Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sue Scheff: Gateway Drug Theory

Source: Connect with Kids

“The more we study marijuana, the more it begins to look just like every other drug of abuse.”

– Dr. Robert Margolis, a drug addiction specialist

Is marijuana a gateway drug?

“I don’t think so,” 18-year-old Katie Falkenberg says.

“I just have known kids who have done it and they don’t do anything else,” adds Randy Glance 17.

“I don’t think it’s gonna lead them into anything bigger,” 17-year-old Cody McGuire says.

But a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests these teens are wrong.

The study examined 311 sets of twins, with one twin in each set having smoke marijuana before age 17.

“And what they found is that the twin who began smoking marijuana at a much earlier age had a very high increase in the probability that that twin would go on to use other drugs other than marijuana,” says Dr. Robert Margolis, an addiction specialist.

“As for me, it led within about a month period to other drugs,” says Kelly Crockett, 18.

Kelly says smoking pot got her closer to people who used hard drugs.

“And it’s like, ‘Hey, you like the way this made you feel? Try this, you know?’ And I was up for it, you know, part of me was like OK, if I say no, you know they won’t think I’m cool anymore,” she says.

Experts say pot also releases dopamine in the brain, just like harder drugs do.

“So if marijuana triggers the release of dopamine and cocaine triggers the release of dopamine and heroin triggers the release of dopamine, it makes sense that smoking marijuana may be priming the brain, getting the brain ready for these other drugs,” Dr. Margolis says.

But experts say many kids – and their parents – think marijuana is virtually harmless.

“Don’t just say, ‘Oh, it’s only marijuana,’” Dr. Margolis says.

Instead, parents should arm themselves with information from credible sources and send a strong message to kids: Marijuana is illegal, unhealthy and could very well be a gateway to other drugs.

“I know that it is, and anyone that thinks that it isn’t, it’s kind of sad to say this, but wait and find out … you probably will, you know,” Kelly says.

Tips for Parents

Does the early use of marijuana lead to the future abuse of harsher drugs? Australian researchers say the findings from their study of twins is further evidence in support of the “gateway” theory – where the use of “soft” drugs like pot fuels a future desire to seek a more intense “high” by trying stronger drugs.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tracked 311 sets of fraternal and identical twins, with each set having one twin who smoked marijuana prior to age 17. Researchers found that the twins who smoked marijuana were two to five times more likely than their siblings to abuse alcohol and harsher drugs, like heroin and cocaine, in their 20s and 30s. In fact, among the early marijuana users, 48% reported using cocaine and other stimulants as adults, 35% tried hallucinogens, 14% used heroin and other opiates, 46% later abused or became dependent on marijuana and 43% became alcohol dependent.

It is important to note, however, that the researchers caution that early marijuana use by no means guarantees abuse of other drugs later on in life. Rather, it is associated with a heightened risk of future abuse.

So how big of a problem is marijuana use during the teen years? According to a recent National Household Survey on Drug Use, 2.7 million Americans aged 12 and older used illicit drugs at least once in the month prior to being surveyed. Of those, the majority, 56.2 said their first drug was marijuana. Consider these additional statistics about marijuana use from the survey:

6 thousand Americans try marijuana for the first time everyday.
The age of first use on average is 17.6 years of age.
Most of the first time users on average were under the age of 18.
Marijuana, the most often used illegal drug in this country, is a green or gray mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant. It is addictive and is known to have both short- and long-term negative effects on the body. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention cites the following health problems associated with marijuana use:

Short term:

Problems with memory and learning
Distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch, etc.)
Trouble with thinking and problem-solving
Loss of coordination
Increased heart rate and anxiety
Long term:

Cancer: Smoking one joint is equivalent to smoking a whole pack of cigarettes.

Lungs and airways: Breathing problems include coughing, wheezing and a greater risk of lung infections.

Immune system: Continued use weakens the immune system, placing an individual at greater risk of sickness.

Reproductive system: Using marijuana increases testosterone levels in women and decreases testosterone levels in men, presents a risk of infertility in women and for men, it delays the onset of puberty and leads to decreased sperm production and quality.

How can you recognize if your teen is using marijuana? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests looking for the following physical signs in your teen:

Seems dizzy and has trouble walking
Seems silly and giggles for no reason
Has very red, bloodshot eyes
Has a hard time remembering things that just happened
Becomes very sleepy as the early effects of use begin to fade
The NIDA says that you should also be aware of the following changes in behavior that may indicate marijuana use in your teen:

Carelessness with grooming
Hostility and deteriorating relationships with family members and friends
Changes in academic performance
Increased absenteeism or truancy
Lost interest in sports or other favorite activities
Changes in eating or sleeping habits
Signs of drugs and drug paraphernalia, including pipes and rolling papers
Odor on clothes and in the bedroom
Use of incense and other deodorizers
Increased use of eye drops
Clothing, posters, jewelry, etc., promoting drug use

If you suspect that your teen has a drug problem, it is important that you seek immediate treatment. Consult a psychiatrist or mental health professional when making decisions about substance abuse treatment for your teen. Remember that recovery from an addiction is a long-term process and may require frequent and multiple episodes of treatment.

As a parent, you have the most influence over your teen’s choice to use drugs. Therefore, it is important that you address the topic of drug use early on and often. Don’t wait until your teen has a problem with drugs before you bring up the discussion. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers these additional strategies for preventing drug use in your teen:

Be involved in your teen’s life. Ask who, what, when and where: Know who your teen’s friends are, what your teen is doing, when he or she will be home and where he or she is going.
Spend quality time with your teen. Eat dinner together, listen to music, watch a ball game or share chores.

Set a firm rule of no drug use in your family.

Commit yourself to a drug-free lifestyle. You are your teen’s most important role model. He or she notices everything you do.

Share your values with your teen. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting your teen know that you don’t want him or her using marijuana.

Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
Journal of the American Medical Association
National Household Survey on Drug Use
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Partnership for a Drug-Free America

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sue Scheff: Counseling Cuts Down Youth Drinking

“If it comes from me, I’m the objective observer. I’m interested in the child, and I try to let them know that. I want what’s best for them, but yet it’s not Mom or Dad saying that.”

– Rhonda Jeffries, M.D., Pediatrician

It’s a troubling fact of life: some kids drink.

“Especially the older they get,” says Dr. Rhonda Jeffries, a pediatrician. “And by senior year, 50 percent or more of kids are drinking. And in fact, by 12th grade, usually 80 percent of the kids have tried alcohol.”

But can a doctor persuade kids not to drink? Kids seem to think so.

“I think coming from somebody besides, maybe, just the parents for some people it will help,” says 18-year-old Andrew Scott, a high school senior.

Lars Thrasher, 17, agrees. “I would think it would be more helpful from a doctor,” he says.

And Christine Terrell, calls doctors advice on drinking and other potentially touchy subjects “extremely beneficial.”

According to a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, when a physician spends just a few minutes talking to kids about the dangers of alcohol, those kids are 50 percent less likely to drink.

Dr. Jeffries says: “If it comes from me, I’m the objective observer. I’m interested in the child, and I try to let them know that. I want what’s best for them, but yet it’s not Mom or Dad saying that.”

The study reports when kids talked with their doctor, they had 55 percent fewer traffic accidents, 42 percent less emergency room visits and fewer arrests for underage drinking. It seems that when doctors warn kids about alcohol, they listen.

Christine Terrell explains: “They’re not invested in you as their child. They’re invested in you for your health, for your interests, for your sake. And I would definitely listen to a doctor, and I have listened to doctors who have talked to me about subjects like that.”

The study suggests it’s a good idea to ask your doctor to talk with your children about alcohol. Of course, experts add, parents should bring up the subject as well. “They need to be open to discussion and to bringing these issues up with their kids,” says Dr. Jeffries. “And I think that parents who are in touch with their kids and connected to them are really helpful in getting their children though adolescence without negative effects.”

LaShauna Pellman, 17, sums it up best. “If my parents tell me something,” she says, “then I listen to them even more.”

Tips for Parents

Alcohol-related fatalities are a leading cause of death among young adults in the United States. In the United States, 70.8 percent of all deaths among persons aged 10 to 24 result from only four causes – motor-vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide.

Should your family doctor take just a few moments to counsel your child about the risks of alcohol, there is great potential for positive outcome. Just a few minutes of a doctor's counseling helped young adults reduce their high-risk drinking and the number of traffic crashes, emergency room visits, and arrests for substance or liquor violations, says a study in the Annals of Family Medicine. Consider the following:

Underage drinking causes over $53 billion in criminal, social and health problems.
Alcohol is a leading factor in the three leading causes of death for 15- to 24-year-olds: automobile crashes, homicide and suicide.

Primary-care doctors should make it a priority to counsel young adults about high-risk drinking. Young adults, ages 18 to 30, who received counseling about reducing their use of alcohol:

Experienced a 40 to 50 percent decrease in alcohol use.
Reported 42 percent fewer visits to the emergency room.
Were involved in 55 percent fewer motor vehicle crashes.

The ways a parent can influence his or her teen’s drinking habits is complex. A universal method regarding what works best in preventing underage drinking may not exist. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that a parent’s attitude toward drinking influences a child's behavior in various ways. One controversial finding was that teens who drank with their parents were less likely than others to have binged or used alcohol at all in recent weeks. Others, of course, argue passionately that parents who drink with their underage children are not only breaking the law but encouraging dangerous behavior that can lead to life-long consequences.

The Journal study also found that strict parenting can curb kids' drinking. Teens who said they feared they would have their privileges taken away if they got caught drinking were half as likely to drink as those who thought their parents would not punish them. In addition, consider the following:

The average girl takes her first sip of alcohol at age 13. The average boy takes his first sip of alcohol at age 11.

Teenagers who said their parents or their friends' parents had provided alcohol for a party during the past year were twice as likely as their peers to have used alcohol or binged during the previous month.

Nearly 75 percent of teens surveyed said they had never used alcohol.
About 25 percent of teens in the study said they'd been at party in the past year where parents supplied alcohol.

Fourteen percent of teens surveyed said they were with their parents the last time they drank.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Focus Adolescent Services
Health Day
National Youth Violence Prevention Center
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
University of California, Irvine

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sue Scheff: Teen Depression

A Relentless Hope - Surviving The Storm of Teen Depression - author, Gary E. Nelson, recently was interviewed on a New Mexico News Station.
Watch today - and learn more about teen depression.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sue Scheff: Disturbing New Links to Early Substance Abuse

Source: ACE - Alliance for Consumer Edcuation

Disturbing new links to early substance abuse from a study that was just published in the October issue of Psychological Science. It tracked “1,037 children from the age of three until 32.”

"Children who try drugs or alcohol before age 15 run a greater risk of being substance-dependent as adults, contracting sexually transmitted diseases, dropping out of school or being convicted of a crime."
"Girls who dabble in drugs and alcohol early on are more likely to become pregnant before they are 21."

"Children who tried alcohol or drugs early on “were two to three times more likely than non-early-exposed adolescents to be substance dependent, to have herpes infection, to have had an early pregnancy, and to have failed to obtain educational qualifications."

"Youngsters who were exposed to drugs and alcohol before 15 also had “significantly more criminal convictions” than those who were not."

"Half the children who dabbled with drink and drugs early on had no prior history of behavior issues, the study found."

“Findings from this study are consistent with the message that early substance use leads to significant problems in adolescents’ future lives, said the study’s lead author, Candice Odgers of the University of California, Irvine."

“Even adolescents with no prior history of behavioral problems or family history of substance abuse problems were at risk for poor health outcomes if they used substances prior to age 15,” she said."