Category Archives: News

Addiction Should be Treated as Public Health Issue: Kerlikowske

Addiction should be treated as a public health issue, National Drug Control Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikowske told participants of a conference on prescription drug abuse Thursday. Addiction is a brain disease, and should not be treated as a moral failure, he said.

Drug overdoses kill more Americans than traffic crashes or gunshot wounds, he told the group. He praised prescription drug take-back events for removing drugs from the home that might otherwise fall into the hands of young people and others who may abuse them, the Associated Press reports.

Kerlikowske touched on a range of issues, including medical marijuana, cocaine use and heroin use. He said the popularity of medical marijuana sends the wrong message to young people, and noted there has been a 40 percent drop in cocaine use since 2006.

There has been a decrease in the number of people abusing prescription drugs, from 7 million in 2010, to 6.1 million in 2011, he said. Kerlikowske expressed concern about the rise in heroin use.

Source: Join Together


Marijuana Legalization Expected to Lead to More Teen Use: Survey

A survey of high school seniors suggests marijuana legalization will lead to increased use of the drug among teens. The survey found 10 percent of seniors who said they don’t currently use marijuana said they would try it if the drug were legal.

Researchers at New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research surveyed almost 10,000 high school seniors about their attitudes toward marijuana, UPI reports. The findings appear in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

“What I personally find interesting is the reasonably high percentage of students who are very religious, non-cigarette smokers, non-drinkers, and those who have friends who disapprove of marijuana use — who said they intended to try marijuana if it was legal,” lead researcher Dr. Joseph J. Palamar said in a news release. “This suggests that many people may be solely avoiding use because it is illegal, not because it is ‘bad’ for you, or ‘wrong’ to use.”

Source: Join Together

Legalizing Drugs Won’t Make Organized Crime Disappear: Kerlikowske

U.S. National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske told an international meeting this week that legalizing drugs will not be a “silver bullet” that will make organized crime disappear.

Instead of arresting more users and building prisons for them, Kerlikowske said governments should focus on “a science-based approach to drug addiction as a disease of the brain that can be prevented, treated and from which people can recover,” Reuters reports.

Kerlikowske told the meeting that the U.S. federal government now spends more on drug prevention and treatment than domestic law enforcement. However, the United States is continuing its efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations around the world, he added.

Some Latin American countries are considering relaxing penalties for personal drug use. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina favors legalization as a way to reduce crime and violence. Uruguay has considered a proposal to legalize marijuana.

On Wednesday, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yury Fedotov said the agency’s new drug report found a decline in the use of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine in some parts of the world, and an increase in the use of prescription drugs and new psychoactive substances.

Source: Join Together

Parenting 101

August 2012

1.    I’m curious about these Hookah Bars I see around the area.  Do they have age restrictions?  Is it just “regular” tobacco smoked in them?  Do they serve alcohol, too?  I have two high schoolers and would not like it if they were able to go into those establishments. Thank you.

Hookah bars are subject to the same laws and regulations as apply to other methods of smoking tobacco  (cigarettes, cigars etc.), so these can change from city to city. It is illegal for those under 18 to be sold tobacco products in California and that includes Hookah bars. The tobacco products smoked at Hookah bars are often flavored. Hookah bars, may in some areas allow indoor smoking if their primary business is the sale of tobacco products, similar to a cigar shop/lounge. Any establishment that serves alcohol must follow all applicable state and local laws regarding patrons under age 21. Because Hookah bars do target a younger, generally college age crowd, they are not likely to serve alcohol, although some bars and clubs that serve alcohol have created outdoor hookah areas. Hookahs are just as dangerous and addictive as any other method of smoking tobacco and you are right in not wanting your children to be frequenting establishments that promote it. If there is a particular establishment that you are concerned about, you may want to check what licenses that establishment holds and what state and local laws apply. Selling of tobacco products to minors or allowing minors on the premises, if law forbids their presence, can lead to fines and loss of license for retailers.

2. We have a 4yo son who is very difficult to “control.”  If he doesn’t get what he wants he sometimes goes into a frenzy and throws huge fits (it doesn’t matter where we are).  It’s gotten so bad we hate to take him with us anywhere.  We’ve tried several different kinds of discipline but it seems nothing works.  Is he too young for counseling?  What about spanking?  Help, please.

All children learn different behavioral methods in order to attempt to get the things they want, or believe they want.  In truth, adults do this as well, only children have fewer resources or ‘power’ to be able to get what adults can.  As a result they resort to any behavior that provides them with results.  To a child, a good result is anything that gets others, especially parents, engaged.  A very simple rule of engagement is the more attention you can draw to yourself, the better the chance you will succeed in getting what you want.  This explains why your child goes into a “frenzy,” which is another term for a tantrum.

Your son may be only four years old, but he knows perfectly well that you not only dislike this behavior but it genuinely upsets you and puts him in a position of  ‘negotiating’ with you for things he wants.  It doesn’t matter whether he gets positive or negative attention, they both draw you into his personal drama to the point you will be very tempted to give him what he wants so he will stop.  Research shows that children first learn this type of manipulative behavior at 7 months of age, so at four years old, your son is an old pro.

It begins with small situations that ‘upset’ him, and over the years grows into what can seem like a frenzy.  Your only hope of stopping this behavior, and it can be stopped, is to learn to ‘disengage’ with your child.  When you first begin to ignore this behavior there is a natural reaction of him to increase his frenzied behavior in order to maintain the hook it has on you.  However, if you can hold out, the behavior will begin to fade.

At home, have a designated place where the child is in ‘time out’ until they settle down.  Do not engage in conversation, debate, or give any attention during this time.  If it happens at the market or in a restaurant, simply leave your cart, or excuse yourself from the table, and remove  both you and the child from the immediate environment.  Put him in a place you temporarily can use for time out that is just outside the store or restaurant and explain that he can return when his ‘tantrum’ is over.  You may have to leave early from the store or the restaurant, but these small sacrifices will pay big dividends in the end.

From what you describe of your child, he will be more likely to change when your parenting changes than by listening to words that a stranger (counselor) would tell him.  Children process actions much better than words.  Since you will be the one with him when inappropriate behavior surfaces, you are in a far better position to provide guidance.  While very moderate spanking, that never leaves red marks, may be legally accepted, it has not been shown to improve behavior. The main disadvantage of spanking is that it inadvertently justifies hitting others when we are upset, it sets a negative example for our children, and is totally unnecessary to help children learn appropriate behaviors.

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

July 2012

1.   My husband and I have always been open and honest with our three kids about substance abuse, including alcohol and marijuana.  However, with all the talk of decriminalization and/or medical marijuana, it is getting more difficult to “convince” them that using could take a heavy toll on their lives.  What can we say to maintain our position with credibility and not sound like we’re stuck in the past?

This is such a great question for the times.  It truly is more difficult today to stand behind an argument about the dangers of marijuana when currently marijuana use is riding the borderline of legality.  Decriminalization and medical usage have clouded the waters in our society’s discussion of Marijuana far more than necessary. Neither consideration changes the dangers that Marijuana use poses in the slightest. It is the same substance if it is decriminalized or not (which is not to say decriminalization is not an important issue, see RAND’s white paper on what would happen if it were legalized). Tobacco cigarettes are not criminalized, but do we doubt at all that they are very dangerous and unhealthy? It is also the same substance, with the same risks, whether it has medical use or not. Cocaine is used medically. Oxycontin is used medically. Valium is used medically. Would anyone advocate that this means that these substances are safe for recreational use? We do innumerable things in the name of helping sick people medically, that we would never want to subject a healthy person to (surgery, radiation etc.). The content and handling of the Compassionate Use Act (not the “free for all getting high is o.k.” act) has presented some serious problems. The people of California wanted to make it o.k. for sick and suffering people to have access to a medicine they previously did not (despite the fact that there is still significant debate in the medical community whether Marijuana is a best practice medication). The law was not intended to allow free use, though the way it was implemented and the way some profiteering doctors have handled it have made it defacto legal for those over 18, at least for now. The facts and the research on the effects of Marijuana do not change with legislation. There are plenty of articles you can find if you simply ‘Google’ “The dangers of today’s marijuana.” An example of what you would find is as follows: “The potency of THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, has more than doubled in the last twenty years creating a greater risk for impairment and a far higher risk of addiction.” So, we suggest you find a number of credible articles, the best ones have scientific research to back up their facts.      Have another of your “open and honest” discussions and share both your fears and facts.  Marijuana has many, and sometimes more, of the toxic chemicals found in tobacco that collect in the body with each use.  Point out how common abuse and addiction are in both the adult and secondary school populations, which greatly disrupts and destroys individuals lives and the lives of their family members who love them. Good for you for taking this issue seriously and arming yourself with information!

2. I’m a single mom with one son who is 13.  I work to support us and can’t be with him all day long.  A couple of times I’ve come home and would swear I smell cigarette smoke in the apartment.  When I ask him he denies it but I’m not sure I believe him.  At what point do I stop trusting him and breach his privacy?

The general rule about breaching privacy is that it is done whenever there is any suspicion that involves potential dangers for your child.  You are at that point. If you smell cigarette smoke it is because it is there. It is your responsibility as a parent to make sure that your house is free from dangerous chemicals and that your 13 year old son is not starting an addiction that is devastating. The privacy he is entitled to is limited. Smelling cigarette smoke more than once in your apartment is sufficient enough to search his room and belongings when he is not at home.  If you don’t find anything, wait until the next incident and repeat your efforts.  I would smell the clothes he puts into the dirty clothes bin, and/or ask him for a kiss when he returns home from being with his friends to determine if his breath smells of tobacco use.

Tobacco is an extremely addictive drug for anyone, but the younger one is when they start, the greater the chances of addiction. His brain is still developing and very malleable, including in critical parts related to addiction.

Many cities now have agencies that have prevention programs for young smokers.  If you can locate some support systems, you may be able to get information that will help to educate your son, and/or possible cessation programs if you determine that he has been smoking.

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:

Program That Involves Parents Can Help Reduce Teen Problem Behavior, Study Suggests

A program that provides feedback and skills training for parents can help reduce teen problem behavior, a new study has found. The program, called Family Check-Up, is short, requiring only about four-and-a-half hours,
Science Daily reports.

The study included 593 seventh and eighth graders and their families, half of whom were randomly assigned to participate in the program. The researchers asked the students about their families’ interactions, and videotaped parents interacting with their children at home and school.

The researchers found the program reduced family conflict, parental monitoring, and teens’ antisocial behavior and alcohol use. Their findings appear in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Most adolescents with behavioral problems see professionals after they are in trouble instead of beforehand, which is why this program is unique; there are few preventive programs like it,” Garry Sigman, MD, Director of Adolescent Medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, told Science Daily. He cautioned, “It requires either a school district willing to incur the time and financial costs of trained professionals or collaboration between schools and mental health professionals. In either case, most districts do not have funds or interest in this type of endeavor.”

Source: Join Together

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.


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