distractions.
■Avoid stressful situations.
■Structure a schedule with frequent breaks and rest periods.
■Consider joining an alcoholism support group.
■Alcoholism Home Page
■Better Health Channel
■National Youth Violence Prevention Center
■Psychological Assessment Research and Treatment Services

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 author and Parenting Expert, Denise Witmer always provides excellent information on parenting, especially with teens. Yesterday she posted a great article that most parents will benefit from. As a Parent Advocate and author of “Wit’s End” (where some parents end up with their teenagers), I know that summer can be a time of experimentation with many kids – whether they are trying to “fit in” (peer pressure) or simply curious. Be an educated parent – don’t be a parent in denial.

While summer is in full swing the National Youth Anti-Drug Campaign wants to remind parents to keep their teens safe and off drugs. They feel, and I agree, that summer can be a risky time for teens. More teens try marijuana for the first time in the summer months than any other time of the year. Each day in June, July and August, approximately 6,100 young people try marijuana for the first time; that’s 38 percent more per day than during the rest of the year.

Here is a S-U-M-M-E-R drug-free checklist:

Set rules

Have you set clear rules and let your teen know that marijuana use is unacceptable? Two-thirds of kids say that upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends is one of the main reasons they don’t smoke marijuana or use other drugs. Set limits with clear consequences for breaking them; praise and reward good behavior.

Understand and communicate

Have you talked to your teen recently about the harmful physical, mental, and social effects of marijuana and other illicit drugs on young users? Young people who learn about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to try drugs than their peers who learn nothing from their parents. Look for teachable moments in everyday life to keep the conversation ongoing.

Monitor your teen’s activities and behaviors

Have you checked to see where your teen is, who he is with, and what he is doing? Teens who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use drugs. Check up on your teen to make sure they are where they say they are.

Make sure you stay involved in your teen’s life

Have you talked to your teen’s coach, employer, and friends lately? Stay in touch with the adult supervisors of your child (camp counselors, coaches, employers) and have them inform you of any changes in your teen.

Engage your teen in summer activities

Have you helped plan activities to keep your teen busy? Research shows that teens who are involved in constructive and adult-supervised activities are less likely to use drugs.
Reserve time for family

Have you planned a family activity with your teen in the coming weeks, such as going to the movies, taking a walk, or sharing a meal? Teens who spend time, talk and have a close relationship with their parents are much less likely to drink, take drugs or have sex.
Press Release from The site also offers a free brochure called, “Keeping your Kids Drug-Free: A How-To Guide for Parents and Caregivers.” The brochure can also be ordered by calling 1–800–788–2800.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sue Scheff: New Data Shows Fathers Missing Key Opportunity to be More Active in Preventing Drug Abuse

New Data Shows Fathers Missing Key Opportunity to Be More Active inPreventing Drug and Alcohol Use among their Kids New York, NY (June 16, 2009) –

New data from the 14th annual national survey of parents’ attitudes about teen drug and alcohol use by the nonprofit Partnership for a Drug-Free America and MetLife Foundation reveals dads take a much more passive role than moms when it comes to preventing substance abuse in their families.

As Father’s Day draws near, this new data underscores a unique opportunity for fathers to get more involved and engage further with their children on this critical health issue. New research from the Partnership/MetLife Foundation Parents Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reveals dramatic differences between mothers and fathers:

· Fathers were nearly three times as likely to believe that drug education should take place in school (34 percent of fathers versus 10 percent of mothers)

. Additionally, fathers report having greater difficulty reconciling the desire to have their child see them as a friend with the need to set rules and monitor their teens. Fathers placed greater value on being their child’s friend (59 percent of fathers, 51 percent of mothers) although the majority of parents thought friendship with their child was important. Fathers were far more likely (18 percent) to report having difficulty enforcing rules about alcohol, cigarette or drug use than mothers (10 percent).

“Fathers have real power in influencing the decisions teens make for themselves, yet many dads find it difficult to talk with their kids about drugs and alcohol,” said Partnership President Steve Pasierb.

Visit the Partnership for Drug-Free America’s Parent Toolkit available for free download at for tips to help dads get the conversation going with their teens. For more information or to schedule an interview with an expert or to speak with a dad who can speak to the challenges of raising tweens and teens, please contact Candice Besson at or 212-973-3517.

About PATS: PATS is a nationally projectable survey of 1,004 parents of children in grades 4-12 and was conducted in-home by the Partnership with major funding beginning in 2008 from MetLife Foundation.


The Partnership for a Drug-Free AmericaWorking with parents to prevent and get help for teen drug and alcohol abuse.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sue Scheff: Stop Medicine Abuse

Five moms have continued their mission to Stop Medicine Abuse amongst teens and kids today.
First launched in May 2007, the Five Moms Campaign has reached over 24 million parents with these basic messages to parents about preventing teen cough medicine abuse.

When the campaign launched, teen cough medicine abuse was on the increase. Now, nationwide statistics point to a slight decrease. That’s great news, but more work has to be done to eliminate this type of substance abuse behavior among teens.

CHPA brought together five moms—a pediatric nurse practitioner, an accountant, a D.A.R.E. officer, an educator, and an author—from different backgrounds and from all over the country to encourage parents to get involved in stopping cough medicine abuse. And now Five Moms is part of the effort.

Protect Your Teens

Posted by Five Mom, Blaise Brooks

Teenagers’ lives are filled with tough decisions, handling outside pressures, and figuring out what type of person to become. While it is impossible to make all the right decisions for your teens and keep them clear of any hardships, as a parent you can help steer them in the right direction including where substance abuse is concerned, include over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse. The most important thing is to embrace your responsibility as the educator and parent and to talk to your teen in an open way.

Don’t turn a blind eye.

No one wants to believe that their kids would ever abuse any drug, let alone OTC medicine. But the truth is teens are abusing medicine and every parent needs to be aware and keep his or her eyes open to the signs of abuse, both in the home and in the community. If you ever have a question, you can check this list of the signs of abuse from the Stop Medicine Abuse web site.

Talk to your teen.

A conversation about drug abuse is never an easy one, but it’s necessary. And it’s crucial to keep having the conversation and keep those lines of communication going. The fact of the matter is that teens who learn a lot about drugs in the home are half as likely to abuse. One way you can make it easier is by letting the issue speak for itself: Take a look at, where you and your teens can see the negative effects of cough medicine abuse on the lives of real teens through their own personal testimonials. You also can check out from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America for tips about how to talk with teens about substance abuse.

Take responsibility for your medicine cabinet

You need to trust your teen, but you still should take steps to safeguard your medicine cabinet. Know what medicines you have and how much medication is in each bottle or package, and be sure to tell your teens what you’re doing and why. This may even be the perfect opportunity for you discuss medicine abuse.

By taking action to protect your teens from OTC medicine abuse and sharing this information with other parents, you not only protect the health and safety of your own teens, but also are taking a step towards protecting other teens in your community. Don’t forget to join us on the Stop Medicine Abuse Fan page on Facebook to discuss how you and your community can protect teens from medicine abuse.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sue Scheff: Accessibility of RX Drugs and Teens

As kids will have more time at home with summer just about here, what prescription drugs are available in your home?

“There is a tremendous amount of medicines out there that are readily available in the bathrooms, in the cabinets at home as well as on the black market.”
– Steven Jaffe, M.D., adolescent psychiatrist

Many kids say they can get any prescription drug they might want. Joseph Caspar, 17, says he could get “vicodin, morphine, anything like that.” Patti Strickland says she could even get methadone.

According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 61 percent of teens say prescription drugs are easier to get than any other drug.

One reason … easy accessibility.

“This is the age of medication,” explains Dr. Steven Jaffe, adolescent psychiatrist. “I think there is a tremendous amount of all sorts of medicines out there that are readily available in the bathrooms, in the cabinets at home as well as on the black market.”

In fact, kids say the medicine cabinet is the first place they look. “That’s mostly how it starts,” says 16-year-old T.J. Crutain.

That’s why, experts say, prescription medicine needs to be locked up.

“We have gun cabinets that are locked up to keep guns away from our teenagers,” says Dr. Herb Kleber, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. “We should also develop locked medicine cabinets in order to help secure these agents so that it isn’t easy for teenagers to get to them.”

Carol Thomas recently lost her son, Ross, when he overdosed on prescription drugs. Ross was 16-years-old.

“Ross didn’t get anything from [our] medicine cabinet, but I know parents have it and there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Thomas. “If you need medication, you need medication. But I think that we’re silly to walk around and dangle a carrot in front of a kid’s face.”

Tips for Parents

OxyContin is a controlled-release pain reliever that can drive away pain for up to 12 hours when used properly. When used improperly, however, OxyContin is a highly addictive opioid closely related to morphine. As individuals abuse the drug, the effects lessen over time, leading to higher dosage use.

Consider the following:

The supply of OxyContin is soaring. Sales of OxyContin, first marketed in 1996, hit $1.2 billion in 2003.

The FDA reports that OxyContin may have played a role in 464 deaths across the country in 2000 to 2001.

In 2000, 43 percent of those who ended up in hospital emergency rooms from drug overdoses – nearly 500,000 people – were there because of misusing or abusing prescription drugs.
In seven cities in 2000 (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.) 626 people died from overdose of painkillers and tranquilizers. By 2001, such deaths had increased in Miami and Chicago by 20 percent.

From 1998 to 2000, the number of people entering an emergency room because of misusing or abusing oxycodone (OxyContin) rose 108 percent. The rates are intensifying … from mid-2000 to mid-2001, oxycodone went up in emergency room visits 44 percent.

OxyContin is typically abused in one of three ways …

By removing the outer coating and chewing the tablet.

By dissolving the tablet in water and injecting the fluid intravenously.

By crushing the tablet and snorting the powder.

Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration puts its seal of approval on prescription drugs, many teens mistakenly believe that using these drugs – even if they are not prescribed to them – is safe. However, this practice can, in fact, lead to addiction and severe side effects. How can you determine if your teen is abusing drugs?

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry suggests looking for the following warning signs and symptoms in your teen:

Physical: Fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes and a lasting cough

Emotional: Personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression and a general lack of interest

Familial: Starting arguments, breaking rules or withdrawing from the family
School-related: Decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy and discipline problems

Social: having new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities, problems with the law, and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music
If you believe your teen has a problem with drug abuse, you can take several steps to get the help he or she needs.

The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests contacting your health-care provider so that he or she can perform an adequate medical evaluation in order to match the right treatment or intervention program with your teen. You can also contact a support group in your community dedicated to helping families coping with addiction.

Substance abuse can be an overwhelming issue with which to deal, but it doesn’t have to be. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers the following strategies to put into practice so that your teen can reap the rewards of a healthy, drug-free life:

Be your teen’s greatest fan. Compliment him or her on all of his or her efforts, strength of character and individuality.

Encourage your teen to get involved in adult-supervised after-school activities. Ask him or her what types of activities he or she is interested in and contact the school principal or guidance counselor to find out what activities are available.

Sometimes it takes a bit of experimenting to find out which activities your teen is best suited for, but it’s worth the effort – feeling competent makes children much less likely to use drugs.

Help your teen develop tools he can use to get out of drug-related situations. Let him or her know he or she can use you as an excuse: “My mom would kill me if I smoked marijuana!”

Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Set appointments for yourself to call them and check-in to make sure they share your views on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Steer your teen away from any friends who use drugs.

Call teens’ parents if their home is to be used for a party. Make sure that the party will be drug-free and supervised by adults.

Set curfews and enforce them. Let your teen know the consequences of breaking curfew.
Set a no-use rule for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Sit down for dinner with your teen at least once a week. Use the time to talk – don’t eat in front of the television.

Get – and stay – involved in your teen’s life.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sue Scheff: Stop Medicine Abuse

I was asked by caring parents and individuals to give people encouraging news. StopMedicineAbuse is making a difference in creating awareness in parents and helping open up the lines of communication with their teens and tweens today.

Although almost two-thirds parents have talked to their teens about cough medicine abuse, a large number still have not had this critical conversation. To help alert these parents, many OTC cough medicines will now feature the Stop Medicine Abuse educational icon on the packaging. The icon, which also can be viewed online (see above), is a key reminder for parents that teen medicine abuse is an issue that they need to be aware of.
Look for them on Facebook and join their Fan Club Group to stay updated.

How can you help?

Our efforts to educate parents about medicine abuse have reached thousands of families in the United States. With your help, more parents than ever are learning about this risky teen substance abuse behavior and are talking with their teens. According to the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, released by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 65 percent of parents have talked to their teens about the dangers of abusing OTC cold and cough medicine to get high-an 18 percent increase in the number of parents who talked to their teens in 2007.
My fellow Five Moms and I are excited to share this promising news with you, but there is still much work ahead. Although nearly two-thirds of parents have talked with their teens, 35 percent of parents said that they have not had this important conversation.

We know that when parents talk to their teens about the risks of substance abuse, their teens are up to fifty percent less likely to abuse substances. If you have not already talked with your teens about the dangers of cough medicine abuse, visit our talk page for some helpful ideas on how to have this discussion.

It is also critical that we share this information with our friends and communities as well. Too many parents are still unaware that some teens are abusing OTC cough medicine to get high, and it is important that we talk with them about this behavior. By talking with other parents, we can make sure that every family has the knowledge and tools to help keep teens safe and healthy.

Sharing information about cough medicine abuse is easy. It only takes a moment to start a conversation, and thanks to Stop Medicine Abuse, you can Tell-A-Friend through e-mail or post the Stop Medicine Abuse widget to your blog or web site. The more parents are aware of cough medicine abuse, the better we can prevent this behavior from happening in our communities.
Have you talked with other parents about cough medicine abuse?
Share your advice about having this conversation at the Stop Medicine Abuse Fan page

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sue Scheff: Learn More About Inhalant Abuse

As a parent advocate, this is such an important topic. Summer is almost here, and some teens will have idle time. Take the time to learn about Inhalant Use, since many of these substances are household items and are potentially very harmful to any age child.
Welcome to the Alliance for Consumer Education's (ACE) inhalant abuse prevention site! ACE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing community health and well-being.

Make sure to check out the ACE's online eBay Inhalant Awareness Auction going on right now! Click here to be directed to ACE's auction page. Please know as you place your bids, you are doing your part in helping ACE reach out to more communities and touch more lives. New items will be added to the auction continuously, so make sure to stay tuned!

Did you know 1 in 5 children will abuse inhalants by the 8th grade? Inhalant abuse refers to the deliberate inhalation or sniffing of fumes, vapors or gases from common household products for the purpose of "getting high".This site is designed to assist you in learning more about inhalant abuse prevention and giving you tools to help raise the awareness of others.
While here be sure to check out our free printable resources, and post any comments or questions on ACE’s community message board.