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St. Joseph Youth Alliance
5223 Mitchell Avenue
St. Joseph, MO 64507
(816) 232-0050

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ADHD 2Experts say that around 80 percent of teens experiment with alcohol before they finish high school. Since drinking is illegal for them and contrary to the wishes of most parents why do so many teens take the chance? Here are some common reasons why teens decide to start drinking.

Most of the explanations behind teen experimentation with alcohol have to do with handling pressure. Profound pressure added to immature stress management can lead to a teen’s making the choice to use alcohol. Teens lack the skill set to handle stress well, yet they are confronted with pressures from any number of directions.

To begin with, peers and friends begin to replace parents and family as primary influences during the teen years. Teens who imagine that drinking is somehow linked to acceptance find it hard to resist the need to fit in. Friends exert more influence during adolescence than at any other period of life.

Some kind of major change in a teen’s life can trigger experimentation with alcohol. A move, for example, is a change and change equals stress. Whether the teen moves to a new state, a new city or just a new school, the anxiety of change is present. When they don’t know how else to handle anxiety, alcohol can seem like an escape from a difficult reality.

High school students today are getting the message that it is not enough to go to class and make good grades. They feel they are expected to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities as well. Most teens sense that they are expected to excel in every endeavor at the same time that they feel they are being spread too thin. These kinds of unrealistic expectations, whether real or imagined, are behind at least some of the drinking that goes on in high school.  Other stress-inducing problems like bullying have also escalated in recent years.

Sometimes teens start drinking not because of what is going on at school, but because of what is going on at home. Parental conflict and disharmony in the family can produce anxiety and deep tension for teens that are old enough to understand some of the dynamics and foresee some of the potential outcomes. Teens with troubled homes are several times more likely to experiment with drinking.

Teens may turn to alcohol to cope with depression, anxiety or stress. Other times, teens see alcohol as a fun way to behave like an adult. The way drinking is portrayed in the media and on social networking sites feeds this sort of misapprehension about alcohol use.

Some stresses, such as expectations and family peace, can be controlled by parents but many cannot. What parents can do to reduce the likelihood that their teen will experiment with alcohol is to stay engaged and informed. Parents who know where their teens are and who they are with reduce the chances that their teen will find it convenient to make a risky decision like drinking.

BC Rocks was created to support parents in steering teens away from alcohol. Those who participate in the BC Rocks sign-up lend themselves to the community effort to keep underage drinking from happening.

It is perfectly normal for teens to enjoy thrills. Their brain is in a phase of development particularly suited Children Mental Illness 3to thrill-seeking. And because they are young with relatively little life experience, it is also common for them to feel invulnerable. They are strong and healthy and they cannot imagine not being so.
It’s also normal for teens to begin exploring who they are as individuals. With this comes trying new things; including risky behaviors like alcohol consumption. When they do participate in alcohol consumption they are looking for ways to hide it. Here are some ways that teens attempt to hide alcohol use from their parents.

1. Smoking Alcohol

Teens think that if they don’t drink alcohol mom and dad won’t be able to smell it on their breath. This and the thrill of feeling drunk almost immediately are behind the new smoking alcohol craze. Teens are pouring a small amount of alcohol (beer, spirits) into an empty pop bottle and then pumping
that bottle with air. This high pressure tactic vaporizes the alcohol which teens simply inhale for a quick buzz.

Smoking alcohol is incredibly risky since it enters the bloodstream almost immediately. The risks for alcohol poisoning and addiction are high. And kids are completely wrong about mom and dad not being able to smell it on their breath. Since the alcohol fumes go into the lungs, the alcohol smell will be on
their breath.

2. In the Eyes

Another way teens try to keep mom and dad from smelling alcohol on their breath is the crazy practice of pouring it directly into their eyes. Since the eyes are highly vascularized the alcohol does enter the bloodstream quickly and the teens do get drunk faster. And it is true that the alcohol will not be on
their breath. It is also true that pouring alcohol directly into the eye can permanently damage delicate eye tissues.

3. Vodka Tampons

Boys and girls are using tampons to hide alcohol use from parents. Teens are soaking tampons in hard liquor, like vodka, and then inserting them into orifices (the vagina or rectum) for a fast drunk. These areas are also heavily vascularized meaning that they are prime sites for quick entry into the
bloodstream. Teens can get drunk and never have a wisp of alcohol smell on their breath.

4. Alcohol-soaked Gummy Bears

Another trick teens use to hide their alcohol consumption is to soak gummy bear candies in alcohol. Teens can eat the candies, even in front of adults, with no one the wiser. Parents will be able to smell the alcohol on their breath however.

5. Snorting Alcohol

Snorting alcohol through a straw is another way kids try to get drunk quickly without any telltale clues for mom and dad. Like pouring alcohol into the eye, the alcohol does enter the bloodstream rapidly. Also like in the eye, the caustic alcohol can do harm to delicate tissues inside the nasal
passageways.

Parents who talk openly with their teen about the realities of thrill-seeking and limit-testing are in a good position to speak equally openly about the risks of alcohol use. It is also important to make your home free of temptation by keeping alcohol out of reach.

Guiding teens through these years is a daily challenge. Parents can stand together though and send a message that while they understand their teen, they are committed to keeping them safe.
Participating in the Youth Alliance program BC Rocks is one way for parents to hang together on the issue of drinking. Parents can go to http://www.bcrocks.com/ to sign a pledge and help create a community of safety and sobriety for teens in our area. Check it out today.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) sponsored research in 2011 which took a look at how teen use of social media could be influencing them toward drug or alcohol use. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr are part of everyday life for most teens. It’s aSocial Media Campaign new medium for an old problem. Could they be normalizing risky behaviors like drug and alcohol use for teens? The CASA study was not able to control for all outside factors, but still suggested that parents be aware of how social networking sites may be influencing their children.

The study surveyed 1,000 teens (12 – 17 years) and parents about social media habits, exposure to drugs and alcohol as well as experimentation. The findings seemed to parallel other studies meaning that the figures are not outside the normative range for the teen demographic – social media alone cannot be blamed. Nevertheless, CASA wants parents to become attuned to what is to be seen and read on social sites. Here’s what they found:

  • 70 percent of teens interacted with a social site on a daily basis
  • 40 percent said they’d seen pictures of friends and others using drugs or alcohol when visiting the sites
  • 26 percent of the teens said they themselves had consumed alcohol
  • 13 percent of the teens said they tried marijuana
  • 10 percent reported having smoked cigarettes

The majority of teens use social media and while they are there they are seeing friends and other young people engaging in risky behaviors. There are too many devices and too many opportunities to access social media once outside of the house to make these sites totally off-limits. CASA suggests that a better approach is to talk with teens about what they see and read when they visit social sites.

It can be helpful to begin the discussion by acknowledging that social networking sites are not all bad. The interactions may not be face to face, but they are still worthwhile. Social media interactions can benefit everyone, including the elderly. However, not everyone uses a good thing in a good way.

Although you can’t always keep your teens from being exposed to wrong and dangerous behavior, you can still talk to them about it. You can go to scholarly studies with your teen and read about the potential health hazards of drinking and using drugs. You can talk about the consequences of illegal behavior. You can emphasize your values as parents and a as a family.

BC Rocks is a county-wide initiative designed to help parents create safe places for kids to gather and have a good time. The program invites parents to sign a public statement promising that their home is alcohol-free and well-supervised. Believe it or not, teens that see their parents taking action against underage drinking are influenced – in a positive way. Why should you allow all of the visuals to work against you? Stand up and let your teen see how important protecting him/her is to you.

For a lot of teens, drinking alcohol can be a way to fit in. Unsure of themselves and insecure about their ability to be accepted, some teens will decide to drink. The cruel irony of this decision is that, in some school environments, the teen winds up feeling even more ostracized and alone than the kids who don’t go ahead and drink. And once the teen feels apart from the crowd, grades begin to suffer too.

According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the problem is most ADHD 8pronounced in small schools where few students drink and where there are strong social cliques. For the teen that drinks, he or she feels like part of the group only when they are with other drinking students. The rest of the time, using alcohol makes them feel lonely and isolated from their peers.

The study found that when teens feel like they don’t fit in with other students it shows up as bad grades. Even smart and very bright students find it difficult to overcome the social stress of not feeling included and fitting in. In fact, the researchers, who carefully tracked grades, discovered at least a one point drop in GPA when a teen was struggling with social issues.

Researchers from the University of Texas, Austin and the University of Michigan analyzed data gathered through the Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health – a study that is considered to be the most far-reaching study of high school teens to date. Information on nearly 8,300 teenagers from 126 schools around the nation was used. Researchers factored out issues such as race, gender, ethnicity and social/economic status.

The results of this analysis revealed that drinking created more social anxiety than it cured and that stress led to a lower academic performance, most particularly in small school with tight-knit friendship groups. The researchers said that their findings don’t indicate that teens who drink would fare better in schools with cliques accepting of drinking. Instead, they warn that some school environments which may seem positive (e.g.: small schools with anti-drinking attitudes) are not necessarily helpful environments.

Social-emotional development and academic performance are clearly intertwined. So helping students to develop positive social interactions can actually improve a teen’s learning and school performance. Parents need to be attentive to both aspects of their teen’s development.

Here in BuchananCounty the St Joseph Youth Alliance wants to help parents create positive social environments. The program BC Rocks encourages parents of teens to sign a public pledge to keep their house that kind of environment. Parents who sign the BC Rocks pledge are giving their word of honor to keep alcohol away from teens and to provide adequate supervision when teens gather in their home. We encourage all parents to sign up and help kids find a better place to fit in.

Many will recognize the acronym MADD as the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The group MADD 1 is actively involved in educating teens and parents about the dangers of underage drinking and, as their name suggests, grew out of the grief from losing a child to an alcohol-related traffic fatality. But MADD is
behind research which shows that kids who drink before age 21 face many more risks than drunk driving.

The organization, together with Nationwide Insurance, sponsored examination of data from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Transportation Administration, the FBI and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which had been collected in 2010. The study found that 68 percent of underage drinking-related deaths do not happen on the highway. That’s right, underage drinking does raise the chances that a young person will be injured or killed in an automobile accident, but according to the research, 32 percent of the deaths were traffic fatalities but many more dangers took young lives.

The vast majority of alcohol-related deaths among minors weren’t from car crashes; they were murders (30 percent), suicide (14 percent), alcohol poisoning (9 percent) and other (15 percent).

In 2011 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 25 percent of adolescent’s ages 12 – 20 had been drinking during the month prior. Some of those kids were able to buy their alcohol illegally. The astonishing fact was that 21.4 percent of these minors didn’t lie to buy alcohol; they simply got it from an adult in their life. Many times it was a parent or guardian who purchased the alcohol for the young person.

Parents or adults who provide alcohol to kids and then keep them from driving need to be aware of the dangers still involved with underage drinking. Parents need to do more than take the car keys away if they think their kids are drinking. For starters, parents should never provide underage children with alcohol. As the MADD report shows, drunk driving is just one of many deadly risks associated with underage drinking.

The two strongest influences on young people come from peers and parents. Parents may think that kids only listen to their friends, but that is not the case. Even teens that have been drinking and are about to head off to college can be influenced by a parent who takes the time to sit down with them and explain the various dangers associated with drinking. MADD offers parents a handbook entitled Power of Parents to help moms and dads have these all-important conversations.

In this area, BC Rocks is a strategy to protect underage kids from exposure to alcohol. Parents who sign up for BC Rocks let others know that their home is one where kids will not be offered alcohol. Underage drinking is not inevitable. The risks are too many and too great for parents to give up without trying. Homes that agree not to offer alcohol to minors are one way to keep teens safe from the dangers that can be associated with underage drinking.

The problem of underage drinking was once a male-dominated problem. Boys once outranked girls when it came to experimenting with alcohol before age 21. Not so much anymore. Today there is a lot more parity between the sexes when it comes to underage drinking.

ADHD 1Today more than half of all kids ages 12 – 20, boys and girls alike, report having tried alcohol. You might be aware that underage drinking is an issue, but just how far underage these kids are may surprise you. According to reports, boys are trying out alcohol as early as age 11 and girls are not far behind, having their first drinking experiences around age 13. There are a host of reasons why this is dangerous, but perhaps one of the greatest is that kids who start drinking by age 14 face a six-fold higher chance of becoming alcohol-addicted as adults.

There are young people who face higher risks for drinking than others. Race is one risk factor with Native American and Alaskan Indian children facing a greater chance of future alcohol addiction compared to children of other races. Other risk factors for alcohol-related problems include the following:

Gender: Males are more likely than females to become addicted to alcohol. While young men often drink in response to peer pressure, young women usually drink in response to family problems.

Family History: If a close family member has an alcohol addiction, then a child faces a four times greater risk of becoming addicted themselves compared to youths without a family history.

Environment: The risk for alcohol abuse and addiction increases in measure with how easy it is for a kid to get alcohol. If alcohol is readily available in the home or through friends who approve, the risks increase proportionally.

Statistics from 2009 show that close to 60 percent of boys over the age of 12 are currently consuming alcohol. Close to 50 percent of over 12 year old girls are currently drinking, according to the same report. But in the youngest section of that demographic, the 12 – 17 year olds, boys and girls are drinking at practically the same rate; 15 percent and 14 percent respectively. Young boys and girls are trying alcohol and putting themselves at risk for all sorts of other problems.

Underage drinkers face an increased risk for becoming depressed or anxious, being involved in a violent crime (often as the victim), having numerous sexual partners and engaging in unprotected sex. Kids who don’t think they will be part of the group who makes unwise choices after drinking need to know that among 15 – 20 year olds, one-third of all driving deaths involves alcohol and alcohol is involved in nearly half of the drownings.

BC Rocks is a local effort to help parents make sure that their teen is socializing in an adult-supervised, alcohol-free environment. By participating in BC Rocks parents are taking a stand against underage drinking and doing what they can to minimize young people’s exposure to alcohol. Delaying alcohol exposure can reduce many of the risks associated with underage drinking for boys and girls alike.