Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sue Scheff: Defining "Gateway Drugs" Preventing Teen Drug Addiction

Defining "Gateway Drugs"

Kids today have much more societal pressure put upon them than their parents generation did, and the widespread availability of drugs like methamphetamines and the "huffing" trend (which uses common household chemicals as drugs) can turn recreational use of a relatively harmless gateway drug into a severe or fatal addiction without warning.

The danger of gateway drugs increases in combination with many prescription medications taken by teens today. These dangerous side effects may not be addressed by your child's pediatrician if your child is legally too young to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Drugs like Ritalin, Prozac, Adderrall, Strattera, Zoloft and Concerta can be very dangerous when mixed with recreational drugs and alcohol.

Combining some prescription medications with other drugs can often negate the prescription drug's effectiveness, or severely increase the side effects of the drug being abused. For example, a 2004 study by Stanford University found that the active chemical in marijuana, THC, frequently acted as a mental depressant as well as a physical depressant. If your child is currently on an anti-depressant medication like Prozac or Zoloft, marijuana use can counterbalance their antidepressant effects.

Other prescription anti depressants and anti psychotics can also become severely dangerous when mixed with alcohol. This is why is imperative that you as a parent must familiarize yourself with any prescription medications your child is taking and educate your child of the dangers of mixing their prescription drugs with other harmful drugs- even if you don't believe your child abuses drugs or alcohol.

Marijuana - Why It is More Dangerous Than You Think

Parents who smoked marijuana as teenagers may see their child's drug use as a harmless rite of passage, but with so many new and dangerous designer drugs making their way into communities across the country, the potential for marijuana to become a gateway to more dangerous drugs for your child should not be taken lightly.

Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug by both teens and adults.

The drug is more commonly smoked, but can also be added to baked goods like cookies or brownies. Marijuana which is ingested orally can be far more potent than marijuana that is smoked, but like smoking tobacco, smoking marijuana can cause lung cancer, emphysema, asthma and other chronic conditions of the lungs. Just because it is "all natural" does not make it any safer for your lungs.

Marijuana is also a depressant. This means the drug slows down the body's functions and the messages the body sends to the brain. This is why many people who are under the influence of marijuana (or "stoned") they are often sluggish or unmotivated.

Marijuana can also have psychological side effects, both temporary and permanent. Some common psychological side effects of marijuana are paranoia, confusion, restlessness, hallucinations, panic, anxiety, detachment from reality, and nausea. While these symptoms alone do not sound all that harmful, put in the wrong situation, a teen experiencing any of these feelings may act irrationally or dangerously and can potentially harm themselves or others. In more severe cases, patients who abuse marijuana can develop severe long-term mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Tobacco - Just Because It Is Legal Doesn't Mean It Is Safe

While cigarettes and tobacco are considered "legal", they are not legal for teens to posses or smoke until they are 18. Still, no matter the age of your child, smoking is a habit you should encourage them to avoid, whether they can smoke legally or not.

One of the main problems with cigarettes is their addictive properties. Chemicals like nicotine are added to tobacco to keep the smoker's body craving more, thus insuring customer loyalty. This is extremely dangerous to the smoker, however, as smoking has repeatedly proven to cause a host of ailments, including lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or bronchial infection, asthma and mouth cancer- just to name a few.

In addition to nicotine, cigarettes contain over 4000 other chemicals, including formaldehyde (a poisonous compound used in some nail polishes and to preserve corpses), acetone (used in nail polish remover to dissolve paint) carbon monoxide (responsible for between 5000 to 6000 deaths annually in its "pure" form), arsenic (found in rat poison), tar (found on paved highways and roads), and hydrogen cyanide (used to kill prisoners sentenced to death in "gas chambers").

Cigarettes can also prematurely age you, causing wrinkles and dull skin, and can severely decay and stain teeth.

A new trend in cigarette smoke among young people are "bidi's", Indian cigarettes that are flavored to taste like chocolate, strawberry, mango and other sweets. Bidi's are extremely popular with teens as young as 12 and 13. Their sweet flavors and packaging may lead parents to believe that they aren't "real" cigarettes or as dangerous as brand-name cigarettes, but in many cases bidi's can be worse than brand name cigarettes, because teens become so enamored with the flavor they ingest more smoke than they might with a name brand cigarette.

Another tobacco trend is "hookah's" or hookah bars.

A hookah is an ornate silver or glass water pipe with a fabric hoses or hoses used to ingest smoke. Hookahs are popular because many smokers can share one hookah at the same time. However, despite this indirect method of ingesting tobacco smoke through a hose, hookah smoking is just as dangerous as cigarette smoke.

The Sobering Effects of Alcohol on Your Teen

Alcohol is another substance many parents don't think they need to worry about. Many believe that because they don't have alcohol at home or kept their alcohol locked up, their teens have no access to it, and stores or bars will not sell to minors. Unfortunately, this is not true. A recent study showed that approximately two-thirds of all teens who admitted to drinking alcohol said they were able to purchase alcohol themselves. Teens can also get alcohol from friends with parents who do not keep alcohol locked up or who may even provide alcohol to their children.

Alcohol is a substance that many parents also may feel conflicted about. Because purchasing and consuming alcohol is legal for most parents, some parents may not deem it harmful. Some parents believe that allowing their teen to drink while supervised by an adult is a safer alternative than "forcing" their teen to obtain alcohol illegally and drinking it unsupervised. In theory, this does sound logical, but even under adult supervision alcohol consumption is extremely dangerous for growing teens.

Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association recently testified that even light alcohol consumption in late childhood and adolescence can cause permanent brain damage in teens. Alcohol use in teens is also linked with increased depression, ADD, reduced memory and poor academic performance.

In combination with some common anti-psychotics and anti-depressants, the effects of just one 4 oz glass of wine can be akin to that of multiple glasses, causing the user to become intoxicated much faster than someone not on anti depressants. Furthermore, because of the depressant nature of alcohol, alcohol consumption by patients treated with anti-depressants can actually counteract the anti-depressant effect and cause the patient sudden overwhelming depression while the alcohol is in their bloodstream. This low can continue to plague the patient long after the alcohol has left their system.

Because there are so many different types of alcoholic beverage with varying alcohol concentration, it is often difficult for even of-age drinkers to gauge how much is "too much". For an inexperienced teen, the consequences can be deadly. Binge drinking has made headlines recently due to cases of alcohol poisoning leading to the death of several college students across the nation. But binge drinking isn't restricted to college students. Recent studies have shown teens as young as 13 have begun binge drinking, which can cause both irreparable brain and liver damage.

It is a fact that most teenage deaths are associated with alcohol, and approximately 6000 teens die each year in alcohol related automobile accidents. Indirectly, alcohol consumption can severely alter teens' judgment, leaving them vulnerable to try riskier behaviors like reckless stunts, drugs, or violent behavior. Alcohol and other drugs also slow response time, leaving teenage girls especially in danger of sexual assault. The temporary feeling of being uninhibited can also have damaging future consequences.

With the popularity of internet sites like MySpace and Facebook, teens around the country are finding embarrassing and indecent photos of themselves surfacing online. Many of these pictures were taken while the subjects were just joking around, but some were taken while the subjects were drunk or under the influence of drugs. These photos are often incredibly difficult to remove, and can have life altering consequences. Many employers and colleges are now checking networking sites for any reference to potential employees and students, and using them as a basis to accept or decline applicants!

©2007 Sue Scheff
Locking the Gateway - Click here for more information.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sue Scheff: Alcohol and Rape by Connect With Kids

“If we drink too much then we don’t pay attention to as many things in our environment.”

– Corinne McNamara, rape crisis specialist

GHB, “roofies,” Ketamine – all are known as “date rape” drugs. But experts say there is another drug that is easier to get, less expensive, and accounts for more than 65 percent of all date rapes.

Drinking may be a part of Erin’s college experience, but she says she knows her limits.

“I know that when I go out to party my goal is not to go out and get drunk, it’s just to have a good time,” says Erin, 18.

Still, her mom is afraid.

“What I worry is, she’s lost control and she’s at the mercy of whoever she happens to be with,” says Terry Dillard, Erin’s mother.

Alcohol is the real date rape drug. According to a study from the University of Ulster in Ireland, alcohol is involved in more than 65 percent of date rapes. Many experts say the problem is the same in the United States.

“If we drink too much then we don’t pay attention to as many things in our environment,” says Corinne McNamara, rape crisis specialist.

McNamara says that parents should teach their daughters that drinking could compromise their safety.

“Although it’s not your fault if something bad happens to you -- for example, if you are raped it’s not your fault – [but] these are some of the things you can do to avoid dangerous situations,” says McNamara.

First, she says, don’t drink underage. It’s dangerous and against the law. Second, if you do drink, bring along a friend who won’t leave your side.

“I think that’s a great idea to have a friend with you on the side who’s sort of like ‘you need to stop now’ or ‘we need to go back to the dorm now,’” says Erin.

Experts add that kids also need to pay attention to their intuition.

“Listen to that voice in the back of your mind that says ‘this is an awkward situation, I need to leave now’,” says Corinne.

Erin knows the risk of sexual assault is real, but she says she won’t be paralyzed by fear.

“I want to be careful with what I do, but I don’t want to go out there and just stay away from everything, keep myself locked up in my room, not be a part of things because I’m scared something bad might happen to me,” says Erin.

Tips for Parents

Make sure your children know the basic facts about drinking: it slows reflexes, distorts vision, reduces coordination, can cause memory lapses and even blackouts; it can lead to poor judgment and lowered inhibitions – which can lead to risky behaviors like driving while drunk and unprotected sex; that drinking large quantities of alcohol at one time or very rapidly can cause potentially fatal alcohol poisoning; and that it’s illegal to possess or obtain alcohol under the age of 21. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Avoid secluded places (this may even mean your room or your partner's room) until you trust your partner. (Nemours Foundation)

Don't spend time alone with someone who makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable. This means following your instincts and removing yourself from situations that you don't feel good about. (Nemours Foundation)

Stay sober and aware. If you're with someone you don't know very well, be aware of what's going on around you and try to stay in control. Also, if you are a male, be aware of your date's ability to consent to sexual activity; you may become guilty of committing rape if the other person is not in a condition to respond or react. (Nemours Foundation)

If you're injured, go straight to the emergency room -- most medical centers and hospital emergency departments have doctors and counselors who have been trained to take care of someone who has been raped. (Nemours Foundation)


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Human Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Nemours Foundation

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sue Scheff: Responding to Lies by Dr. Lawrence Kutner

I’ve always found it useful to remember that, from a child’s perspective, a lie is simply the best solution to a problem that he can come up with at that moment. The real challenge for the parents of chronic liars isn’t spotting the lies, but finding the underlying issues and helping the child learn different and more appropriate responses. Here are some ideas that may help:

Ask yourself if you’ve giving your child permission to tell the truth. Remember that children most often lie to avoid punishment. What does your child think you’ll do if he tells you what really happened?

Even though, as adults, we can’t be forced to testify against ourselves in a court of law, we routinely ask our children to do just that. Children often tell psychologists and teachers that they felt guilty and wanted to tell their parents what they had done, but they saw that their parents were in a bad mood when they came home, and worried about the punishment they might receive if they didn’t lie.

One way to encourage your children to tell you the truth is to focus your responses on their specific behaviors (breaking that heirloom vase) rather than on their characters (”You never listen to me when I tell you not to play ball in the house!”). Give them a chance to make appropriate amends when they’ve done something wrong so that they don’t feel that they’ll be punished forever if they tell you the truth.

Look for patterns in lying as clues to what’s really going on. These patterns can be in the situations where children lie, as well as the content of those lies. For example, you should be more concerned if your child routinely lies in several settings, such as in school or with friends, as well as at home. A child who has problems with self-esteem is more likely to lie in a variety of situations, but a child who’s afraid of punishment will lie mostly to the people he’s afraid of.
Remember that lying is an act that involves at least two people, not just your child. If you want your child to stop lying to you, you’ll have to change as well. Ask yourself if your own patterns of lying have given your child the message that it’s all right for him to lie.
Have the restrictions you’ve placed on your children’s activities changed as they’re gotten older? For example, a child in late elementary school will want more control over how he spends his weekly allowance than younger children do. Let’s say that you don’t want him to “waste his money” on comic books. If you later ask him how he got the Spider Man comic that’s in his room, he’ll probably lie.

The most realistic solution to the problem is to let him buy the comics. This is an important way of recognizing that he’s growing up. Besides, buying comics is pretty innocuous and is probably even beneficial; it’s a much better choice than spending his allowance on cigarettes, alcohol, or illegal drugs — substances that are increasingly used by school-age children. Besides, kids are less likely to ask to do really outrageous things if you’ve allowed them to do at least a few semi-outrageous things.

Don’t tempt your child to lie. If you know your child forgot to feed the dog, don’t ask him if he did so. If your child begins by lying to you, don’t let him continue and dig himself in deeper. Instead, stop him and let him know that you know he’s lying.
Remember that it’s better to assume the role of an educator than the role of a police officer. Help your child learn how to accomplish what he wants without lying to do so. Show him how he might tell you the truth. (While this may be obvious to you, it may not be to him.) Explain that telling you what really happened offers him a chance to correct the situation at least partway. If all children learn is that they’ll be punished when you catch them lying, they’ll simply become better liars.

Dr. Lawrence Kutner is a nationally known clinical psychologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School, where he’s co-founder and co-director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media. He’s the author of five books: Parent & Child: Getting Through to Each Other; Pregnancy and Your Baby’s First Year; Toddlers and Preschoolers; Your School-Age Child; and Making Sense of Your Teenager.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Parent's Universal Resource Experts Continuing to Keep Parents Informed

Parent's Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.) is an organization I created to help parents learn about an industry that can be daunting especially when you are dealing with at risk teenagers.

Parents need to keep educated on today's teens and the issues of teen depression and what causes this.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sue Scheff Parenting Articles on Teens

I have created a Blog of articles that I am reading from a variety of newspapers regarding parenting teenagers. Click here for more information on teen drug use, teen depression, teen suicide, bullying, teen eating disorders and more.

Do you have a struggling teen? At risk teens? Defiant Teen? Teen Depression? Problem Teen? Difficult Teen? Teen Rage? Teen Anger? Teen Drug Use? Teen Gangs? Teen Runaways? Bipolar? ADD/ADHD? Disrespectful Teen? Out of Control Teen? Peer Pressure?

Find about more about Boarding Schools, Military Schools, Christian Boarding Schools, Residential Treatment Centers, and Therapeutic Boarding Schools.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How Do I Recognize If My Teenager is Using Drugs or Alcohol?

How Do I Recognize If My Teenager Is Using Drugs Or Alcohol?

By Shawnda P. Burns, LMHC, CAP

This is a difficult question that many parents have to face on a daily basis. Parents who spend a great deal of time with their teenagers are often tuned into what is normal behavior and what is not. However, even parents who are actively involved in the daily activities of their teenagers may overlook – or subconsciously deny – the earliest signs of a substance abuse problem.

Some of the clues that your teenager may exhibit when using drugs or alcohol are fairly subtle, but others are rather obvious:

*Many hours spent alone, especially in their room; persistent isolation from the rest of the family. This is particular suspicious in a youngster who had not been a loner until now.

*Resistance to taking with or confiding in parents, secretiveness, especially in a teenager who had previously been open. Be sure that your teenager is not being secretive because every time he tries to confide in you, you jump on him or break his confidence.

*There is marked change for the worse in performance and attendance at school and/or job or other responsibilities as well as in dress, hygiene, grooming, frequent memory lapses, lack of concentration, and unusual sleepiness.

*A change of friends; from acceptable to unacceptable.

*Pronounced mood swings with irritability, hostile outbursts, and rebelliousness. Your teenager may seem untrustworthy, insincere or even paranoid.

*Lying , usually in order to cover up drinking or drug using behavior as well as sources of money and possessions; stealing, shoplifting, or encounters with the police.

*Abandonment of wholesome activities such as sports, social service and other groups, religious services, teen programs, hobbies, and even involvement in family life.

*Unusual physical symptoms such as dilated or pinpoint pupils, bloodshot eyes, frequent nosebleeds, changes in appetite, digestive problems, excessive yawning, and the shakes.

These are just a few of the warning signs that can be recognized. Be careful not to jump to the conclusion that your teenager may be using when you see such behavior. Evaluate the situation. Talk to your teenager. Try to spend time with her so that she feels that she can trust you. By creating a home that is nurturing, she will understand that despite of unhealthy choices that she will always get the love and moral support that she deserves. Building a strong relationship with your teenager now will mean that in time of crises your love, support, wisdom, and experience won’t be shut out of your teenager’s decision making. If you have a suspicion that your teenager is involved in the use of drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to bring the subject up. The sooner the problem is identified and treated, the better the chances that your teenager’s future will be safeguarded. Raising the subject will be easier if you already have good communication in the family. Discuss the ways in which you can seek help together. An evaluation by a substance abuse professional may be the key to understanding what is really going on with your teenager.

Shawnda P. Burns is a licensed mental health counselor and a certified addictions professional who practices at A Place For Growth in Weston.

Do you have a struggling teen? At risk teens? Defiant Teen? Teen Depression? Problem Teen? Difficult Teen? Teen Rage? Teen Anger? Teen Drug Use? Teen Gangs? Teen Runaways? Bipolar? ADD/ADHD? Disrespectful Teen? Out of Control Teen? Peer Pressure?

Find about more about Boarding Schools, Military Schools, Christian Boarding Schools, Residential Treatment Centers, and Therapeutic Boarding Schools.