Parents held responsible for underage drinking

Kendra RiderSticking to this month’s theme of Alcohol Awareness Month, I wanted to talk a little bit more about underage drinking as well as give you all some more information on where and why teens are drinking. Just because there are no parents at home doesn’t mean that they aren’t being responsible.

A lack of parental supervision is the key ingredient in where teens are drinking alcohol. When asked where they most likely underage drink, the most common answer was when the parents are not home. 61% of the youth’s interviewed said that they also drink at friends houses when their parents are not home. What is even scarier is that teens are drinking to get drunk, not just as a social thing.

Where are they getting this alcohol? Well the most common answer here was from family and friends who are supplying the tools for these young people to drink. Parents are ultimately responsible for underage drinking in their home. This special from ABC shows the consequences of underage drinking in the home.

For more information check out this video HERE on a few parents who are suffering the consequences of their teens drinking.


Be prepared to deal with the pressuresth

Not everyone will be as smart as you. There will be some who will decide to drink or use drugs and try to encourage you to do the same. Don’t be caught off guard and say “yes” to something you’ll regret. Be ready to say “No” or walk away. Humor often works in these situations and once they realize you’re not going to join them, they’ll leave you alone.

Plan something fun and stick to the plan

Prom is all about the memories. If you and your friends plan something exciting, off-the-wall and memorable, no one will want to leave to drink or use drugs. You can go for coffee, grab a late night bite or even something silly like karaoke, bowling, lazer tag. By making firm plans, everyone will have a say and you’ll look forward to just being together. This will be worth far more than one night of bad choices.  After all, you DO want to remember your prom, right?

Be a leader for others to see

Just like peer pressure works to get others to drink or use drugs, it can also work in a positive way. If you’re having a blast and are the life of the party AND you’re staying sober, others will take notice. Show them it’s possible and actually better to have a good time without being intoxicated. You’ll have a great time with no regrets!

Let’sTalk…April is Alcohol Awareness Month

526583_142922022536786_648903155_nEvery year the US designates April as Alcohol Awareness Month.  Why April?

High School prom and graduation season is one of the riskiest times of year for teens.  Along with celebrations, many teens decide to use alcohol to commemorate the occasion.

How can we as adults encourage our young people to have fun without booze?

Start with having a conversation.  Expressing your disapproval of underage drinking is the single most important thing adults can do.  Make sure you give them the facts.  Scare tactics are no longer found to be effective.

Have dinner.  What you say?  Studies show that families who have dinner together are 33% less likely to use alcohol.

Accountability.  Check in with your teens.  Know where they are going and who they are going to be with.

Know who their friends are and whether or not they drink

Provide an escape route.  If they find themselves in a risky situation, they can call you.

Underage drinking contributes to many unintended consequences such as:

  • Promiscuity
  • Violence
  • Drug Use
  • Academic Problems
  • Motor Vehicle Crashes

April is a great time to start or conversation with teens if you haven’t already.  If you have, it’s always good to remind them of your rules and consequences if those rules are not adhered to.

Let’s have a safe and sober prom and graduation season!

Addressing NAS: Carrot versus Stick

Karen PershingWith all the attention the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) issue has gotten over the past few years, there are lots of opinions on how the issue should be addressed in Tennessee.  NAS is a set of symptoms a newborn can exhibit at the time of birth due to their mother’s drug use during pregnancy.  Babies are born physically dependent on these drugs.  Once they are born their bodies go into physical withdrawal and are given the diagnosis of NAS.  Babies have to then be weaned slowly from the drugs to keep them from experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms.

In 2013, the State Legislature passed a bill called the “Safe Harbor Act” which states that if a woman enters both treatment and prenatal care prior to her 20th week of pregnancy that the Department of Children’s Services will not automatically take her baby into custody.  This law was designed to encourage (carrot) women to get the medical services and help for their addiction.

In this current legislative session, there is a bill being proposed that would charge a mother who’s baby is born with NAS or other medical conditions as a result of their mother’s illegal use of a narcotic drug with an assaultive offense, which is a misdemeanor offense that would have a maximum sentence of one year in jail.  If the child dies, the mother can be charged with criminal homicide (stick).

In looking at this particular issue, it caused me to pause and ask, “Why have we not given the same attention to women who abuse alcohol or tobacco while pregnant?”  In looking at the data, many more newborns are negatively impacted by the maternal use of these substances.  An estimated 40,000 newborns each year are affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, with damage ranging from major to subtle.  This condition affects more babies than Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, SIDS, Cystic Fibrosis, and Spina Bifida combined.

Substance use during pregnancy is not a new issue in our community, but is 100 percent preventable. We have to think carefully about the best approach(s) to address what we see as a threat to the health of our children.  None of us want to see babies suffer and have lifelong challenges, but what is the best solution?  A lot to ponder.

E-Cigarettes: Are they helping or hurting?

Karen PershingThere’s lots of buzz about e-cigarettes these days.  To date there has been very little research on these products. The New York Times recently reported a study that said, “teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely than their peers who do not use the devices to smoke regular cigarettes.”

Stanton Glantz who led the study out of the University of California, San Francisco, said the results suggest e-cigarettes lead to less quitting.  ”The use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents.”

On the flip side, there are other experts who argue that young people who use e-cigarettes are heavier smokers to begin with.  While many, including the e-cigarette manufacturers,  say they may help people quit smoking regular cigarettes. Are they a gateway to smoking real cigarettes?

A large national survey published in 2013 found many young people who use e-cigarettes also smoke real cigarettes.  They also found the rate of e-cigarette use among teens doubled from 2011-2012, with a record low rate of 9.6 percent for regular cigarettes.

Is this a trend we are seeing in Knox County?  Unfortunately, we do not know the answer at this time.  We are, nonetheless, in the process of conducting surveys  in our community to see if we are observing similar trends. Stay tuned!

“Will the release of Zohydro compound the Rx drug epidemic?”

Karen Pershing

In October, 2013, the FDA approved the manufacture and distribution of a pure form of hydrocodone, Zohydro, a 5-10 times more powerful formulation.

Not only is this drug powerful, but it will be allowed to be produced and not required to be tamper resistant, meaning it could be crushed allowing the 12 hour extended release properties to be released at one time.

Given the fact that Tennessee has one of the highest rates of prescriptions written per capita, one could assume this new opiate could become a lightning rod to a state already plagued with high rates of overdose deaths, babies born dependent to opiates and opiates being the primary admission for alcohol and drug treatment services.

What can we do about this?  Several advocacy groups and state attorneys general have asked the FDA to reconsider their decision to no avail.  Our best defense is a good offense.

Let’s start by educating the public on the potential dangers of both addiction and overdose deaths from this drug.  Next we need to educate medical providers who are licensed to write the prescriptions.

There needs to be strict guidelines on who can receive this drug and assurance of careful monitoring while in use.  Health insurance companies and employers can limit access and not put the drug on their formularies or require a special preauthorization process before covering the cost of the drug.

We all need to be cautious and careful healthcare consumers.  Weigh the risks and benefits of any medications you consider taking.  Be educated and if you don’t need a pain pill, don’t take it!

Why are drugs so hard to quit?

Why can’t addicts just stop using?”

Drug addiction drains your wallet, harms your health, changes your personality and ruins relationships. Quitting seems like a simple solution, right?

It’s not quite as easy as you think. Addicts aren’t blind to the negative impact of substance abuse. Many addicts want to stop but find themselves failing time and again at attempts to get clean.

Once addicted, it’s extremely difficult to remain sober without professional help. In addition to physical withdrawal symptoms, addicts cannot function normally throughout the day without using drugs.

What causes this? A lack of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in addiction.

The video above explains what dopamine does, how substances impact dopamine release and why drugs inhibit its natural production.

Can popular music influence teens to try drugs or alcohol?

Stan Grubb

By the time we reach 50, we’ve had a plethora of life experiences.

For some, it’s been a “normal” path. Birth, school, college (or trade school) then straight into the work force. Perhaps you got married, had kids, went through a divorce or got a new job. In between it all, you had friends and experiences, both good and bad that helped influence who you are.

Perhaps one of the most influential aspects of our modern culture is music. Over the years studies have shown how music can uplift the soul and at the same time open the doorway to sadness and despair.

Music affects moods, shopping habits and energizes sport teams. But what about the correlation between popular music and substance abuse?

According to Addiction Magazine, “teens use music as part of their identity formation…. teens use music to resolve or better understand their own inner conflicts and emotional turmoil, and as an outlet for angst.” Other researchers point to the combination of lyrics and music as a “powerful motivator because it connects mental and emotional spheres.”

If music is the “motivator,” shouldn’t we pay attention to what our kids are listening to? What if the lyrics are laced with the glorification of alcohol or the euphoria of drug addiction?

A little common sense goes a long way in preventing substance abuse. Take the time to discern the values, philosophies and world views of the artist and their music. Ask yourself if these are the type of values and world views you want your kids to emulate.

Maybe you’d rather discard them and teach your kids to be critical thinkers instead. Like the old computer analogy so adequately puts it, “Garbage in = Garbage Out.”

Fast Facts: Sizzurp


It’s called “Sizzurp,” “Lean,” or “Purple Drank.” Have you heard of it?

It may sound innocuous, but it could send your teen to the emergency room.

Sizzurp is a sugary sweet blend of soda (usually Sprite), Jolly Ranchers candy and Promethazine Codeine cough syrup. This is the “pure” version. However, some people add alcohol, crushed pills or other drugs to give it more of a “kick.”

It has quickly gained popularity. A YouTube search on Sizzurp yields thousands of hits. Rappers like Lil’ Wayne and Justin Bieber have glorified Sizzurp in their music, even after Wayne’s near-death overdose last year.

So what’s the draw for young people? According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 1 in 10 teens has tried cold medicine or cough syrup to get high. Aside from the “cool” factor, Sizzurp gives users a euphoric high from the Codeine (an opiate mediation). Promethazine (a “downer”) affects their alertness, energy level and motor skills.

When these two ingredients are combined, it can make a person lean over when they stand or walk, thus the nickname “Lean.”

Because Sizzurp is so sweet, drinkers can down it like juice. Before you know it, a person has consumed an entire bottle of cough syrup. That can be up to 25 times the recommended dosage. Too much codeine and promethazine can cause nausea, dizziness, impaired vision, memory loss, hallucinations and seizures.

In overdose situations, Sizzurp can shut down the central nervous and respiratory systems, stopping the heart and suppressing breathing. DJ Screw and rapper Pimp C both died after taking Sizzurp in the early- to mid-2000s.

Parents should be aware that Sizzurp is made from items kids can get right at home. It may seem excessive, but checking your medicine cabinet for missing cough syrup bottles might not be a bad idea. Your teen taking a liking to Jolly Ranchers or Sprite when they didn’t before should also set off alarm bells.

10 fun things to do as a family this Valentine’s Day


Love is in the air!

Valentine’s Day is this week, which means couples will be out celebrating all things red, pink and heart-shaped. Even if you’re not in a romantic relationship, you can still celebrate love in all its forms.

Love comes in many different shapes and sizes. Family and friends are certainly special to us, but we rarely give them a passing thought on the one day of the year dedicated to showing our affections! I say we change that mentality.

Start with your children. Studies show kids that spend quality time with their parents on a frequent basis are much less likely to take risks using drugs, drinking alcohol, having promiscuous sex and or getting involved in other dangerous activities.

Your time and love is the most effective form of prevention there is. If you haven’t made plans with your family for Valentine’s, there’s still plenty of time. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Go on a hike.
  • Play board games.
  • Watch the Olympics on TV.
  • Go shopping in Turkey Creek.
  • Go skating at the Ice Chalet.
  • Take a run around the neighborhood.
  • Make a healthy meal.
  • Go bowling.
  • Take a short road trip (Gatlinburg, anyone?).
  • Hit up the indoor pool at the YMCA.

While you’re at it, why not exchange valentines? I always get cards for my loved ones, whether I’m single or attached. It’s just important to let those in your life know that you care.

Valentine’s Day definitely shines a spotlight on love, but don’t forget to let those special people know you care everyday during the year. Watch how your relationships change for the better when you make a conscious effort to give a hug, kiss or kind word.

Have other suggestions for family-friendly activities? Drop me an email with your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.