6 Tips to Create a Safe Prom and High-School Graduation Season for Your Teen
Here are 6 tips for parents to help keep their teen safe and make this season one to remember for all the right reasons.
Help your teen enjoy their prom and graduation without drinking or using drugs. Lay down rules that will help create everlasting memories.
For more information, visit https://www.drugabuse.gov/
E-Cigarettes – Serious Health Consequences
Electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems) are battery-operated devices designed to deliver nicotine with flavorings and other chemicals to users in vapor instead of smoke. They can be manufactured to resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars or pipes, or even everyday items like pens or USB memory sticks; newer devices, such as those with fillable tanks, may look different. More than 250 different e-cigarette brands are currently on the market.
Most e-cigarettes consist of three different components, including: a cartridge, which holds a liquid solution containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals; a heating device (vaporizer); and a power source (usually a battery). In many e-cigarettes, puffing activates the battery-powered heating device, which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. The resulting aerosol or vapor is then inhaled (called vaping).
E-cigarettes are designed to simulate the act of tobacco smoking by producing an appealingly flavored aerosol that looks and feels like tobacco smoke and delivers nicotine but with less of the toxic chemicals produced by burning tobacco leaves.
Although they do not produce tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and recent research suggests nicotine exposure may also prime the brain to become addicted to other substances. Also, testing of some e-cigarette products found the vapor to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals (such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde), as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the vaporizing mechanism. The health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals are not yet clear.
Some people believe e-cigarette products may help smokers lower nicotine cravings while they are trying to discontinue their tobacco use. However, at this point it is unclear whether e-cigarettes may be effective as smoking-cessation aids. There is also the possibility they could perpetuate the nicotine addiction and thus interfere with quitting.
Early evidence suggests that e-cigarette use may serve as an introductory product for youth who then go on to use other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death. A recent study showed that students who have used e-cigarettes by the time they start 9th grade are more likely than others to start smoking traditional cigarettes and other smokable tobacco products within the next year.
E-cigarettes are increasingly popular among teens. Some states have banned sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but teens have been ordering them online. Their easy availability (online or via mall kiosks), in addition to their wide array of cartridge flavors (such as coffee, mint, candy, and fruit flavors), have helped make them particularly appealing to this age group. In an effort to help protect the public from the dangers of tobacco use, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a new rule for e-cigarettes and their liquid solutions. Because e-cigarettes contain nicotine derived from tobacco, they are now subject to government regulation as tobacco products, including the requirement that both in-store and online purchasers be at least 18 years of age.
A Dose of Prevention: Protecting Our Children from Medicine Abuse
October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month promotes the message that over-the-counter and prescription medicines are to be taken only as labeled or prescribed, and that using such medicines to get high or in large doses can cause serious or life-threatening consequences. The access teenagers often have to prescription medicines in home medicine cabinets and the lack of understanding by teenagers of the potential harms of these powerful medicines make it more critical than ever to raise public awareness about the dangers of medicine abuse.
As parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, and other concerned adults, we spend a lot of time helping teens navigate the challenges that could ground them for life. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges teens face is substance abuse. While we may talk to them about the hazards of alcohol use, drunk driving, and of abusing illegal drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine, we often forget about those drugs that are found right in our own medicine cabinets – prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines.
Today, prescription (Rx) drugs are the second most abused category of drugs after marijuana, with one in five young adults reporting that they have abused a prescription drug. In addition, according to the 2016 Monitoring the Future Survey, 3 percent of teens have abused over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high over the past year. When abused in extreme excess—sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose—DXM can produce dangerous side effects, especially when combined with alcohol, illicit drugs, or certain prescription drugs.
So why is OTC and Rx drug abuse happening? Surveys show that teens mistakenly believe medication abuse is an acceptable and safer alternative to illicit drug use. The flawed thinking goes, “these drugs are prescribed by doctors and available at local drug stores so how bad can they be?” Easy access also plays a role. After all, Rx and OTC medicines are found right in our own medicine cabinets, at a friend or family member’s home, or at local drug stores.
That’s why it’s vital that caregivers be vigilant of the possible signs of abuse. If you see your child making frequent purchases of OTC cough medicines from the same or different stores, or from the Internet (for example, note the arrival of unexpected packages), or if you find empty bottles or packages of cough medicine in his/her bedroom, red flags should fly. And if you notice that he/she is exhibiting odd behavior, excessive mood swings, has an increase or decrease in sleep, declining grades or a loss of interest in friends and activities, then chances are something is wrong and you should have a parent/child talk.
So while we cannot protect children from everything that can hurt them, we can make a difference when it comes to prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Talk to them about the dangers of medicine abuse; safeguard your medicines; keep track of the medicines in your home and learn how to properly dispose of medications when they are no longer needed. And remember to model good behavior by not sharing your medications and only taking them according to your doctor’s orders or by following the instructions on the label.
FAMILY DINNERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
While it’s true that children often idolize sports heroes and celebrities, they also idolize YOU. As a parent or caregiver, you have the power to help shape their attitudes about drugs. One way to do that is by talking to them regularly about what is going on in their lives. Kids who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use than those who do not.
Talking to your child about drugs and alcohol doesn’t mean lecturing. In fact, there are many things you can do (or may already do!) to provide the type of environment that may keep your child from experimenting with drugs or alcohol. One is to spend more time with your child. A national survey about the importance of family dinners revealed that 18 percent of teens said they would like to spend more time with their parents
Family dinners are an excellent way to spend time with your child. And make no mistake—those family dinners matter. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week are almost four times as likely to have used tobacco, more than twice as likely to have used alcohol, and two and-a-half times as likely to have used marijuana. Imagine! Simply spending time with your children may make them less likely to try drugs or alcohol.
Family dinners don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Think of simple, inexpensive ways to make the meal fun, such as eating a picnic meal in the back yard, having a contest to see who can create the best pizza, or setting up a burger bar with outrageous toppings. Enjoy the process, and spend the time together talking with your children about their day.
Simply being there for your child—day or night—is also helpful. A child who feels you are available will be more likely to come to you with questions about drugs, or challenges with peer pressure or other situations that make your child feel uncomfortable. It is especially important to be there for your child during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce, because the risk of drug use increases greatly during these times. As children advance from elementary school to middle school, for example, they face new social situations. They will be exposed to cigarettes and alcohol—if they haven’t been already— and friends may encourage them to try new things. Later, as they go from middle school to high school, they will face a larger variety of substances and have more of a desire to fit in or seem cool to their classmates.
Additionally, teens who attend religious services four or more times a month are less likely to have used tobacco (11 percent vs. 3 percent), consumed alcohol (27 percent vs. 13 percent), or used marijuana (15 percent vs. 5 percent) than those who attend such services less frequently or not at all.
Remember, preventing the first use prevents abuse, and preventing abuse prevents addiction. You can change your child’s future.
Risky Drinking Can Put a Chill on Your Summer Fun
Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor activities with family and friends. For many people, a day at the beach, on the boat, or at a backyard barbecue will include drinking alcoholic beverages. But excessive drinking and summer activities don’t mix. Drinking impairs both physical and mental abilities, and it also decreases inhibitions—which can lead to tragic consequences on the water, on the road, and in the great outdoors. In fact, research shows that up to 70 percent of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol.
Swimmers can get in over their heads. Alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk taking, a dangerous combination for swimmers. Even experienced swimmers may venture out farther than they should and not be able to make it back to shore, or they may not notice how chilled they’re getting and develop hypothermia. Surfers could become over confident and try to ride a wave beyond their abilities. Even around a pool, too much alcohol can have deadly consequences. Inebriated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive where the water is too shallow.
Boaters can lose their bearings. According to research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol may be involved in 60 percent of boating fatalities, including falling overboard. And a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.1 percent (approximately 4 to 5 drinks) is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than an operator with zero BAC. According to the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. And if problems arise, intoxicated boaters are ill equipped to find solutions. For passengers, intoxication can lead to slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.
Drivers can go off course. The summer holidays are some of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. When on vacation, drivers may be traveling an unfamiliar route or hauling a boat or camper, with the distraction of pets and children in the car. Adding alcohol to the mix puts the lives of the driver and everyone in the car, as well as other people on the road, at risk.
Stay hydrated and stay healthy. Whether you’re on the road or in the great outdoors, heat plus alcohol can equal trouble. Hot summer days cause fluid loss through perspiration, while alcohol causes fluid loss through increased urination. Together, they can quickly lead to dehydration or heat stroke. But this doesn’t have to happen. At parties, make at least every other drink a nonalcoholic one. If you’re the host, be sure to provide plenty of cold, refreshing nonalcoholic drinks to keep your guests well hydrated.
Summer will end, but consequences can endure. You can have fun in the sun and still be safe. Avoiding beverages that cause mental and physical impairment while piloting a boat, driving a car, exploring the wilderness, and swimming or surfing is a good place to start. Be smart this summer—think before you drink, and make sure that you and your loved ones will be around to enjoy many summers to come.
Summer is a Risky Time for Youth Substance Use
More teens start drinking and smoking cigarettes and marijuana in June and July than in any other month, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said in a report entitled, “Monthly Variation in Substance Use Initiation among Adolescents.”
The report states that on an average day in June and July, more than 11,000 teens ages 12 to 17 use alcohol for the first-time; December is the only other month with comparable levels. Throughout the rest of the year, the daily average for first-time alcohol use ranges from 5,000 to 8,000 adolescents.
Similarly, in June and July, an average of 5,000 youth smoke cigarettes for the first time, as opposed to the daily average of about 3,000 to 4,000 during the rest of the year. The same pattern holds true for first time use of cigars and smokeless tobacco among youth. In terms of first-time use of marijuana, more than 4,500 youth start using it on an average day in June and July, as opposed to about 3,000 to 4,000 youth during the other months.
“More free time and less adult supervision can make summertime an exciting time for many young people, but it can also increase the likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “That is why it is critically important to take every opportunity we can throughout the year to talk to our young people about the real risks of substance abuse and effective measures for avoiding it, so they will be informed and capable of making the right decisions on their own.”
With less structure and adult supervision, summertime is rife with opportunities for teens to fall into a bad crowd, experiment with drugs or alcohol, or engage in other forms of high-risk behaviors. For working parents, it can be challenging to monitor youth during the day-time hours. You can help keep your teen safe and drug free with these summertime tips:
• Set Summertime Rules: Make clear your rules regarding unsupervised time spent with friends, as well as your expectations surrounding drinking, smoking and other risky behaviors.
• Supervise: This can be especially challenging for parents of high school students. However, be physically present when you can, and when you cannot, try asking a friend, neighbor or relative to randomly check in. Research shows that unsupervised youth are three times more likely to use alcohol or other drugs.
• Monitor: Know with whom and where your child is at all times. Randomly call and text your child to check in, and don’t be afraid to check up on your child by calling other parents. Communicate regularly with the parents of your child’s friends.
• Stay Involved: Show your child you care by taking time out of your busy schedule to do something fun together. Provide some structure by helping them find a summer job, volunteer work, or other supervised activity.
Regardless of the season, it is always a good time to talk with your teen about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Open (or maintain) the lines of communication and be your child’s trusted source of information. Remember, silence isn’t golden—it’s permission!
Serving Alcohol to Teens: Unsafe, Illegal, and Irresponsible
The legal drinking age protects kids. Did you know that since laws established 21 as the minimum drinking age, the likelihood that a 15-20 year old driver will be involved in a fatal car crash has dropped by more than half?
The “We Don’t Serve Teens” program, a national program targeting underage drinking, has developed a Website,www.DontServeTeens.gov, summarizing the available information on teen drinking and the legal drinking age. The site reveals that over the two decades following adoption of the legal drinking age of 21, drinking by high school seniors has dropped substantially. “This is important because teens that drink harm themselves and others,” says Mary Engle of the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency. “Our kids are a precious resource, and the data shows that the legal drinking age of 21 is a law that protects them.” She points to a U.S. Surgeon General report showing that about 5,000 kids under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related injury, including crashes, homicides and suicides.
Unfortunately, too many teens still say alcohol is easy to get, and a U.S. government survey shows that most of those who drink alcohol do not pay for it. Instead, they get it from older friends, from family members, at parties, or they take it from home without permission. Further, once kids start drinking, most engage in binge drinking, meaning that they have five or more drinks in a short time span with the goal of getting drunk. “This is why the ‘We Don’t Serve Teens’ program targets easy teen access to alcohol. The message is, don’t provide alcohol to teens because it is unsafe, illegal, and irresponsible.” Engle continues. “And most adults agree about this; in fact, only 9 percent of American adults think that it is okay for adults to provide alcohol to underage youth.”
The www.DontServeTeens.gov site provides parents with things to do and say to reduce teen access to alcohol. It recommends that parents keep track of alcohol at home and speak up when underage drinking is discussed. “Be frank and tell other parents that you don’t want them serving alcohol to your teen or condoning teen drinking,” says Engle. “And talk to adults who host teen parties. Let them know that it is not okay to serve alcohol to someone else’s teen.”
Most teens that drink get alcohol from social sources, like parties and older friends. Teen drinking is linked to injury and risky behavior. We can reduce underage drinking by stopping easy access to alcohol.
Teen Drinking and Driving – A Dangerous Mix
Car crashes—the #1 killer of teens—take about 3,000 young lives every year. As a parent, you should know that the main cause of teen crashes is driver inexperience. All new drivers—even high academic achievers and "good kids"—are more likely than experienced drivers to be involved in a fatal crash. It's a fact.
Teen drivers are three times more likely than more experienced drivers to be in a fatal crash. Drinking any alcohol greatly increases this risk for teens.
As a parent, you have the greatest influence over your teen's behavior. In fact, leading experts believe parents play a key role in preventing teen car crashes and deaths. Here’s what you can do:
The good news is that you can make a difference by getting involved with your teen's driving. Learn about the most dangerous driving situations for your young driver—and how to avoid them. Get your copy of CDC's parent-teen driving agreement and learn more about safe teen driving at www.cdc.gov/ParentsAreTheKey.
STOP Teen Access to Alcohol
Teen drinking is not inevitable. More than 58% of high school seniors do not drink alcohol, reducing their current risk of injury. One way to prevent teens from drinking is to cut off easy access to alcohol. Unfortunately, right now most teens report that it is easy to get alcohol. Almost 72% of teens who drink get alcohol without having to pay for it. They get it from friends or family members, at parties, or by taking it without permission. Underage drinkers who pay for alcohol usually give money to someone else to purchase it for them.
Here’s what you can do to reduce easy access to alcohol:
In Your Community
It may have happened already. A neighbor announces she is hosting a teen party, but you shouldn't worry — she's taking the car keys from every kid who comes in. Or a colleague says he's serving alcohol to his high school son's friends so they can “learn to drink responsibly.”
The Adolescent Brain
“Don’t you trust me?” your child asks. When it comes to decision making about the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, it’s not just about trust. It’s about understanding adolescent brain development.
There is a reason so many of our teens and preteens behave as if they are immortal and acting on impulse without considering the consequences. Blame it partially on their brain.
The part of the brain that promotes impulsivity and risk-taking develops early in teens, while the brain area responsible for thinking, planning, good judgment, decision making and impulse control is undergoing the most change (and will continue to develop well into the mid-twenties). Because of this lack of brain maturity, teens and preteens lack the ability to control impulses. This increases the probability of engaging in risky behavior, like smoking, drinking and illegal drug use.
In this critical stage of development, your child needs an informed parent to step in, to set clear boundaries and serve as that impulse control.
How You Can Help Your Child:
¨ Explain the risks of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use
¨ Talk early and often
¨ Set clear non-use rules
¨ Know your child’s friends (and their parents)
¨ Know where your child is at all times
¨ Play an active role in your child’s daily life