College alcohol misuse

Addiction Treatment: Change

Misuse of alcohol in college is often considered a part of the college experience. Parents, professors, college administrators and teenagers ought to look at the science before enacting a wink and nod policy. I know that most parents, professors and administrators are realistic, liberal-minded and it’s unsophisticated to expect teenagers in college to stay away from alcohol, but facts are facts, and it helps if you’re armed with facts before making decisions that can have grave consequences.

I doubt that many, if hardly any,  students know how alcohol affects the brain. Many doctors go through years of medical training with only a quick review of addiction and alcohol misuse. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that the adolescent brain is not fully formed, especially in the areas dealing with emotion, judgment and impulse control. If you’ve parented teenagers, you know. If you’re interested, the link above presents a lot of information on how alcohol negatively affects the development of the adolescent brain.

There are also statistics to show how serious this problem can become. According to NIAAA, researchers estimate that around 1825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. About 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. About 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date-rape.

In treatment facilities, hospitals, jails and funeral homes, our society deals with the consequences of untreated addiction and unaddressed drug misuse. Comprehensive prevention efforts will stop many of these consequences from coming to fruition, but it will take a concerted and well-funded effort. The time for prevention efforts is when a person is young, before they start drinking alcohol, smoking pot, popping pills or snorting cocaine. If kids know only 25% as much about the effects of alcohol and other drugs as they do about music, they’ll likely make better choices. If kids learn at an early age that drinking alcohol is not expected, and that choosing to not drink or use other drugs is a valid, healthy choice, maybe they won’t feel so pressured in their teens. They can at least learn that teens are at very high risk because of their less than fully developed brain.



Young People and Addiction

Drinking and young people

Adolescent addiction

It’s difficult to know when a young person who’s drinking heavily or using drugs on a regular basis is simply partying too much with friends or has an addiction problem. Parents are faced with the problem of underage drinking and the fact that illegal drugs can cause legal problems, yet, many parents want to keep an open mind and not be too strict with their teenagers. Another concern is addiction. Yes, young people can become addicted to alcohol and drugs. Sometimes, young people become addicted quickly and great damage is caused. This is from NIH:

Many people begin to drink alcohol during adolescence and young adulthood. Alcohol consumption during this developmental period may have profound effects on brain structure and function. Heavy drinking has been shown to affect the neuropsychological performance (e.g., memory functions) of young people and may impair the growth and integrity of certain brain structures. Furthermore, alcohol consumption during adolescence may alter measures of brain functioning, such as blood flow in certain brain regions and electrical brain activities. Not all adolescents and young adults are equally sensitive to the effects of alcohol consumption, however. Moderating factors—such as family history of alcohol and other drug use disorders, gender, age at onset of drinking, drinking patterns, use of other drugs, and co-occurring psychiatric disorders—may influence the extent to which alcohol consumption interferes with an adolescent’s normal brain development and functioning.

It’s difficult for adolescents, and even their parents, to believe that drinking can cause such serious damage at such a young age. Young people tend to think they’re invincible and that normal rules of reality don’t apply to them. Parents see their kids as normal and healthy, and they want to give them the benefit of the doubt, overlooking “partying” as a part of growing up. In most cases the young person is not at high risk, but even moderate drinking can create problems if immature, undeveloped teenagers are acting in public with their judgment impaired from mood-altering substances. Parents should understand what young people are doing when it comes to alcohol and drugs — it can be low risk experimentation, or it can be the beginning of addiction that leads to very serious consequences.

Society should never be afraid to face the reality and possibility of young people and addiction– it’s a condition, and the more adolescents are educated regarding the risks, the easier it’ll be if they ever have to receive treatment. What makes treating teenagers so difficult is that society doesn’t want to fully accept and face the reality of addiction without shame and stigma. Parents would not normally refuse to face and talk about most other medical conditions. The possibility of addiction is real, and what happens to the brain when alcohol and other drugs are introduced is explained by science — denying reality and science is never helpful and always has consequences.

Substance abuse among teens

recreational drugs

Substance abuse and teens

This is a continuation from yesterday’s post. I don’t mean to scare parents, but some of this is scary — it has to do with substance abuse among teens and young adults related to recreational drugs. Molly, K2, Krokidil — these are just some of the names of dangerous recreational drugs. When you learn about these drugs, if you’re a parent, it’s frightening to think that your teenager would do something like this, but peer pressure is powerful and young people make impulsive decisions.

There’s no way to protect kids from all dangers, but, as I wrote yesterday, talking openly and honestly to your children early can be effective. The key to talking to kids about a subject such as club/recreational drugs is to know what you’re talking about. Talking to kids early is better than having the conversation later in the midst of a substance abuse problem. Once a person is in their mid 20s, they may not be as receptive as when they are still impressionable and amenable to parental guidance.

This is from WebMD regarding Molly, Spice/K2 and Krokidil. These are harmless sounding names for very harmful substances. Here’s an excerpt:

1. Molly

Between 5% and 7% of high-schoolers have tried what they thought was Molly, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Molly is popular at parties and concerts, and some bands have sung about it.

When it first came out, it was a pure form of a banned drug called MDMA or Ecstasy, which is known for producing feelings of euphoria and friendliness.

“The buzz about Molly is the result of widespread misconceptions about what the drug really is,” says David Sack, MD, an expert in addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. “Teens think it is pure Ecstasy … and that it is somehow safe.”

Molly today is neither pure nor safe, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Molly can be pretty much anything,” says Special Agent Joseph Moses. “Molly is whatever the seller wants to say is Molly. In one region, only about 13% of the samples that were submitted to our lab that were supposedly MDMA contained any.”

Molly has been tied with a number of overdoses and deaths nationwide. Molly, or MDMA, has left people with severe muscle tension and seizures as well as dangerous overheating. It can lead to depression and anxiety that can last for days, and can even cause memory loss.

“Most of the time,” says Sack, “Molly is a mixture of any number of synthetic drugs, many of which are more dangerous and less predictable than MDMA.”

If you don’t know about the history of MDMA, here’s an article. It’s actually been around for a long time in one form or another, although Molly, on the street, may be MDMA or it may be something else similar. Teens aren’t prepared for these drugs, if anyone at any age is really prepared, and the consequences can be tragic.