Is the Current Opioid Epidemic New Though?
It’s hard to turn on the news now-a-days without hearing shocking stories or statistics about the opioid crisis and how it is affecting the country. However, opioids aren’t new. If you have a headache, you take an aspirin, right? Sprained your ankle badly? The doctor will probably recommend ice and ibuprofen. Running a fever? Tylenol or Advil please. Having surgery? Well then, you’ll need some powerful painkillers for your post-surgery pain. The issue isn’t as much with the opioid itself as much as it is with how doctors began prescribing the more powerful opiates to help their patients with chronic pain.
Opioids have been around for hundreds of years. Strangely enough, this is not the first U.S. crisis that the powerful drugs have been associated with. During the Revolutionary war, an estimated 400,000 soldiers treated their pain with morphine and it is believed that this was the biggest cause for the sharp rise in opioid addiction during the early 1800’s. Similarly, over the past 20-30 years, the opioid epidemic has come roaring back and has devastated lives and communities across the country.
While it is easy to point fingers, and there is plenty of blame to go around, it is important to understand that the opioid epidemic did not begin solely because drug companies got greedy, or because doctors turned into reckless pill prescribers overnight. Just like during the Revolutionary War, it began with empathetic doctors who were just trying to alleviate the suffering of people dealing with chronic, and sometimes terminal, pain. However, what started off with good intentions quickly turned into a wild fire of unintentional abuse and overprescribing by physicians.
Back in the day, the more popular opiates like heroin and morphine had unhygienic stigmas attached to them. People were scared to inject themselves with needles and/or share intravenous drugs with other people for fear of diseases or aesthetic blemishes. During the past 30 years or so though, that’s changed. Some of the most powerful opiates are now produced in pill form and that has led to a decreased stigma behind their use. Drugs like Fentanyl (which is almost as much as 50 times more powerful than pure heroin, and the same drug that killed the artist formerly known as Prince) and Oxycodone have replaced heroin and morphine as the drugs of choice among the users that can afford it. Those who can’t afford it, or whose insurance will no longer cover their pain prescriptions, are relegated to shooting heroin or morphine intravenously to get their fix.
The New York Times recently reported that the number of drug overdose deaths exceeded 59,000 in 2016. The incredible rise in the death toll from 2015 represents the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States (19%) and is just one of the major consequences of an escalating opioid epidemic that is now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. If Congress and Senate leadership don’t do something soon, these numbers will continue to rise explosively and the opiate crisis will soon turn into a plague.
Are Teens Replacing Drugs with Technology?
Despite being in the midst of an opioid epidemic, the increase in popularity of deadly synthetic drugs and the almost nationwide legalization of marijuana, something interesting has begun to take place over the course of the past ten years. Teenagers across the U.S. are becoming less and less likely to try and regularly use drugs and alcohol. Researchers have noticed this trend building for about a decade now, but have no clear answer as to why. Most attribute the decline in cigarette smoking as the primary reason. Citing that since cigarette smoking is a gateway to other drugs, and less kids are smoking cigarettes, less kids are entering the gateway to using alcohol and illegal drugs. Others believe that years of antidrug youth education campaigns have finally begun to work. However, there are some who have an entirely different theory.
Could it be that teens are spending so much time plugged into their smartphones, either texting, playing games, or on social media, that there’s no time left for drugs or alcohol? It’s not as farfetched of an idea as you might initially think given that the use of smartphones and tablets have exploded during the same period that teen drug use has declined. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one behavior is the specific cause of the other, but scientists say that interactive media appears to have replaced drug experimentation by providing similar impulses, including sensation-seeking and the desire for independence. It could just be that our interactive gadgets take up a lot of the time that could be used for other activities, including partying and doing drugs or alcohol. Researchers have found that the use of marijuana among 8th and 10th graders is down over the past decade despite its social acceptability being up, and though marijuana use has risen among 12th graders, the use of cocaine, hallucinogens, and ecstasy are all down
On the surface, this sounds like good news. However, some social media critics believe that drug and alcohol use haven’t declined because kids today are behaving better, or are more cautious than they used to be, but because they’re simply spending less time hanging out with their peers, developing their social skills and learning about each other. Instead, teens today are spending more time alone staring at their phones than ever before and are growing more and more socially-isolated. Is social media is serving teens with a dose of interactive methadone? Social media is too new for us really have a grasp on its long-term effects, but several studies over the past few years have shown that it’s abuse has already been linked to depression and insomnia
Have we now reached a point where teenagers have replaced alcohol and illegal drugs with Snapchat and Instagram?
BTRU2U.ORG Featured on CBS Miami & NBC
We were fortunate to partner this morning with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the State Attorney’s Office to hold a press conference about our BTRU2U Prevention Campaign. BTRU2U is a countywide campaign that aims to prevent alcohol and substance abuse and impaired driving. This new partnership provides innovative and evidence based substance abuse prevention programs and strategies that are the foundation of a sustained public health and wellness community model. Please see the CBSMiami.com article and the NBC News press conference link below.
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – With Spring Break for Miami-Dade school students just around the corner, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has launched a new campaign to stress the dangers of drinking and driving.
The BTru2U campaign is a collaboration between MADD, the State Attorney’s Office, and The Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community.
Jenny Reyes, 22, knows the deadly results of drinking and driving first hand.
On the morning of January 21st, 2015, her father, Walter Reyes, was cycling on the Rickenbacker Causeway, training for the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Alejandro Alvarez, 21, was reportedly returning home after a night of drinking on Miami Beach when the accident happened.
“Wednesday morning at this time I was understanding my life had just changed, all the plans we had after 25 years of marriage, all gone that day because of a 21-year-old who should have known better,” said Reyes’ widow Maribel.
“I have forgotten what my father’s laugh sounds like,” said Jenny Reyes, ” he had such a deep, contagious laugh.”
MADD says parents, not peers, are the biggest influence on a young person’s decision to not drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking.
“Please remember this, one in three young people admit to getting in a car with a drinking driver,” said MADD’s Helen Witty.
One of the big events during this year’s campaign will be PowerTalk 21 Day, April 21st, which is the group’s national day for parents to begin conversations with their kids about alcohol.
Seventy-four percent of kids (8-17) said their parents are the leading influence on their decisions about drinking.
MADD adds that parents must not only talk about the dangers of underage drinking but set a good example by not doing it themselves or with their kids.
A nationwide survey by MADD in 2016 found that 80 percent of parents said they had talked to their children about the dangers of riding with a drinking driver. However, 43 percent of parents admitted to having a drink or two at dinner and then driving their children home in the past year, and one in four parents admitted to riding with a drinking driver in the past year.
A study by Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Biobehavioral Health found that students are more willing to ride with a drinking driver if they see their parents do so.
How Alcohol Affects Teen Athletes
Anyone that has played, or trained for, a major sport understands how difficult training for that sport can be. Teens put in countless hours during the school week running, lifting weights, and practicing plays from the playbook with their coaches. Most of us begin playing sports at an early age simply for the love of the sport. However, for some teens, sports can become an escape from their difficult surroundings, or even a path to a better life for them and their loved ones.
As an athlete, your body is your primary piece of equipment. You try to eat right during the school week, you get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and of course, workout. All of these efforts are exactly what is needed to become an elite athlete and make it to the next level. However, after a week of all these efforts, you can’t simply forget about the work that you have put in during the weekend and start partying like rock star. Let’s take a look at how alcohol consumption is counterproductive to becoming a great athlete.
How Alcohol Affects Your Body
As an athlete, it’s important that the calories you put into your body are quality calories that are going to help you get faster or stronger. Well, you probably did not know that alcohol is loaded with empty calories that will do nothing but make it harder for you to stay in shape. In just one shot of 80 proof vodka, which is one of the lowest calorie types of alcohol available, there are nearly 100 calories. Not only that, but it literally has no nutrients that will strengthen or fortify your body and actually lowers your workout intensity for days following consumption.
Alcohol is also diuretic. That means that drinking alcohol forces your body to produce more urine and that takes water away from the other parts of your body that need it for hydration, including your muscles. Add exercising to this and you are really increasing your body’s chances of becoming dehydrated. Studies have shown that dehydrated muscle cells provide a less favorable anabolic environment than cells that are over hydrated. This basically means that your muscles not only get weaker from getting drunk, but it also affect your muscle’s ability, even slightly, to recover and strengthen itself.
We’ve all heard of testosterone right? It’s associated with males more so than woman because it is the hormone that dictates muscle, hair, and overall physical growth. Male athletes need testosterone to drive muscle growth because increased muscle mass typically leads to better athletic performance. However, athletes that drink alcohol are hurting their bodies ability to build muscle by lowering the testosterone levels in their bodies while intoxicated. Studies have shown that while intoxicated, testosterone levels can decrease up to 25%.
Hopefully the information that we gave you above will provide some insight into exactly how alcohol can affect you as an athlete. If your goal is to make it as an athlete professionally, then it is important that you give yourself every advantage possible, and not drinking alcohol or using drugs is a great way to start.
Michael Phelps: A Comeback Story
Michael Phelps, the world’s all-time greatest Olympic swimmer, was on top of the world after he broke Mark Spitz’s record of 7 gold medals at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing with 8 gold medals of his own. He showed millions of people that with dedication, hard work, and eating subway sandwiches, you too could turn into someone great. In 2009 however, a photograph surfaced of him smoking marijuana and that was the beginning of a serious downfall that not only saw him lose several of his endorsements, but also affected his ability to focus and perform at the elite level that made him famous.
In an interview with Matt Lauer, Phelps admitted to having to create a front to get through public appearances because deep down he wasn’t truly happy. He would breeze through interviews as if everything was alright, but he knew he had to make a change. He went on to state that he didn’t want anything to do with the sport of swimming, and wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do. As a child, his father divorced his mother and he felt abandoned by him, and because of this, there were very few people that Michael felt he could turn to. Some say that this is when his personal problems really began to escalate.
He mentioned that he would go to parties, get drunk, and hang out with people that loved the idea of hanging out with Michael Phelps, the Olympic hero, but they didn’t really care about Michael Phelps, the person. Those who really cared about him were terrified about the direction that his life was heading in. On September 30, 2014, he was arrested for his second DUI after leaving a casino in Las Vegas. When he got pulled over, he mentioned thinking to himself, “I’m f****d”.
At that point, even his coach and father figure felt that his opportunity to make a comeback, and become “Michael Phelps” again was over. Phelps admitted to even having suicidal thoughts because he didn’t want the world to have to put up with him anymore. Fortunately for Phelps, his friend and soon-to-be mentor, future Hall of Famer football player Ray Lewis, shared some of the dark times that he went through and what he had to do to get through them while he was also in the prime of his career. Ray Lewis, along with others, convinced him to go to rehab and to re-evaluate his life and the choices that he was making.
Phelps learned a lot about himself, and why he constantly turned to drugs and alcohol while he was at rehab. And after reading “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here for” by Rick Warren, he was able to not only rekindle the relationships that his drug and alcohol use had isolated him from, but also the relationship with his father. Phelps also began to re-establish his life and professional goals. He started training hard again with the hopes of returning to the pool and also began a family of his own. All of these life changes helped remind Phelps why he loved swimming so much and what his purpose in life was. It just goes to show you that even though you may make bad decisions in life, you do not have to let them define you. Phelps learned that he was turning to drugs and alcohol to help him deal with stress when there were so many other ways that he could have managed it. This comeback story also shows that when you decide to be dedicated yourself to something, and you are willing to work hard for it, you can accomplish things that maybe you yourself at one point doubted that you could do.
6 Tips to Help Teens Say “No” to Drugs and Alcohol
Let’s face it, dealing with the peer pressure to drink alcohol or try drugs is not easy. However, if you can stay cool and deliver your position with confidence, you’ll immediately let people know that drugs and alcohol are just not your thing. And never apologize for not being into doing drugs or alcohol either. Apologizing for how you’ve chosen to live your life will give of the impression that you are insecure about your decision to stay away from drugs and alcohol, and will only increase the number of invites that you receive to “get down”. So, if you are not into it, say that, and say it with confidence!
Here are 6 other tips that you can use to help you say “NO” to drugs and alcohol.
One of the best tips to use if someone won’t get off of your back to try drugs or alcohol is to blame it on your parents. Tell them that every time you drink, your mom always finds out and you end up getting into big trouble. Or, if you are into sport and athletics, tell them that you are in the middle of training, or the season, and drugs and alcohol are going to hold you back from accomplishing your goals.
2. Keep a Cup in Your Hand During the Party
If you are holding a cup, people are usually not concerned with what you’re drinking. As a matter of fact, they are probably more concerned with what they’re drinking, or about to drink next. Before you leave for the party, grab a bottle of water, soda, or whatever your favorite bottled drink is and take it with you. When you get to the party, grab a red solo cup and fill it with the contents of the bottle that you brought when nobody’s looking and viola. Having a cup in your hand like everyone else will keep people from asking you why you aren’t drinking.
3. Use the Situation to Educate
If the situation allows for it, this may be the perfect time to educate your peer(s) as to why their use of drugs and alcohol is a terrible idea. Explain to them that drinking alcohol before the age of 21 can have dramatic effects on their brain’s development. Let them know that using drugs affects the chemical balance of their brains and can have irreparable mental and developmental effects.
4. Tried it Already, and It’s Just Not My Thing
Letting them know that you’ve already tried it takes away the awkwardness of telling them that you don’t want to partake in using drugs or alcohol with them, and instead shifts the focus to why you don’t like it.
5. Become the Resident Designated Driver
If you are always volunteering to be the designated driver, no one will argue with the fact that you chose not to drink so that you could be the responsible who drives everyone around.
6. If Everything Else Fails, Just Leave
If you have tried everything above, and you are still being asked to try drugs or alcohol, then the best thing for you to do is to remove yourself from the people, and surroundings, that might force you into making a bad decision. If you find yourself in situations like this often, then you may want to start hanging out with a different set of friends that have similar values and beliefs as you do.
BTru2U – Ultra Music Festival Safety Information
While at the music festival, please make sure to work your way towards the DanceSafe Organization program and educate yourself with the services that they will be providing before hitting the dance floor. Their informational health discussions will help you make better lifestyle choices while you’re partying and having fun. Here are some of the services they will be providing for party goers:
• Free ear plugs
• Fact based information on drug effects
• Free water to prevent dehydration and heatstroke
• Educated conversations about health, drug use, and safety
• Nonjudgmental first-point of contact for risky or challenging situations
• Drug checking service to prevent overdose
The Electronic Music Alliance will also be there, overlooking the festival to make sure that all of the event attendees are safe and far from harm’s way. They promote safety among the EDM community in hopes of preventing the types deaths and tragedies that have occurred during past music festivals. Like you, they also love to have fun at these events. However, while everyone is enjoying themselves, they will be there to promote the responsibilities that you have as a partygoer to be as civil and socially responsible as possible.
The Mutual Aid Response Service will be at Ultra Music Festival also to provide risk management services during the event. They will be attending to make sure the party goers receive any necessary medical assistance for onsite emergencies. They are committed to supporting the event goers and helping your fellow music lovers stay away from any potential accidents that could occur during the event. MARS will there as well, providing fire services in the case of any first response emergencies.
We want you to stay informed and safe during the days of the upcoming music festivals. While at these events, always make sure that you are aware of your surroundings. Do not take any drinks or pills that someone may offer you. Pills like molly and ecstasy are often portrayed in the media as a popular cause of death during electronic music festivals. So remember that you are there to have fun, but you also have an obligation, and responsibility, to keep yourself and others safe. By becoming better educated about what these substances are, and what they can do to your body, it will help to deter you from wanting to use drugs and/or alcohol. Please, do not hesitate to rely on the services that these organizations are there to provide to you if you need them. It might just mean the difference between life or death.
It is possible to enjoy yourself at Ultra, and the other large music festivals, without having to use drugs or drink alcohol. Just make smart decisions and stay safe while you are doing it.
The New ‘Ecstasy” and What to Look Out For
If you’ve ever heard your teen talk about “Molly”, chances are he or she wasn’t talking about a friend at school. You may have even heard them singing lines from their favorite Hip Hop song glorifying its use. However, there is nothing about Molly that’s positive or worthy of glorification.
Molly is the powder form of MDMA, the active ingredient in another popular party drug, ecstasy. Molly is a synthetic, psychoactive substance that produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, and empathy towards.
Along with altering one’s perception of time, there are a few other symptoms/signs to be on the lookout for so that you can be aware if your teen is using this dangerous drug.
• Mood swings
• Jaw clenching
• Memory loss
• Loss of appetite
• Increased anxiety
• Profuse sweating
• Dramatic swings in body temperature
• Signs of depression, or sadness
• Isolation during periods of crashing
• Changes in behavior, grades and/or friends
Molly works by telling the brain to release a flood of mood-regulating chemicals through the stimulation of three of the bodies main neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters, when depleted, is what causes the feeling of depression or sadness. Frequent users of the drug tend to experience long periods of depression or isolation, and study after study has shown why. After time, the body’s ability to regulate the flow of these transmitters is severely diminished to increase efficiency. The way your body sees it, why should it have to
If your teen begins to exhibit any of the physical symptoms listed above, they should be brought to the emergency room immediately. These physical side effects can have permanent effects on their bodies and can even cause deaths from seizures or cardiac arrest. Keep an eye out for any of the following signs of overdose, tremors, vomiting, collapsing, fainting or loss of body movement control, and/or foaming at the mouth.
Be as proactive as possible when it comes to having ongoing conversations with your teen(s) about the consequences of drug use. Talk to them about their goals. Keep up with their grades and ask how they’re doing in school. These conversation help build comfort and trust, and is a vital part of the process of establishing accountability and responsibility for their choices and behavior. Set clear expectations for them so that everyone is on the same page. And if they make a mistake, have empathy. Don’t react with anger. Take a deep breath and think about exactly how to communicate to them that their choices have consequences and re-establish your expectations.
It’s important to be prepared for any leftfield responses that you might hear when you speak with your teen. So, that rather than being reactionary to something that they say, having a well thought out response will allow you respond in a way that will keep your teen engaged. When they’re leaving the house, ask them where they’re going, who they’re going with, and what they’re doing. Make sure on the way out, that you remind them to make good choices.
If you know someone who is abusing drugs and needs help, don’t let another day go by. Call 1 (800) 731-6306 and let’s get them the help that they need today.
Weed is Legal! Now What?
With marijuana recently becoming legal in several states across the country, the landscape has changed. What hasn’t changed though is the fact that all substances, including marijuana, or “weed”, are harmful for developing teen brains. So Weed is Legal, now what? A human brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20s, and during the adolescent years, teens are more susceptible to its negative developmental effects.
Weed is Legal, but the side effects haven’t changed. Marijuana use affects the parts of the brain responsible for learning, memory retention, and awareness, or attention span. Science has also proven that teenage marijuana use can permanently lower their IQ. While it seems harmless on the surface because of its long-time glorification, weed can affect teenager’s ability to build the foundation that the rest of their lives will be built upon. Because of these changes around the perception of marijuana, it is important that the conversation that you’re having with your teen changes as well.
So exactly what should this new conversation sound like? It should involve active listening and being aware of certain slang that should set off red flags. It will also have to include empathy, understanding and avoiding the expression of your disapproval or disappointment with negative verbiage or name calling. Back in the day, we were taught through our parent’s actions that we should get upset, yell, and demand that the behavior stop. But that rarely works. Instead, most kids just decide to be even more careful about hiding whatever it is that they’re doing. Be encouraging, positive and supporting.
“Marijuana’s a Plant. How Bad Could It Be?”
I hear what you’re saying, and I understand your point. And I’m not trying to say that your life is necessarily going to be ruined or spin out of control because you smoked marijuana. I just want you to see the other side. When a person is high, their judgement is not what it would normally be and that can get you into trouble. Because while smoking weed won’t necessarily ruin your life, one bad decision can.
“I Only Do It on The Weekends.”
Well, I’m glad that this isn’t something that you’re doing all the time. The biggest concern that I have is that using any drug at your age is harmful to your brain’s development. Did you know that your brain is still developing and that it won’t stop developing until you reach your mid 20’s? I know you may not think it’s a big deal, but what are some things that we can do, either together or with your friends, to keep you from smoking marijuana?
“I Know You Smoked Weed in College.”
This one can go one of two ways. If you’ve never smoked weed, then say just that. If you did smoke when you were younger, then the fact that you’ve had first hand experiences can work in your favor. The key thing to remember about the direction of the discussion, is that this isn’t about you and whether or not you smoked weed in college. It’s solely about educating them about the choices that they’re going to have to make as they get older. Discuss your past experiences to help them understand the risks, and whatever you do, don’t lie. Now, don’t glorify certain experiences either, but be honest or you could end up losing credibility with your kids.
Check out our education page for more information on how to talk to your kids about staying away from drugs and alcohol.
Underage Drinking Trends
Alcohol and drugs are the leading factors in teenage suicide
ALCOHOL ABUSE HAS CONSEQUENCES
Underage drinking happens for many reasons. One of the main reasons that some teens decide to start drinking alcohol, or using other drugs, is because they think that “everyone is doing it.” Add to that the fact that buying bottles of champagne, and drinking it straight from the bottle, is something that has been a glorified tradition among Hollywood, Hip Hop, and R & B’s culture for years. But what many of you don’t necessarily see all the time is what happens years into the alcohol abuse.
Jeff Hanneman, one of the founder members of one of America’s greatest rock bands, Slayer, died at the age of 49 from alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver. One of the more popular artist to have recently succumb to an alcohol related death may have been one of your favorite artists. Her name was Amy Winehouse and she died at the age of 27. She died at her home, in 2011, from fatal alcohol poisoning after a long bout with alcoholism and drug abuse. Billie Holiday, a classic American Jazz singer and songwriter who broke down racial barriers in the music industry during the 1930’s, died at the age of 44 due to cirrhosis of the liver from alcohol.
NOT EVERYONE IS “DOING IT”
Every year the “Monitoring the Future” (MTF) nationwide survey asks thousands of high school seniors about their use of alcohol and drugs during their lifetime, and you’ll be shocked at how many people AREN’T “doing it”. According the survey’s 2015 results,
• 53.3% never tried alcohol or illegal drugs
• 58% never smoked marijuana
• 93.5% never took ecstasy
• 94% never used cocaine
MAKE YOUR OWN CHOICES
You don’t have to drink, or do drugs, to be cool, fit in, or relate on any level! And even more importantly, I want you to keep this in mind. Some people respond to the effects of alcohol differently than others and it’s all based on genetics. If you have a history of alcoholism, or addiction, in your family, you are four times more likely to develop a dependency than those that do not have the same family history. So, the next time that you think that you have to drink, or do drugs, to fit in because “everyone is doing it”, keep this information in mind. In the end, you should make the best choices for you that will ultimately lead down the path of who you want to become.