Prevention Wins In 2010 Election

November 3, 2010

I was heartened to see the outcome of several ballot measures that could have had a serious negative impact on teen substance abuse.

In Oregon, voters rejected Ballot Measure 74, which would have created a system of unlimited dispensaries for medical marijuana. Proponents said it would help patients get their marijuana. Opponents said it would raise the prices for patients significantly, exempt dispensary operators and their staff from any prosecution, create major money generating operations, all the while it would increase the availability to vulnerable youth.

California voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have made it the first state to legalize the personal use and possession of marijuana.

In Washington state, the voters look to have turned down two initiatives that would privatize liquor sales and overhaul beer- and wine-distribution rules. Had they passed, the number of alcohol outlets in the state would have increased ten-fold.  Again, the issue is ready availability to youth as well as problem drinkers.

A defeat for those measures is a win for our youth and a win for prevention.

– Tom


Four Loko – “Blackout in a can”

October 28, 2010

"Blackout in a can"The alcoholic energy drink Four Loko has achieved “Cult” status among underage drinkers, especially high school students.

Nine students at Central Washington University were hospitalized on October 8  after consuming four Loko.  Some of them had blood alcohol levels above .300 – considered lethal. In September, 23 students at Ramapo College in northern New Jersey were laid to waste drinking Four Loko.

Four Loko is a sweet, 12 percent alcohol, highly-caffeinated and carbonated beverage in a soda pop-styled 23.5 oz can. It’s the nuclear bomb of alcoholic energy drinks (AEDs).

The result: A wide-awake drunk. Until acute alcohol poisoning finally causes passing out. Or worse. If a 120 pound person were to consume two in just one hour, they would have a potentially fatal blood alcohol level.

There are several Facebook pages dedicated to Four Loko and its side effects. Check out some of the comments from Facebook pages “The last thing I remember was opening the 4 loko” and “Save Four Loko“:

“The first time i drank 4loko. I gave a girl two tattos…i never tatted before that night.”

“It’s the only drink that everyone in my town likes i gess (sic) well just have to do drugs now since its cocaine anyways.”

“I got tackled by the cops during a 4 hr blackout, and lost my brand new droid all in the same night.”

“Drank 2 of them in record time and was on ambien… I could’ve sworn we were getting chased by zombies, and i missed my college exam the next morning.”

“Drank two in about 45 minutes not thinking much, I get in my car… and as I’m driving it hits super hard. I guess I was swerving all over the road, and I made it to this party. Walk in… sit down…pass out.”

“Didnt believe my friends when they said they were blackouts in a can….beer bonged two and I was a sloppy mess.”

Combining caffeine with alcohol is dangerous because caffeine masks the intoxicating effects of alcohol, allowing the user to feel like they are not getting drunk as quickly, enabling them to drink more with potentially lethal results. A person drinking an AED is more likely to drive while intoxicated.

Openly discuss this with those in your circle. Educate them on the risks they could be taking with their lives and those of their friends.

This is not “cool”. This is not a simple” rite of passage”.

It’s flirting with death.


Teens craft films to address issues in the Portland Community

September 3, 2010

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to work with talented, creative, passionate and open-minded  teens who want to give back to their communities.

Teens met regularly to discuss the issues affecting the Portland community and then created short films to share what they learned with the public. The films premiere this month.

Students Creating Entertainment for Neighborhood Empowerment (SCENE) is as unique as the youth who named the summer program. The SCENE team was made up not only of excellent students, but a wonderful collaboration between several organizations that share their passion to give back to the community through youth and make positive impressions on them. For example, the Portland Police Bureau has developed an solid relationship with the SCENE teens who are now committed to saying a friendly “Hello” to all police officers they see in passing.

The teens not only learned the issues affecting the Portland community through weekly curriculum, but learned how to develop their ideas into short films from an exceptional team of film makers from Portland Community Media. The SCENE teens also learned how to channel their artistic traits with the help of the FreeArts team.

Most people might imagine a group of teens sitting in a summer , heads in their books or looking out the window at the weather. Let me dispel that, these teens were fully engaged and the summer was a blast! The SCENE team interviewed people on the streets, enjoyed great food during social time, learned about drug prevention, developed relationships with community members and made new friends with students from other schools.

SCENE is  one of the best projects I have had the pleasure of being a part of and I look forward to seeing the SCENE team again!

– Angela

Study Says Educated People Drink More Alcohol

March 24, 2010

Interesting article by Join Together’s Bob Curley!

A new federal report may not show how many Americans are in recovery from alcoholism, but it does provide interesting insights into the number of adults who have quit drinking or abstain for health and other reasons.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics estimated in its Health Behaviors of Adults: United States, 2005-2007 report (PDF) that 61.2 percent of American adults currently drink alcohol, but that 24.6 percent are lifetime abstainers and 14.3 percent of Americans call themselves former drinkers.

Of the latter, 8.1 percent said they are former infrequent drinkers, while 6.2 percent classified themselves as former regular drinkers. Pat Taylor, executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, said more research is needed on why people decided to stop drinking, particularly those who formerly were regular drinkers.

“Until we understand that, we won’t be able to help the over 22 million Americans still struggling with alcohol and other drug problems,” said Taylor.

Men (67.6 percent) were more likely than women (55.3 percent) to be current drinkers. More white adults were current drinkers (64.2 percent) than members of any other ethnic group; Asians were the least likely to drink (43.1 percent).

Most of the current alcohol users surveyed were considered to be light drinkers (29.3 percent), while 14.4 percent were classified as moderate drinkers, 12.3 percent were considered infrequent drinkers, and 5 percent were labeled heavy drinkers (having more than 7 drinks per week for women, or more than 14 drinks per week for men, on average, during the past year).

The study found a distinct correlation between income and education level and alcohol use, but not one that fits with the stereotype of the poor, ignorant drunk. In fact, current drinking levels increased steadily alongside education, with holders of masters, doctorate, or medical degrees far more likely to drink (73.9 percent) than individuals who did not graduate from high school (44.3 percent). The richest Americans also were much more likely to drink than those living below poverty level.

Interesting, the inverse was true among those adults who had chosen to quit drinking: holders of the most advanced degrees were half as likely to have ended their former infrequent or regular drinking as high-school dropouts, and poor Americans likewise were more likely to have stopped drinking than richer ones.
One in Five Americans Still Smoke

Smoking remains stubbornly persistent in certain U.S. populations despite decades of health warnings: according to the NCHS report, 20.4 percent of American adults are current smokers.

The good news: 21.1 percent of U.S. adults said they had quit smoking, and 58.5 percent said they never smoked. Sixteen percent of adults lit up daily, while 4 percent said they smoked less than once a day. Daily smokers consumed an average of 17 cigarettes per day, compared to 5 per day for non-daily smokers (on the days that they smoked).

About 4 in 10 smokers said they had tried to quit during the year prior to the survey. The report found that 31.8 percent of current smokers started smoking before age 16, while just 17.1 percent began at age 21 or older. Men were more likely than women to smoke, but were more apt to quit smoking, too.

The report, based on 2005-2007 National Health Interview Surveys, also looked at sleep, obesity and exercise rates among American adults. “Despite evidence of the potential harm of some health behaviors and substantial efforts to disseminate this information to the public, many Americans continue to engage in health behaviors that put them at risk of chronic disease and disability,” the report stated.

Underage Drinking, Teen Drug Use Down in Oregon

December 22, 2009

There’s a positive trend happening in Oregon involving high schoolers and middle schoolers.  And  in very large part, it has to do with parents taking a larger role in preventing underage drinking and teen drug abuse.
And for that, parents should be congratulated!
According to the Oregon Health Teens Survey, alcohol use among 11th graders and 8th graders (the classes surveyed) continues to go down.  The same is true for illegal drugs, except for marijuana and the illegal use of prescription drugs.
The survey reports that the percentage of 11th graders who used alcohol in the month before they were asked the question, came in at 38 percent, compared to 44 percent in 2007.
The Oregon Department of Human Services tells us that for 8th graders, the downward trend started showing up in 2005.  And there’s more good news: Illegal drugs use and smoking by teens continue to drop almost every year.
Drug prevention experts here at Oregon Partnership say this isn’t by accident. The biggest factor has to do with parents taking a much more active role in talking to their kids early and often about the dangers and effects of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
There’s a reason why most public service announcements you see and hear about underage drinking and illegal drug use among teens are aimed at PARENTS.  Parents, after all, have the most influence on their children.
Unfortunately, more Oregon teens smoke marijuana than smoke cigarettes, and here in Oregon and nationally too, more teens are abusing prescription drugs. 

 Those are trends that anti-drug coalitions around the country will be targeting in the coming months, initiating “lock your meds” campaigns, among other strategies.

More Intoxicated Fans at Sporting Events?

August 18, 2009

A few of my friends who attended Seattle Mariners and Seahawks games recently made the observation that there seem to be more drunk,unruly fans.

 It’s not exactly something new they say, just a lot worse than in past years.

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve seen them: Obnoxious ticketholders with too much to drink hurling F-bombs right and left with a family of kids sitting two seats away.

This has been an issue with the NFL, where in some stadiums, fights and injuries are commonplace. “60 Minutes” aired a story last year about how season ticket holders were giving up their seats because they don’t want to subject their kids to drunk and unruly fans.

 But baseball? Hey, I guess there are enough fans at Safeco Field willing to shell out $7 for a beer or two or three or four or more. And maybe that’s why there isn’t enough incentive to prevent fans getting intoxicated: When you can charge that much for beer, why hold down sales?

 Here in Portland, the Trail Blazers do a great job of monitoring alcohol consumption, and I don’t think I’ve seen an intoxicated fan at one of the Blazer games in years.

And that’s the solution right there: Teams need to make it clear that they’re putting strict limits on beer sales, and that they have zero tolerance with drunk fans. And if enough fans – and sponsors – start griping about the ugly, un-family-like atmosphere at the games, management will start taking action.

 It’s called prevention.

Alcohol Abuse Common Among Veterans Returning Home

July 10, 2008

Veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars are increasingly turning to alcohol when they return home to cope with the lingering stress of their combat experiences, sometimes with tragic consequences, the New York Times reported July 8.

“The problem in today’s military is soldiers have to be warriors, killers, do war, but we don’t allow them any releases like we used to,” said Bryan Lane, a former special forces sergeant who suffered a brain injury in Iraq and is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. “You can’t go out and drink, you can’t get into a fight. It’s completely unrealistic.”

Soldiers returning from Iraq, where drinking is officially banned, also may be more prone to overindulge when they return to the U.S., even though their tolerance for alcohol may be reduced due to enforced abstinence.

Drunk driving, bar fights, domestic violence and sometimes homicide are among the more serious consequences of rising rates of alcohol problems among veterans, prompting Congress in May to pass legislation to increase addiction screening for veterans coming home from combat zones.

“The war is now and the problems are now,” said Richard A. McCormick of Case Western Reserve University, who served on a Pentagon task force on mental health. “Every day there is a cohort of men and women being discharged who need services not one or two or five years from now. They need them now.”

The military has a shortage of addiction-treatment providers for active duty personnel, and reservists and their families often have difficulty getting access to care through the Tricare health plan.

Drinking also has long been a part of military tradition, though the services have tried to change that mentality and encourage personnel with drinking problems to seek help. “The Army takes alcohol and drug abuse very seriously and has tried for decades to deglamorize its use,” said spokesperson Lt. Col. George Wright. “With the urgency of this war, we continue to tackle the problem with education, prevention and treatment.”

The most recent post deployment surveys by the Pentagon show that 12 percent of active-duty soldiers and 15 percent of reservists acknowledge having problems with alcohol. Use of illicit drugs also is up slightly in the Army and Marines since 2002, and the problem may be worse among those who have left the service.