Category Archives: Alcohol Abuse

Parenting 101

May 2012

1. My 16 year old daughter was at a friend’s house and had a pretty bad headache so her friend’s mother gave her ½ Vicodin which really bothers me. My daughter is begging me not to contact her friend’s mom. How best to handle this?

You absolutely need to contact your daughter’s friend’s mom. You would also do well by setting a firm boundary that your daughter is never to be in a situation where this woman is the sole adult caretaker present. Illegally distributing narcotics (and make no mistake Vicodin is a strong narcotic) to minors is an extremely serious matter, one in which you would be well within your rights to involve the police. Regardless of whether the mother that gave her the medications is completely unaware that she just acted as a ‘dealer’ of illegal drugs, or whether she understands and doesn’t have any regard for the laws – she is acting irresponsibly and needs to be informed before she either gets into trouble with the law, or inadvertently contributes to illegal drug use by minors. Both would send her to jail. Yes, as a teenager, your daughter is likely to be embarrassed and want to avoid dealing with the issue, but to send any other message than that this is an extremely serious matter would be gravely irresponsible parenting. Prescription drugs, in particular opiates (of which Vicodin is one) have become one of the leading causes of addiction and overdose in this nation, in large part due to society’s tendency to view them as safer than street drugs. Deaths from overdoses of prescription opiates happen nearly six times as often as those from Heroin, and from 1997 to 2007 the number of opiates prescribed increased over 400%. The Center for Disease Control has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. Your daughter needs to be clear that prescription drugs are extremely dangerous as this will unfortunately not be her last opportunity to take them illegally. Problems that are not addressed only grow, address this one strongly. Here is a great resource page for more information:

2. Our daughter is leaving for college this year. Both her father and I have been in recovery for many years and we’re not sure what to say to prepare her for her first real taste of freedom and the drinking that may go along with that. And is it possible for us to monitor her behavior when we’ll be so far away?
If you and your husband are both in recovery from chemical dependency, it would certainly be time to talk with your daughter about her substantially increased risk of dependence if she indulges in mind altering substances. Your daughter is old enough now for you to share with her your struggles with recovery (always be honest, but it is not necessary to go into details, and it would be helpful for her to know that neither one of you ever thought your choices would wind up in a lifetime change). It may be especially helpful for your daughter to hear that her parents are ‘not perfect’ individuals that you have challenges like everyone else. This is a good time to reiterate that her freedoms are only restricted by the choices she makes when she is on her own. It is your responsibility to make sure that she is aware of the dangers and to help her plan for her own safety, but make sure listening is as much a part of the interaction as talking. By this age, she most likely has already had to make many decisions surrounding substance use and her thoughts, beliefs and mindset will be the most influential factors in the decisions she makes while off at college. Unless she has already made dangerous decisions regarding substances, direct monitoring would be not only extremely difficult and unreliable, but counterproductive to her continued growth and maturity and most certainly her relationship with you. Visit her if possible, talk by phone frequently (texting or e-mailing is not the same when it comes to knowing someone is o.k.), make sure any expenses being paid by you track closely with a pre- determined budget and keep a dialogue open about her academic progress and the new life experiences she has. Care and love deeply, but know that you cannot control her, only your contribution to her process.

Responses to the above parent questions have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

April 2012

1. Recently my husband’s work hours were cut and we’re struggling financially, now his drinking has increased quite a bit and he’s always angry – at first he just was angry with me but now he’s begun to take it out on our children as well, yelling at them for no reason, or dishing out very harsh punishment for small issues.  I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he says he’s fine and doesn’t need help.  I don’t want to turn into a nag, but I don’t know what to do.  Thank you for your help.

You are right on target with not wanting to “nag.”   Some of the most challenging aspects of being in a marriage relationship is stepping up when you see a possible ‘train wreck’ ahead.  What is happening in your family now seems to be one of those times.  It will not be easy, but your husband needs you now more than ever to be assertive (not aggressive), and insist that the two of you talk about your situation. There are three issues that you need to attend to and that you can do something about. First:  empower yourself in preparation for dealing with what is unlikely to be a quick or easy process. Get educated on alcoholism and alcohol abuse and misuse.  Public education is offered by most local treatment centers; there are wonderful resources online and print material is also available. Get support so that you are not alone. Alanon is a wonderful resource for those affected by family members’  drinking and meetings are plentiful in the South Bay. Local treatment centers and churches may also offer support groups. Second: make sure your children are protected, both physically and emotionally. What you describe is harmful to children. Decide where your lines are regarding the treatment of your children and clearly communicate these to your husband (preferably when he is not drinking). If these lines are continually crossed,  you may need to call in help, whether that be the Department of Children and Family Services or the Police. You cannot allow yourself or your children to be victims of ongoing abuse of any nature. Third:  lovingly encourage your husband to get help, while making that as easy as possible. Research what treatment options are open for him and contact local interventionists to explore using that method. Shaming him, agitated emotional appeal, meeting anger with anger, and judging and/or manipulating have all proven highly ineffective in getting alcoholics or problem drinkers to seek help. Communicate as clearly and calmly as you can your concerns for him, yourself,  and your children. Let him know you love him and want him healthy and happy. This approach gives you the best chance to positively impact his choice, but there are, unfortunately, no guarantees.   You may need to make very hard decisions to ensure your own and your children’s welfare and that is where the support you have built will become critical.

2.  How can I tell if my 14yo son is depressed or just moody like other teens?  Some days he’s fine – funny & like his old self – then others he barely speaks to anyone, shrugs off my concern, and stays in his room with his ear phones in.  Could his mood swings be related to drugs?  How do I tell the difference?

To answer your question directly: is your son depressed- possibly!  Is he just a moody teenager- most likely! Are his mood swings related to drugs – maybe! The true key is communication.  Share this article with him, tell him you love him and worry about him.  Then sit back and listen.  You will have to wait for it, because he most likely won’t just begin talking. Be patient, non-judgmental, and non-critical with whatever he says.  Just listen and learn.  If it is in part, or whole,  substance driven, there will likely be other signs such as unusual odors, abnormal eye appearance, friends with known substance involvement, drug related material ( High Times Magazine, visits to drug related sites online, t-shirts with drug related slogans etc.), increased secrecy, attempts to keep physical distance, loss of interest in activities he’s always enjoyed,  or others.  Consider implementing random drug screening (which can be done at a very reasonable cost) both as a confirmation  and as a preventative measure (it’s easier for a teen to say “no” if they know they will be caught, plus it is perfectly o.k. for him to use you as his “over protective” parent  if offered drugs).  If you see multiple signs that drug use is involved, contact one of the local treatment centers specializing in adolescents and obtain a professional assessment, which is often available at very reasonable to no cost.

Responses to the above parent questions have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention.  The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth.  For local resources or more information, please visit our website or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

March 2012

1. Our 12yo son is a really good kid – gets good grades, helps around the house, honest & trustworthy, and a very good athlete.  However, he has a bad temper and it flares most often if he loses at athletics.  He gets very angry at himself, wants to quit, trash talks himself – then he calms down and is fine again.  How can I help him get his anger under control?

This kind of reactive behavior is usually the result of a hidden low self image.  When he experiences success in sports or school he feels very good about himself which feeds the need to be the ‘perfect’ child.  However, if he has experiences which he perceives as ‘failure’ he falls into the trap where he thinks if he is not perfect then he is worthless.  The fact that he is able to calm down and be fine again is a very good sign. Highly competitive athletes tend to be very hard on themselves in a way that is inextricably linked to their highly competitive nature. It would not be unexpected that a 12 year old would deal with these feelings in a vibrant fashion, as life can appear much more “all or nothing” at that age. The stress that he feels, real or imagined, is putting a great deal of pressure on him to succeed at everything he participates in.  It sounds like he may be trapped in a maze that he has no clue about how to escape.

If you feel you can lead him out of this cyclical thinking, the goal would be to help him to be more accepting of his faults, if not, you may want to seek out a therapist who understands what your son is experiencing and the life issues that have created this syndrome. Finally, if any of your son’s current behavior while angry appears dangerous to his welfare or begins to escalate, we would suggest contacting a therapist who specializes in adolescents and/or sports psychology.

2.  My 17yo daughter has always been on the college track.  Now that college is just “around the corner” she’s backing off from it, as well as her friends and family.  She’s losing focus, doing just enough in school to get by, and I’m worried.  She won’t talk to me and says she won’t see a counselor.  What am I to do?

What you describe is not an uncommon issue with adolescents who are approaching, what they perceive as ‘their last years of childhood’.  For some, the responsibility of going to college or getting a job scares the motivation right out of them.   A fear of having all this responsibility ahead of them can explain a sudden change in attitude.  Some will cling to their childhood and put distance between them and anyone who they feel is pushing them into the future. Seniors doing just enough to get by after the college application and acceptance process is done is by no means an unusual occurrence.

However, her backing off from friends is not a usual part of that dynamic. Sometimes this is an indication of alcohol or other drug involvement; sometimes it is a precursor to depression or other life issues.  Without more detail it is difficult to discern whether this “backing off” is due to an incident in her life (relationship break up etc.), the stress of her previous achievement efforts catching up with her, or onset of a diagnosable condition such as depression. As the parent and the adult, it is your responsibility to make sure that her welfare is attended to.  Maintain as calm and loving a demeanor as you can, but be clear that as a parent who cares deeply about her, you will not drop your concern, nor ignore this significant negative shift in her life.  Give her as much power as you can in making the dialogue happen, but a clear message that the issue cannot be ignored.  Perhaps let her find and choose the place and time of day to have a serious talk with you, or give her the option of communicating by letters back and forth if she would prefer, etc.

It might also be helpful if these feelings can be explored with a close friend or a trusted relative.  Look for someone she looks up to or admires to talk to her.  Talk to her friends to see if they have noticed a change in her as well.  Also, take some time to observe her actions and listen carefully to her words, but don’t wait too long to find out what’s going on.  If she won’t go to a professional and nothing changes, then it would be good for to you seek professional help to find ways that will be helpful for her.

Responses to the above parent questions have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

February 2012

1. My son will be going into middle school in the fall and I’m concerned about alcohol and/or drugs. In the South Bay, what are kids using most often and what are the symptoms I should look for?

Alcohol and Marijuana are by far the most prevalent drugs of abuse for minors in the South Bay, but many other substances are around, as well, ranging from cocaine, mushrooms and heroin to “spice” and “bath salts.” With all substances of abuse be on the lookout for the following:

  • 1. Unusual odors on your child’s person or clothing or in an area they have recently been.
  • 2. Increased secrecy or attempts to keep you at a physical distance.
  • 3. Significant lethargy, drowsiness or excessive energy.
  • 4. Blood shot eyes or extremely small or large pupils.
  • 5. Narrowing of interests and social circle.
  • 6. Poor performance at school.

Space prohibits an exhaustive listing of all symptoms, but always remember an involved parent who firmly sets clear boundaries and has ongoing dialogue with their child regarding substance use, is by far the best preventative force around.

2. My 13yo daughter has been best friends with the same girl since 2nd grade, but now her friend is more interested in boys and make-up than school or soccer. My daughter isn’t quite there yet and seems to feel depressed and abandoned by her friend. How can I help her through this?

Unfortunately, your daughter is experiencing one of the ‘changes of life’ that is very normal and natural for this age. One of the natural parts of life is that friends change, their interest change, their focus’ change, which leaves us with the choice of changing along with them or finding different friends that more closely match our likes and dislikes. It is very likely, however, that not ‘all’ of her ‘old’ friends have deviated from your daughter’s interests. She is certainly not the only girl her age who is not ready for ‘young adult’ interests. As her mom, there is much you can do to help. Sit down with your daughter and using her interests, plan an event, celebration, or a project (i.e., a beach party, an outing to roller coasters, collect clothes for the homeless, plant trees in the park, pick up trash on the beach, collect toys for hospital children, etc.). Then help her carry out this event or project. Along the way, help seek out and collect other peers of hers that are interested in joining the cause or participating in the celebration.
You may also help find an organization, sports team, or social club through your church, school, or community recreation that your daughter is interested in and can join. There is great variety of places to get involved in that make life seem more important, especially when you are working as part of a team. Kids who just hang out and talk about doing things because it looks grown-up often miss out on great opportunities.

Responses to the above parent questions have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

December 2011

1. We found marijuana in our 16yo son’s bedroom (this is the 2nd time) – and we’ve grounded him and taken away all his privileges. However, while I don’t want him to feel left out of holiday activities, at the same time I’m so mad at him I can hardly talk to him. How can I manage this better?

Your son’s having brought Marijuana into your house and kept it there a second time after being caught previously is a very strong statement about the intensity of his relationship with that drug and the attendant loss of respect for family values and boundaries that attends drug problems. Some parents feel that Marijuana use is “just part of adolescence,” while others find it a wakeup call that your son needs help/guidance to deal with life without the use of an hallucinogen. Grounding and loss of privileges is appropriate, however, it is not in and of itself a solution to the problem.
It is definitely time to seek help for his problem (continued use despite negative consequences is a clear indicator that he has a drug problem). We urge you to seek an assessment at a chemical dependency program specializing in adolescents as quickly as possible. Make sure that the program has a strong family component. You’re right on target to be considering your anger. Although completely understandable, your anger will not help your son recover from a drug problem. A good family program can help teach you how to support recovery and hold boundaries against drug use effectively. We would not banish your son from family holiday activities, but holiday activities with friends are not necessary given the poor decision making process he has exhibited.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the issue, or feel you can contain it by a ‘”slap on the hand.” This approach rarely properly addresses the issue. Even if you are a parent who believes Marijuana is harmless, remember this is a child who doesn’t have the maturity to understand the concept of moderation or ‘responsible’ use of anything.

2. We found out that our 15yo daughter’s best friend is posting provocative pictures of herself on Facebook. Our daughter says she hasn’t done this and we’ve checked her page and found nothing. Should we tell her friends parents or mind our own business? We’ve known this girl for several years and are concerned about her reputation as well as her influence on our daughter, (who is freaking out at the thought that we will contact her friend’s parents).

As parents we have a responsibility to protect our own children. But what about other people’s children? While it is totally your option of whether to tell the other parents or not, we suggest you use the guideline of the reverse. If another parent comes to know about something that might be a danger to your daughter (provocative pictures on the Internet, drug and alcohol use, riding bikes in traffic without helmets, etc) would you want to be informed? If the answer is yes, then it makes sense that you help out another parent and provide them with the information you have. Do not add any judgment or criticism, not even your opinion, just the facts as you know them. Then leave it up to the other parent to follow through. Their reaction or how they handle it may vary widely and unpredictably, know that you are not in charge of that, only of giving them the information they need to have. Also, be aware that it is very common for teens to keep at least two facebook pages, one that they “friend” their parents on (so their parents will let them use facebook ) and another on which they really interact with their friends. Too many young people believe that their postings on any social media site is a private event and is restricted to only their friends. They are unable to comprehend that ‘anything and everything’ sent via any social media venue is available to the world. Because you have spent your life protecting your children (as you should) they also are not able to comprehend that human behavior can be very ugly. We know that every social media contains “predators,” but teens feel invulnerable to anyone outside their circle of friends. Checking browser history to see what facebook pages have been visited is extremely important. Indeed, your daughter will be upset if you contact her friend’s parents. However, this will send a very clear message to your daughter that there are some behaviors that are never acceptable and require intervention, which hopefully discourages her from ever considering doing the same in the future. This is a textbook example of the choice that every parent of a teen has to make over and over again: Am I my teen’s parent or friend? Those roles are mutually exclusive. Please be her parent, at 15 she desperately needs that. Being a good parent of a teen means they will often not like your decisions, love her enough to make the right one anyway.

Responses to the above parent questions have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

November 2011

1. My 6th grade daughter wants to “go out” with a boy in her school, but I think she’s too young. However, I don’t want her to feel she has to sneak around. I’m just not sure how to handle this.

While there are always exceptions, most 6th graders do not go out on ‘exclusive’ dates. For one, they do not have their own transportation, or the maturity to know what behavior is acceptable. Most boys and girls of that age meet at the mall, movies or beach with a group of friends. Typically, she would go with her friends, and he with his. The two groups meet and the ‘couple’ interact together while all the others watch and usually make non-serious conversations. However, it is not appropriate to leave them on their own.

By 8th grade there are a few who are taken by their parents or older sibling to the movies or a concert (some public place). They are usually dropped off and picked up when the venue is over. But at your daughter’s age, tell her you would be happy to have the boy over to your house, where they could spend time, but not alone or behind closed doors. They can have the living room to themselves while you are nearby and can walk in at any time. They can be invited along to sports events or family outings. Provide your daughter with as many options as possible, but tell her the rules are that they are not permitted to be alone or behind closed doors for everyone’s’ best interest. The idea is that as part of any child’s natural development, they need to learn appropriate behavior with the opposite sex. The concept of giving children freedoms that are not appropriate to their age simply so they will not “rebel” or “sneak” gives away parental power and assumes the worst of a child’s character. Set appropriate boundaries, know it is your right to do so and expect your child to live up to them (children often do live up to expectations).

2. Sometimes my 14yo son doesn’t seem to have any control over his actions or emotions. He makes poor decisions and I’m not sure I get through to him when we talk about long-term consequences. I’m worried that this isn’t just a phase, that it’s possibly a character flaw that could spell real problems for him down the road. Any advice/suggestions will be welcome. Thank you.

Brain studies for pre-teen and teens show clearly that the prefrontal cortex, which controls all impulsive behaviors, is not nearly fully developed. It is not unusual for that part of the brain to not reach full maturity until the early twenties. In individuals with attention deficit disorder, the prefrontal cortex is especially underdeveloped. This is a big contributor to what makes disciplining teens so difficult. Your best bet is to have consistent and firm consequences for poor decisions. Make sure that you explain that everyone makes mistakes and the consequences are there as a reminder to make good choices. Use the example of a parking meter. If you choose to ignore the law and not pay for parking your car, you will get a reminder ticket as a consequence. Getting a parking ticket has nothing to do with what kind of person you are, they are simply a way of reminding people to do what they are supposed to do.

The amount of a parent’s “parking ticket” should not be too little, nor too great, otherwise, chances are it will be ignored or rebelled against.

While more information about what your son’s lack of control and poor decisions would be needed to give you more specific advice, the fact that they have caused you concern is reason enough to reach out for some help. We would suggest a short consultation with a licensed therapist, who specializes in adolescents, to determine if there are further needs in addressing your son’s behavior.

Responses to the above parent questions have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

38 Million American Adults are Binge Drinkers, CDC Says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say 38 million American adults are binge drinkers, and most of them are ages 18 to 34. In a new report, the CDC says that while binge drinking is more common among young adults, those age 65 and older who binge drink do so more often—an average of five to six times a month.

Binge drinking is defined as men who have five or more drinks in one sitting, and women who have four or more drinks at one time, HealthDay reports.

Binge drinking is responsible for more than half of the 80,000 alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States, and accounts for about three-fourths of the more than $200 billion in costs from alcohol abuse, according to the CDC.

“Binge drinking causes a wide range of health, social and economic problems and this report confirms the problem is really widespread,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said in a news release. “We need to work together to implement proven measures to reduce binge drinking at national, state and community levels.”

The CDC found binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more. However, binge drinkers with household incomes of less than $25,000 have the largest number of drinks per sitting—an average of eight to nine drinks.


Liability Laws Make Parents Responsible for Underage Drinking in Their Home

Parents who allow their teens to have friends over to drink, thinking it’s a safe way to keep them off the roads, may be surprised to find they are subject to liability laws that make them vulnerable to lawsuits, fines and jail time.

Parents in some states can be liable even if they were not aware that drinking was going on in their home, according to the Associated Press. One Stanford University professor was arrested in November after his 17-year-old son had a party in the basement. The professor, Bill Burnett, said he had forbidden alcohol at the party and had twice checked on the teens. He spent one night in jail and was booked on 44 counts of suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Each count carries up to a $2,500 fine and almost a year in jail.

Eight states have “social host” laws that make parents liable if underage guests in their home are drinking, even if no harm comes to anyone, the AP reports. In some of the states, parents are allowed to serve alcohol to their own children in certain situations.

In 16 other states, laws hold parents responsible for underage drinking in some circumstances, such as if a teenager who drank in their home was in a car accident.

Research conducted by Students Against Destructive Decisions, and co-sponsored by the insurance company Liberty Mutual, found 41 percent of teens say their parents allow them to go to parties where alcohol is being served, compared with 36 percent two years ago.


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