Your Teen

More Teens Taking Ecstasy

2.15 to read

More than two-thirds of these ER patients were between 18 and 29 years old, but a sizable number, nearly 18 percent, were from 12 to 17, the report said, noting Ecstasy use is increasing among teens. More parents are receiving the phone call they dread the most- “this is (local hospital name here) your child is in our emergency room… please come quickly."

According to a new study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) medical emergencies relating to the illegal drug Ecstasy jumped 75% between 2004 and 2008. More than two-thirds of these ER patients were between 18 and 29 years old, but a sizable number, nearly 18 percent, were from 12 to 17, the report said, noting Ecstasy use is increasing among teens. The study said in 2008, hospital emergency rooms treated 17,865 patients for Ecstasy related medical problems. In 2004, the number was 10,200. The resurgence of Ecstasy use is cause for alarm that demands immediate attention and action, said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in an agency news release. Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is often used at parties and gatherings by teens that are unaware of its potential dangers. Its reputation as a "club" or party drug can give teens the false impression that casual use of the drug is harmless. Addiction, blurred vision, high blood pressure, heat stroke, muscle cramping and kidney failure are linked to Ecstasy use, the report said. "Amphetamine use continues to be a significant problem for adolescents and young adults. It is associated with significant morbidity and mortality," said Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, chairman of emergency medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "It remains to be determined how severe the long-term neurotoxic effects may be on the brain," Goldfrank said. "There is no reason for anyone to believe that the use of this drug is safe at some dose -- the risk is consequential at any dose." 31 percent of the ER visits involved Ecstasy use with at least one other drug, while 17.5 percent of patients had combined Ecstasy with four or more other drugs. According to the study, 50 percent of patients 21 or older had used alcohol with Ecstasy compared with 20 percent of those 20 and younger. Cocaine use with Ecstasy was also more likely among people 21 and older (43 percent) compared with those 20 and under (nearly 15 percent), the researchers found. While Ecstasy use alone can present multiple psychiatric and physical problems, the combination of Ecstasy with other drugs can present seriously ill or life-threatening emergencies. Parents are often unaware of Ecstasy use by their child, since teens and young adults tend to use the drug at locations other than at home. There are many website resources dedicated to giving parents, and caregivers, information on the symptoms of Ecstasy use, as well short and long term psychological and physical effects. http://www.educatingvoices.org offers these signs of Ecstasy use and possible long-term medical problems. Signs of Ecstasy Use - Confusion - Panic attacks - Depression - Loss of memory - Headaches - Hallucinations - Sore jaw from involuntary jaw clenching - Grinding teeth - Paranoia - Anxiety - Acne and skin rash - General fatigue Ecstasy Paraphernalia - Pacifiers, Blo-Pop suckers and Popsicle sticks are used to counteract the teeth grinding. - Candy necklaces, Altoids tins, M&M's, Skittles, Tootsie Rolls are used to conceal   Ecstasy tablets. - Glo-Sticks are used for stimulation. - Vick's Vapo Rub is smeared on the inside of a surgical mask and then worn to enhance the dilated bronchi. - Vick's Vapo Inhalers is used to blow into a partners face and eyes to enhance the effects. - Bottles of water are a common sight at parties, used to treat overheating, sweating and dehydration. - Ecstasy is used at all-night dance parties or Rave parties with techno music and laser lights, concerts and in small groups. - Users of Ecstasy have suppressed appetites, thirst and the need to sleep. EEcstasy use can result in effects similar to Alzheimer's. Research suggests Ecstasy use increase the risk of developing Parkinsonism, a disease similar to Parkinson, later in life. In these cases Ecstasy is shown to destroy dopamine neurons, the chemical messenger that is involved in controlling movement, emotional and cognitive responses and the ability to feel pleasure. Ecstasy users risk significant brain damage; damage that is evident through brain scans showing actual holes in the brain. The brain of a young person having used Ecstasy is similar to that of a 60 to 70-year old who has had a number of strokes. If you think your son or daughter is using Ecstasy, or any illegal drug, watch for the warning signs and discuss your concerns with your child. Avoid making direct accusations; instead stay calm and rational during the discussion. Ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. Remember, the warning signs of drug use could be connected to emotional problems or physical illnesses not related to drug use. You may want to discuss the possibilities with your Pediatrician or family doctor, and consider taking your son or daughter in for a physical exam to see if a medical condition exists.

Your Teen

Sports Drinks May Damage Teeth

Those sports drinks that your young athlete sips on may be eroding their teeth a new study suggests.040509healthlines1 Those sports drinks that your young athlete loves to sip on may provide an energy boost, but they could also be eroding their teeth a new study suggests. Findings by New York University dental researchers show many popular energy drinks contain levels of acid that can cause tooth erosion, hypersensitivity and staining. The beverages can also cause excessive tooth wear and may damage underlying bone-like material, causing teeth to soften and weaken the researchers say. They also say the drinks may possibly trigger conditions leading to severe tooth damage and loss. "This is the first time that the citric acid in sports drinks has been linked to erosive tooth wear," says Mark Wolff, DDS, professor and chairman of the department of cardiology and comprehensive care at New York University College of Dentistry. He says people who use sports energy drinks for energy should brush their teeth immediately after drinking the beverages. Softened enamel, he says, is highly susceptible to the abrasive properties of toothpaste. The five sports drinks tested were Vitamin water, Life Water, Gatorade, Powerade and Propel Fit Water. The study involved cows' teeth that were cut in half. Half of the specimens were immersed in a sports drink, the other half in water. Cows' teeth were used because of their close resemblance to human teeth. All the teeth immersed in a sports drink softened, but Gatorade and Powerade caused "significant" staining, according to an abstract of the study. Craig Stevens, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, says such studies are unfair and do not present "an accurate or actual picture of the way sports drinks are consumed." "The testing procedures they used are outside the realm of what happens in real life," he says. "Beverages pass right through the mouth, and these beverages have a purpose, and are proven to enhance physical performance. To use them like this is simply providing unhelpful information to consumers." He adds: "To suggest that sports drinks are a unique cause of dental caries or tooth erosion is overly simplistic. Oral health is determined by a variety of factors, including types of food consumed and the length of time foods are kept in the mouth."

Your Teen

Stop Yelling at Your Teenager!

2.30 to read

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that anyone who has a child has yelled at him or her at one time or another. As parents, we’ve all lost our patience when we believe our child is misbehaving. If ever there is a time when parents and kids are standing at the crossroad of “Listen to me” and “I don’t need to”, it’s during the teenage years.

Tempers often ignite with harsh words being said.  

While you may be trying to make an important point, aggressive yelling and screaming only pushes your child away and may be doing much more harm than good according to a new study.

An analysis involving nearly 1,000 two-parent families and their adolescent children suggests that such harsh verbal lashings not only don't cut back on misbehavior, they actually promote it.

The end result: an uptick in the kind of adolescent rage, stubbornness and irritation that escalates rather than stops or prevents disobedience and conflict.

"Most parents who yell at their adolescent children wouldn't dream of physically punishing their teens," noted study author Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor with the department of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. "Yet, their use of harsh verbal discipline -- defined as shouting, cursing or using insults -- is just as detrimental to the long-term well-being of adolescents," he said.

"Our findings offer insight into why some parents feel that no matter how loud they shout, their teenagers do not listen," Wang added. "Indeed, not only does harsh verbal discipline appear to be ineffective at addressing behavior problems in youth, it actually appears to increase such behaviors."

Wang and his co-author, Sarah Kenny of the University of Michigan, report their findings in the current issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers were particularly interested in kids between 13 and 14 years old so they focused on 976 primarily middle-class families in Pennsylvania with young adolescent offspring, all of whom were already participating in a long-term study exploring family interaction and adolescent development. A little more than half the families were white, while 40 percent were black.

The teen participants were asked to disclose recent behavioral issues such as in-school disturbances, stealing, fighting, damaging property or lying to their parents.

Their parents were asked how often they used harsh verbal discipline such as yelling, screaming, swearing or cursing at their child. Most importantly, if they called their child names like “dumb” or “lazy.”

The teens were also asked to what degree they felt “warmth” in their relationship with their parents. Researchers inquired about the amount of parental love, emotional support, affection and care the kids felt like they received from their parents. Both teens and parental depression were tracked.

The study points out that the children who were on the receiving end of the harsh verbal attacks experienced an increase in anger and a drop in inhibitions. Those two reactions prompted an intensification of the very things that parents were hoping to stop – such as lying, cheating, stealing or fighting.

"Parents who wish to modify their teenage children's behavior would do better by communicating with them on an equal level," Wang said, "and explaining their rationale and worries to them. Parenting programs are in a good position to offer parents insight into how behaviors they may feel the need to resort to, such as shouting or yelling, are ineffective and or harmful, and to offer alternatives to such behaviors."

Parents get frustrated with their children and vice versa. None of us behave perfectly all the time. Raising your voice because you are frustrated is one thing, name calling and screaming is quite another.

Imagine if you were at work and your boss screamed at you, called you names and cursed at you because he or she didn’t like how you did something. That may have actually happened to you – remember how you felt, or think about how you would feel. Humiliated, angry and sad are the most common reactions people have.  

Children are trying to find their way in life; parents are their guides. The next time you feel you’re on the verge of screaming or saying hurtful things to your child - walk away. Give yourself time to cool down and find a better way to communicate.

People say kids are resilient and get over things quickly. Many are able to bounce back when bad things happen, but that saying is too often used to excuse bad behavior on a parent’s part. If you’ve crossed the line with your child, say you’re sorry and come up with better ways to handle your frustration and anger.

Words and tone matter and the best teaching method is by example. You can help your child learn what love, patience, tolerance, compassion and respect are by being an example of those very qualities.

Source: Alan Moses, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/misc-kid-s-health-news-435/yelling-at-insulting-teens-can-backfire-on-parents-study-679863.html

Your Teen

Studies: Smoking and Students

1.45 to read

Everyone knows that smoking is really bad for you. But, how do you help kids keep from starting the expensive and nasty habit in the first place? Peer pressure seems to help. And for young adults who are already smokers, what will it take to break the habit? Perhaps being able to breathe better is a key motivator.

Kids as young as 10 admit to sneaking a smoke every once in a while, while 17 percent of high-school students and 5.2 percent of middle-school students admit to being daily cigarette smokers. Many college students bring their habit with them when they enroll.

What helps kids keep from starting to smoke? A new study suggests that kids who are involved in team sports with teammates, who do not smoke, are less likely to start. 

Interestingly, the study showed that girls involved in sports with teammates who do smoke, are more likely to give it a try. Peer pressure seems to have more of an impact among girls.

"This result suggests that peers on athletic teams influence the smoking behavior of others even though there might be a protective effect overall of increased participation in athletics on smoking," study leader Kayo Fujimoto, who conducted the research while at the University of Southern California, said in a journal news release.

Researchers questioned 1,260 sixth through eighth graders about their smoking behavior. The children were middle class, lived in urban areas and ethnically diverse. The study, appearing Feb. 8 in Child Development, found that the more sports the kids played, the less likely they were to smoke.

The authors of the study believe that these findings may be helpful in improving anti-smoking campaigns aimed at children.

"Current guidelines recommend the use of peer leaders selected within the class to implement such programs," said Fujimoto. "The findings of this study suggest that peer-led interactive programs should be expanded to include sports teams as well."

Another recent study focused on college students who smoke.

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, studied 327 college students- ages 18 to 24 years old- who participated in a program to help motivate them to quit smoking. More than half the students smoked five to 10 cigarettes a day and had smoked for one to five years.

Participants who quit smoking for two weeks or more reported substantially fewer respiratory symptoms, especially coughing, than those who failed to kick the habit.

"That the benefit of stopping smoking starts in days to weeks -- not years or decades -- is important. Now health care providers can counsel young smokers that their breathing can feel better soon after they stop. This can help to motivate young adults to stop smoking before the severe damage is done," journal editor Dr. Harold Farber, an associate professor of pediatrics in the pulmonology section at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a journal news release.

Smoking has continued to decrease on college campuses, perhaps due to stricter smoking policies. Many colleges prohibit smoking anywhere on campus, and others do not allow smoking within a certain amount of feet from doorways. Cigarettes are expensive as well. Many college students are barely getting by with the increase costs in tuition. Something has to give, and cutting out cigarettes can save a pretty tidy sum. Also, smoking has lost a lot of its “cool” factor. Many students just find it annoying. 

Health professionals are always looking for ways to impress upon young people that smoking isn’t only a social nuisance, it can also become a serious long-term health problem.

Perhaps these studies can offer counselors, parents and friends, new discussion points in the battle to help kids avoid smoking or to help them quit. 

Sources: http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=66152 /  http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/hd/26596

Your Teen

Teen Marijuana Use Could Have Lasting Effects on Mood, Anxiety

Marijuana use among teens could trigger neurological changes in the developing brain that lead to increased anxiety and stress levels that could persist into adulthood, new animal research suggests.  

Although the finding stems solely from work conducted with adolescent and adult lab rats, the work suggests that certain troublesome changes in levels of the key brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine may linger long after marijuana use ceases. "Here, the goal was simply to understand the neurological mechanism that could be underlying the specific phenomenon of depression and anxiety observed in previous studies among adolescents chronically exposed to cannabis," explained study author Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a psychiatric researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. "And what we found with the animals we worked with is that when those that were exposed to cannabis as adolescents became adults they had low serotonin activity, which is related to depressive behavior, and high norepinephrine levels, which is related to an increase in anxiety and stress," Gobbi continued. "This means," she cautioned, "that cannabis exposure when young seems to cause changes in the adult brain. And these changes could perhaps be irreversible, even if you stop consuming cannabis." The study appears in Neurobiology of Disease. The authors say that the main ingredient in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has previously been identified as having an impact on receptors in the brain that regulate cognition and emotion. In addition, they point out that the adolescent brain is perhaps particularly sensitive to both drug use and related stress, given that this is the pre-adult period during which the brain and its neurochemical composition undergoes extensive reshaping and reorganizing. "We were a little bit surprised by our findings because we didn't expect to see such a strong effect on the adult brain from adolescent usage. It was a very significant effect," said Gobbi. "So, in general, I think that what people should take away from this work," she advised, "is that just because it's a plant it doesn't mean that marijuana is harmless. It's a pharmacologically active drug, and it must be used with awareness."

Your Teen

Sunburn Warnings for Kids and Teens

1.45 to read

It is well known that sun exposure raises the risk of developing skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous-cell carcinoma (SCC) occur most frequently — more than 1 million cases are diagnosed yearly. Most develop in older adults, but the incidence is rising in younger people. These cancers are highly curable if found early and removed; nonetheless, about 2,000 people die of these tumors each year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).Now more than ever, we encourage children to engage in outdoor physical activity. Being outside without adequate sun protection, however, often leads to sunburn and increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

In the March issue of Pediatrics, an AAP technical report and policy statement updates information about the hazards of solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and highlight the dangers of tanning salons. Skin cancer rates rising It is well known that sun exposure raises the risk of developing skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous-cell carcinoma (SCC) occur most frequently — more than 1 million cases are diagnosed yearly. Most develop in older adults, but the incidence is rising in younger people. These cancers are highly curable if found early and removed; nonetheless, about 2,000 people die of these tumors each year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, occurs mostly in older adults but also is a common cancer in young adults. New diagnoses of melanoma are increasing rapidly, and many skin cancer experts say that melanoma incidence has reached epidemic proportions. The lifetime risk of developing melanoma is about 2% (1 in 50) for white people, 0.5% (1 in 200) for Hispanics and 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for blacks. People at highest risk have light skin and eyes and sunburn easily. Melanoma accounts for only 5% of skin cancer cases but causes more than three-quarters of skin cancer deaths. Although nearly always curable if detected early, metastases melanoma has a grave prognosis. ACS estimated that there were 68,130 new cases and about 8,700 people died of melanoma in 2010. What increases risk? Young people who experience one or more severe, blistering sunburns have a higher risk of developing melanoma later on. Intense intermit- tent sun exposure also raises the risk of developing BCC. In contrast, developing SCC is related to experiencing lower levels of UVR exposure over longer time periods. Each day, more than 1 million people visit one of 50,000 U.S. tanning salons. Teen girls are frequent visitors. Powerful tanning lamps emit high levels of UVR, primarily ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, but also some ultraviolet B (UVB). According to recent evidence, a tanning response means that DNA damage has occurred in skin. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that UVR from artificial sources is a human carcinogen. Many experts believe that dramatic increases in skin cancer, including in young people, may be due in part to increasing use of tanning salons. There is no evidence to suggest a protective effect of salon tanning (the “pre-vacation tan”) against the damaging effects of subsequent sun expo- sure. Advice for families Limiting exposure to UVR can prevent many cases of skin cancer. A program of sun protection is recommended. Children and families should avoid sunburn and sun tanning, wear protective clothing and hats with brims, and apply sunscreen. When feasible, plan outdoor activities to limit exposure to peak-intensity midday sun (10a.m.- 4 p.m.) Sunglasses should be worn when in the sun. Protection comes from a chemical coating applied to the glass; lens color has nothing to do with UV protection. Parents and teens should look for a label stating that sunglasses block at least 98% of UVA and UVB rays. Correctly using sunscreen can prevent sunburn and is believed to protect against SCC. Using sun- screen has not, however, been shown to prevent melanoma or BCC. In addition, concerns have been raised about systemic absorption of sunscreen. Oxybenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient, was found in 97% of 2,500 urine samples analyzed as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2003- ’04. Results from studies in animals exposed to certain sunscreen ingredients have shown alterations in reproductive and other organs. Sunscreen ingredients have been detected in breast milk. Although toxicity in infants or young children resulting from sunscreen absorption has not been reported, skin permeability to topically applied products is of concern in the very young, especially in preterm infants. Absorptive and other properties of children’s skin may differ from those of adult skin until children are at least 2 years old. Despite these new concerns, using sunscreen is recommended as part of overall sun protection by the Academy and many other organizations. Overexposure to the sun definitely raises skin cancer risk, and there is no benefit to sunburns or to skin aging. Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher should be used when a person might sunburn. It should be allowed to dry before a person goes outdoors. To be most effective, use sufficient quantities of sunscreen (about 1 ounce per application for an adult); apply it every two hours; and reapply the product frequently after swimming, exercising, sweating or towel drying. Select a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. Skin cancer prevention is a lifelong effort. Although time is at a premium for most pediatricians, an important aim is to incorporate advice into at least one health maintenance visit per year, beginning in infancy. Not all children sunburn, but all are at risk of adverse effects of UVR exposure on the eyes and immune system. Teachable moments may be found during visits for sunburns or when a teenager is noted to have a tan.

Your Teen

4 in 10 College Students Depressed

A new poll shows that pressure about grades, student loans, relationships and school work is taking a toll on American college students. The Associated Press-mtvU poll shows more than 42 percent of those surveyed at 40 colleges said they had felt down, depressed or hopeless several days during the past two weeks, and 13 percent showed signs of being at risk for at least mild depression, based on the students' answers to a series of questions that medical practitioners use to diagnose depressive illness.

Eighty five percent of those surveyed reported feeling stressed in their daily lives in recent months. The poll looked at over 2,000 undergraduate students ages 18-24 at four-year colleges. It was conducted April 22 to May 4 by Edison Media Research. To protect privacy, the schools where the poll was conducted are not being identified, the students who responded were not asked for their names. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The TV network mtvU is operated by the MTV Networks division of Viacom and available at many colleges. MtvU's sponsorship of the poll is related to its mental-health campaign "Half of Us," which it runs with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to reduce suicide among young people. Many of those coping with feeling depressed complained of trouble sleeping, having little energy or feeling down or hopeless - and most hadn't gotten professional help. Eleven percent had had thoughts that they'd be better off dead or about hurting themselves. Mental health disorders like depression typically begin relatively early in life, doctors say, and college is a natural time for symptoms to emerge. The AP-mtvU poll explored the students' state of mind and the pressures they face, including strains from the tough economy. Among the poll results:

  • Nine percent of students were at risk of moderate to severe depression. That's in line with a recent medical study that found 7 percent of young people had depression.
  • Almost a quarter of those with a parent who had lost a job during the school year showed signs of at least mild depression, more than twice the percentage of those who hadn't had a parent lose a job. More than twice as many students whose parents had lost a job said they had seriously considered ending their own life, 13 percent to 5 percent.
  • Among those who reported serious symptoms of moderate depression or worse, just over a quarter had ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
  • More than half of those who reported having seriously considered suicide at some point in the previous year had not received any treatment or counseling.
  • Just a third of those with moderate symptoms of depression or worse had received any support or treatment from a counselor or mental health professional since starting college.
  • Nearly half of those diagnosed with at least moderate symptoms weren't familiar with counseling resources on campus.

Anne Marie Albano, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University, said college is a "tender age" developmentally, a period when young adults start taking responsibility for their lives. They're selecting careers, moving toward financial independence, establishing long-term relationships, perhaps marrying, and having children. The most troubling thing coming out of the AP-mtvU poll and other studies of young adults dealing with depression, she said, is that "they don't get help" at a time when they're just venturing off on their own. "They have to learn to become their own monitors about their mental health and yet they have no training to do that," she said. The poll also found that 84 percent of students said they'd know where to turn for help if they were in serious emotional distress or thinking about hurting themselves. Most said they'd go first to friends or family. Twenty percent said they'd try school counseling. Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health, said students need to understand that depression is "a very treatable illness." Campus counseling centers are a good resource, he said, although they're not all set up take care of serious mental illnesses. "There should be somebody there who could at least assess this, and in some cases offer reassurance that 'I'm sure you'll feel better after exams are over,'" he said. Serious cases can be referred for treatment, he said - "and treatment works."

Your Teen

Cyberbullying

It used to be that parents only had to worry about their child being bullied while on the playground. But now, with over 50 million children online, parents need to take steps to make sure their children are not being bullied while online.

“When a child is online, you can’t see how the victim is reacting, you can’t see how many people are against one person,” says Dr. Kristy Hagar, an assistant Professor of Psychiatry UT Southwestern Medical Center. She says some of the warning signs of cyberbullying include a child not wanting to go to school, behavioral changes and spending a lot of time online. “Girls tend to cyberbully more frequently than boys,” says Dr. Hagar. She also adds that pre-teens are more likely to tell their parents about it than older children. It is important for parents to talk with their children at an early age about internet safety and predators. Dr. Hagar also says parents should monitor their child’s online activities. “Set ground rules and time limits for computer use, this is the best way to insure safety.”

Your Teen

Almost Half of Teens Drink, Use Drugs, Smoke

2.00 to read

If you have a teenager, there’s a high probability that he or she will be exposed to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during their high school years. And, there is a good chance your teen will try these drugs.If you have a teenager, there’s a high probability that he or she will be exposed to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during their high school years. And, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there is a good chance that your teen will try these drugs.

A new report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) has even more startling news for parents. Nearly half of all American high school students smoke, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs. One in four, who start using these substances before they turn 18, may become addicts. The report also indicates that one-quarter of people in the U.S. who began using drugs or alcohol before age 18 meet the criteria for drug or alcohol addiction, compared with one of 25 Americans who started using drugs or alcohol when they were 21 or older. Why is dinking, smoking and using drugs more addictive for a younger person? Harold C. Urschel, MD, an addiction expert in Dallas, says that from the age of 15 to 22, the adolescent brain is still developing. “A complex layer of neural networks is being laid down and brain growth is exponential during these years, so even a little bit of injury from alcohol or drugs is greatly magnified.” “I was surprised at the prevalence of substance use disorders among young people,” says study author Susan E. Foster, CASA’s vice president and director of policy research and analysis. The new study opens a window of opportunity for providers and parents to intervene and prevent addiction, she says. “Do everything you can to get young people through their teen years without using drugs or alcohol. Every year they don’t use drugs or alcohol reduces their risk of negative consequences, such as addiction.” The report also mentioned other findings that give parents an insight to the kinds of drugs teens are choosing. - The most common drug of choice among high school students in the U.S. is alcohol, followed by cigarettes and marijuana. - Ten million, or 75%, of high school students have tried tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine; and one in five of them meet the medical criteria for addiction. - Of the 6.1 million, or 46%, of high school students who currently use addictive substances, one in three is addicted to these substances. The findings are based on surveys of 1,000 high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students, and 500 school officers, along with expert interviews, focus groups, a literature review of 2,000 scientific articles, and an analysis of seven data sets. “Health care providers need to integrate screening for substance abuse into their practice, and treat and refer patients,” Foster says. This may be easier said than done because there is a dearth of addiction treatment information and options available as well as insurance barriers, she says. Most teens don't begin taking drugs thinking they will become addicted. They usually start trying drugs or alcohol to have a good time and be more like their friends. There’s a certain vulnerability to peer pressure that often replaces common sense, and moral teachings. According to TeenDrugAbuse.org many teens who are addicted don't see a problem with their behavior or their drug use. Drugs make them feel good, and are a way to relieve the stress of school, problems at home, disagreements with friends, and other pressures of growing up. “Teen substance abuse is a huge problem,” says Stephen Grcevich, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Family Center by the fall in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “The numbers in the new report are very consistent with what we see in context of our practice and surrounding areas.” But teen substance abuse and addiction are not inevitable, he says. Preventing substance abuse starts with “intentional parenting” at an early age. “You have to have a plan that allows you to be a positive influence on your children at a young age so that when they get to an age where they are exposed to drugs and alcohol, they will know how to say no,” he says. “Kids who do well academically, are involved in religion, and/or are actively engaged in sports are less likely to get involved with these substances,” he says. “We need to look at giving kids something meaningful and important to do.” For many teens, the stigma of drug use, drinking and smoking has vanished. It’s become acceptable, and almost expected, behavior. It’s time for parents and caregivers to take the blinders off and become educated about teenagers and drug use. Parents often notice that their teen will start pushing away from their guidance, and advice. Sometimes communication is almost impossible when both teen and parent don’t agree on a particular behavior. But this is the most critical time for parents to keep trying and finding new ways to reach their teen. If the parent – child relationship reaches the point where no valuable communication is happening, then you may want to try family counseling. It’s worth the heartbreak, effort, costs, and stress in the long run.

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Why it's important to have your child's blood pressure checked.