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Do Mock Alcoholic Drinks for Kids Send the Wrong Message?

Should Kids Be Given Mock Alcoholic Drinks?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Whether it is putting on Mom’s lipstick or rocking a tuxedo, kids do the darndest things to feel like an adult. When you’re a kid, growing up seems like a magical experience, until you actually grow up, that is. Nonetheless, Disney thought they would take advantage of kid’s natural grown-up idealizations, as well their manic love for the movie Frozen, by promoting a mock champagne-style non-alcoholic drink decked out in Frozen decor for kids to enjoy over the holiday season. Cheers?

The response was controversial to say the least. While some parents thought the idea of a champagne bottle kids drink was harmless, others were completely outraged by the entire concept. The product creators said the concept of the mock-champagne was to provide a grown-up alternative to juice and pop at parties” for “little princes and princesses across the lands who want to be more sophisticated.”

After an uproar of negative responses, including from UK alcohol awareness groups, the product was recently discontinued by the company. A spokesperson for Disney said the company will stop producing the product after April of 2016. In the future, they will “no longer license Disney images to a product that is packaged to look like alcohol.”

The main concern was that products like these would encourage children to try alcohol in the future because by creating an association to a children’s cartoon, it makes alcohol seem like innocent fun. Considering the recent reports coming out that show that alcohol deaths are at an all-time high, it makes sense that some parents would be a bit sensitive to this kind of product.

Furthermore, alcohol awareness groups were totally shocked that the 750ml bottles were shaped in champagne like bottles, even with a pop cork. Researchers jumped right on it exploring the dangers of having products like these on the shelf.

Dr. Sarah Jarvis, medical advisor to charity Drinkaware, warned,

“Selling products which not only normalise but glamorise alcohol could increase the risk of young people wanting to experiment with alcohol.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, insisted:

“This product should be removed from sale immediately.  Young children should not be targeted with champagne-style drinks to make them feel ‘sophisticated and grown-up’.”

On the other hand, parents who bought the product argue that the product is clearly labelled as a non-alcoholic soft drink and is simply a fun way for children to get into the festive spirit of the holidays.

For some time now, children toys have gone under intense scrutiny. Recently, hyperdermic needle toys was pulled off the shelf for fear of the message it could send about using intravenous drug use. Still, the question lingers as to whether all these measures to protect children could be an over precaution. Kids usually are not aware of deeper messages that their toys have and are simply being kids.

Previously, a survey conducted by the popular children’s informational site KidsHealth.org, wanted to know exactly what children thought of alcohol.  They surveyed 690 kids from 9 to 13 and the results were promising.  More than 90% of the kids said alcohol was very uncool (86%) or uncool (6%). And 89% of kids said that drinking alcohol at their age (9 to 13) was never OK.

Kids who do try alcohol do it for one reason: to be cool. Alcohol is marketed as a cool thing to do all throughout the media and sometimes ads focusing on alcohol are marketed in a way that could easily appeal to kids. In the same survey, kids were asked why they would try alcohol and the top three reasons were:

  1. To look cool
  2. To see what it’s like
  3. Because other kids are doing it

Clearly, being accepted around peers has a much stronger influence then any product could ever have. While keeping a conscious eye around your child is extremely important, remember that you are their greatest influence so be sure to monitor your behavior around your child and be your child’s best role model this new year.

Overall, toys that promote a lifestyle of drinking most likely is not the best idea. Instead, find other alternatives that promote the message of having fun without the need of substances. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

4 Reasons to Keep New Year’s Resolutions in Recovery

4 Reasons to Keep New Year’s Resolutions in Recovery

Author: Justin Mckibben

HELLO 2016!!

Yup… it’s about that time ladies and gentlemen! It’s a New Year… a time to celebrate our successes and remember the times we’ve shared. New Year’s Eve we watch the ball drop, countdown the clock, shoot off the fireworks and prepare for another exciting chapter in life.

Of course there are the “New Year, New Me!” messages you are sure to see all over the place as people set resolutions- some for working out and eating better, others for finding love or a career, my resolution thus far has just been to stay sober another 24 hours- so far, so good.

So why is it so many people set these resolutions and then forget them halfway through February? Some of us will honor this tradition and declare our own New Year’s resolutions to the world… others will resist the urge, brush off the idea and even try to poke fun at it as a pointless exercise- typically the people who gave up on passed resolutions before they even made them.

So we look at these cynics and cross-examine their logic when they ask,

“Why bother to set resolutions if we will probably forget them?”

Resolutions are really just goals we set on January 1st. In recovery we are often told to take it one day at a time, and to accept that we are not in charge of the future… that may be a highly valuable philosophy, but it doesn’t mean setting goals in recovery is wrong. Even in sobriety we are allowed to set standards and achieve the things we strive for. Here are a few reasons why you should keep New Year’s resolutions in recovery.

  1. Stuff Gets Done

When we make a resolution or set goals, and actually put in the effort, they tend to actually get done!

When we put some work into it and actually commit to a resolution, the things we set out to do get done because we actually treat them like goals that need to be accomplished. If you make a resolution in recovery, you should keep it because it gives you some sense of purpose in your actions.

  1. Creates Clarity

Goals provide you with a vision and a direction. In sobriety setting resolutions in recovery can give your road through recovery a few travel destinations. Sure this goal isn’t the end of the journey, but its somewhere to set your sights on.

Resolutions create clarity because they give purpose to actions. Without goals in recovery we risk wasting your resources feeling disorganized and overwhelmed, which can lead to risky behaviors or other bad habits seeking to get outside of self.

In recovery you have an opportunity to reach for things you never thought possible, so set a resolution to see more clearly what you want in your life.

  1. Shows Progress

Setting a resolution itself can show progress for those of us in recovery because it shows us that we are no longer accepting the old self-destructive standards we lived by. Being active and taking initiative shows that we are willing to work for a better life, and having goals and reaching them is a good measurement of where we are headed and how far we have come.

Progress in every facet of life happens when people set, pursue, and achieve goals. “Progress not Perfection,” right?

Plus, when we go to help others who are struggling we can give examples of how we set out to accomplish things in life, and how recovery allowed us to make those dreams happen.

  1. They Give Us Purpose

When I was using and drinking life had no purpose… I get to live my life today with meaning and passion because setting goals helped me find a purpose. A New Year’s resolution may not be the pivotal point of your purpose, but it can reinforce the pattern that fulfills your life in recovery.

Goals give our lives purpose, and purpose is the reason for why we seek any outcome at all in life.

Underneath every resolution is an idea of our true self and what we want out of our lives. Maybe the thing you want isn’t the meaning of your life, but maybe ‘A’ gets you closer to ‘B’ which ultimately opens the door to ‘C’ and that is what you wanted all along.

After all, resolution is a synonym for purpose.

Purpose is what motivates us and moves us to take action. In recovery, having a purpose after living a life of hopelessness and feeling empty can be the difference between staying sober or losing sight of why sobriety matters.

#RecoveryGoals

Remember- the first day of 2016 can be the first day of a whole new life. Realistically, any day can be a new beginning if we choose to make it so. Never forget the power of your purpose, and how putting your drive and determination behind your desires can help move your recovery. Maybe your resolution just has to be to make the choice to take the steps to make a change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

Alcohol Killing Americans in Record Numbers

Alcohol Killing Americans in Record Numbers

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva 

There has been an influx of media attention on the heroin and painkiller epidemic which is now at record numbers. The focus in the media has been on the rise in overdose fatalities from heroin and prescription painkillers. Overdoses have more than tripled in the last decade and the numbers continues to rise at alarming rates. While raising awareness of the opioid epidemic is necessary and much needed, we still cannot take our attention away from the drug killing Americans the most: alcohol.

The biggest threat to Americans remains to be alcohol. Americans are dying from alcohol abuse at numbers that exceed anything we’ve seen in the past 35 years. The CDC estimates that in just the last year, over 30,700 people died from alcohol-related causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis of the liver.

In a little over a decade, the number of Americans who have died from alcohol have risen by 37 percent.  In 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes than from painkillers and heroin combined, says the CDC.

If you think these numbers are high due to alcohol-related accidents, you are wrong. These numbers do not even include deaths caused by alcohol like drunken driving incidences, and murders committed under the influence. If we were to count those deaths, the death toll would be up to 90,000.

Why do these numbers continue to climb? Researchers conclude it is simply because Americans are drinking more. The statistics prove this conclusion:

  • Americans who drink at least once a month rose from 54.9% to 56.9%.
  • 51.9% of women reported drinking at least monthly in 2014, up from 47.9% in 2002.
  • Binge drinking by women is up to 17.4% from 15.7% in 2002.

All in all, binge drinking is the major culprit. People who drink the most are at the highest risk for alcohol-related death. According to past research by Cook, the top 10% of American drinkers consume close to 74 drinks a week on average. Drinking at this rate is linked to a range of health complications, including cirrhosis, cancer, brain damage, drunk driving and other accident fatalities.

For more moderate drinkers, the health effects of alcohol remain less clear. The research and data from moderate drinking has been all over the place. Some data suggests moderate alcohol consumption; around one-to-two drinks per day may actually be healthy.

However, there is a gray line when it comes to moderate to harmful drinking. A recent study revealed that when used alone, alcohol was the deadliest recreational substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. For this reason, many are urging public health officials to shift focus away from the dangers of drugs like pot and LSD and focus more on educating people about the dangers of drinking.

Alcohol is a dangerous substance that when used in excess, can cause serious health consequences.  However, since alcohol remains more accessible than any other drug, it increases the risk of abuse. Alcohol is a socially accepted drug and has played a role in our culture for so long that many do not even realize they have a problem until it is too late.

Alcoholism is a serious disease and if you feel your drinking is getting out of control, do not wait to be a statistic, get treatment today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

4 Hopes for Drug Policy Reform in 2016

4 Hopes for Drug Policy Reform in 2016

Author: Justin Mckibben

About this time in 2014 I wrote how many experts expected 2015 to be a huge year for Harm Reduction programs in America, and gave 3 examples of big changes in this class of addiction programs. Well 2015 did prove to present an extraordinary shift towards a health-based approach to drug abuse and addiction on both the federal and local level in drug policy.

We have witnessed the slow agonizing death of the failed War on Drugs that has fed off the stigma and corruption, while costing the country a trillion dollar price tag and had some pretty unsettling results including:

  • Millions of casualties on both sides of the law
  • A devastating public health problem
  • Largest incarcerated population in the world
  • Addiction rates as high as ever
  • Record-breaking overdose death rates

Thankfully we can now see the subtle changes that are great victories of 2015 including:

  • The largest number of states ever passing naloxone access laws
  • A push for justice with the Black Lives Matter movement
  • Historic Congressional deal to roll back mandatory minimum sentencing
  • Release of 6,000 nonviolent drug offenders from prisons

The big hope now is that since we have seen how Harm Reduction Programs and more compassionate treatment options for addicts are in our best interest maybe 2016 will bring with it even more life-saving reforms on drug policy in America. Here are 4 signs of drug policy progress in 2016.

  1. Ending Marijuana Prohibition?

2016 will absolutely be a pivotal year for the marijuana legalization movement growing all over the country. So far several states have approved some level of legalization legislation including:

  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Alaska

Numerous other states are considering similar legislation or ballot initiatives, including:

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Arizona
  • Vermont
  • Rhode Island
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts

Many suspect that if even just a few of these states legalize marijuana, it could be the tipping point for the rest of the country to follow.

The thing about marijuana legalization is that most advocates insist ending prohibition and creating more liberal drug policy is less about increasing access to marijuana and more about cutting back on the collateral consequences of criminalization like over-populated prisons.

Marijuana arrests account for more than half of all drug arrests in the United States and according to an ACLU study, 88% of those arrests were for possession only. The hope of many is that legalization will allow millions of people to avoid a jail cell or a label of stigma attached to a criminal record.

  1. United Nations Special Session on Drugs

In 1998, the United Nations called a special session on drug policy entitled, “A Drug Free World: We Can Do It!” This was when the general idea of addressing drug policy was increasingly harsher penalties for even simple possession, a philosophy that only exacerbated the drug issue in the late 80’s and 90’s.

In the 17 years since a lot has changed… and thanks to these archaic ideals, not much of this change was for the better.

The next round of this special session was originally scheduled for 2019, but leaders in countries that were especially ravaged by the War on Drugs put forth a petition to have the date moved up, including:

  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Guatemala

The petition co-sponsored by 95 countries, and has now gotten the session scheduled for April 2016 in New York City. Just in time if you ask me, considering America itself has been wrecked in recent years by the opiate epidemic and overdose death outbreaks.

Drug policy advocates around the world are holding planning sessions to ensure that the mistakes of the past two decades are not repeated.

  1. Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Programs

I want to start off with one area that has become a constant source of controversy- law enforcement. But instead of focusing on the ugly side, I want to celebrate the programs being created in law enforcement and police offices that are actually making incredible progress and saving lives.

One of the most encouraging drug policy reforms of 2016 that we can look forward to hopefully changing our world is called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). The LEAD program is designed to divert low-level drug and prostitution offenders from jail to social services where they can be connected to resources to help them reform and rejoin society including:

  • Housing
  • Career development
  • Drug treatment

Police departments in several areas including Seattle have already launched LEAD programs with promising results. Evaluations of the Seattle program have revealed:

  • Participants in LEAD are 58-87% less likely than non-participants to be re-incarcerated after joining the program
  • The annual criminal justice costs incurred by LEAD participants also dropped about $2,000, while non-participants costs rose by almost $6,000

Donnie Varnell, coordinator for an upcoming LEAD program in Fayetteville, North Carolina stated:

“These programs are designed to identify subjects who would be better served by treatment programs than by incarceration. We [law enforcement] have all dealt with particular subjects that due to their addictions are constantly being arrested for petty charges. By using one of these LEAD programs, these subjects have the chance to find treatment and resources that can break the cycle of arrest.”

In 2016, seven more cities will join LEAD, including:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Bangor, Maine
  • Camden, New Jersey
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Programs like this have created a new ideal of what it means to be an addict and how law enforcement can address these individuals and actually help them. In 2015 we saw revolutionary programs in Boston and other areas that were geared toward taking addicts who turned themselves in or got caught with drugs and giving them drug treatment instead of locking them up.

Again- compassion and shattering stigma can help us save lives and actually change them for the better. The old drug policies kept people sick and dying, hopefully now our police forces will be better equipped to improve the lives of people they protect and serve.

  1. Presidential Election

Then we get to the main stage when it comes to drug policy reform and take a look at what could arguable be THE MOST important event of 2016  concerning the future of drug policy reform- the 2016 presidential election.

The people are looking to see what kind of philosophy the new “Leader of the Free World” will have concerning drug policy and addiction treatment. The candidates for the next Commander and Chief have various positions on drug policy.

Some like Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders are in favor of letting states decide whether to legalize drugs.

Then on the opposite end of the spectrum candidates like Ben Carson and Jeb Bush don’t think the current War on Drugs is punitive enough (which personally sounds like neither one of them has been paying much attention to the reality of the opiate epidemic or the overdose death crisis in our country).

Others, such as Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, sit somewhere in between the liberal and the radical; these individuals want reform, but not too much reform.

Donald Trump… eh, I’m not even going to touch that one.

The deal is for 2016 the next President of the United States will hold considerable influence over whether or not the drug policy reforms of the last few years will continue to progress in productivity or be cut short of success. Luckily this particular element of drug policy reform is one that allows every person in the United States to directly influence the outcome. Probably a good thing since again, it is probably the most profound part of this change to take place this coming year.

Ladies and gentlemen- this coming November your vote may make a greater difference than you think in so many ways relating to all politics, including the way addiction and drug abuse is viewed and addressed in America.

2016 is going to be a big deal in a lot of ways. The tragic part is more people than ever aren’t going to see the New Year because of substance abuse and addiction. Hopefully we can all inspire change. Every day men and women from all over America find a solution to escaping addiction and changing their lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

HBO Documentary Captures Cape Cod’s Heroin Epidemic

HBO Documentary Captures Cape Cod's Heroin Epidemic

Author: Shernide Delva

A new HBO documentary focuses on Cape Cod’s heroin epidemic. In a recent interview, director and Oscar winner Steven Okazaki elaborated on the documentary which premiered on Monday.

Cape Cod, a town known more for its seafood, beaches and lighthouses than drug addiction, now has a huge heroin problem. Those affected most are middle-class white locals in their early twenties. If you were to follow the stigma of addiction, you never would have guessed a town like this would have such a major heroin problem.

As we know, the drug epidemic is affecting people in every part of the country, and an emphasis is being placed on the middle class. In the documentary Heroin: Cape Cod, USA, it explores the latest heroin epidemic in a wracking yet necessary way. At times gruesome, the documentary gives a two-way mirror perspective of how addicts are managing to live with their habit on a daily basis.

This is not the director’s first film magnifying heroin use. His 1999 HBO documentary Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street followed drug use in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. These users were mostly off the streets, scourging for drug just to maintain a normal state of being.

Furthermore, the document exemplifies how the greatest shift in drug addiction is the change of scenery. Heroin is not just a drug seen on the streets anymore. Recent data suggests the fastest growing group of heroin use is mostly middle-class white kids, 18 to 25 years old.

The Modern Day Heroin User

The main change in heroin users in this generation compared to previous ones is the shift in technology. Now, heroin users do not have to go to sketchy neighborhoods to get their fix. With the invention of smart phones, users can text their dealer and have the drugs dropped off right at their doorstep.

“The iPhone is also good for texting your dealer and getting the drugs delivered to you. You don’t have to go to the sketchy part of town,” Okazaki said.

However, other than the changes in technology, the kids in Cape Cod are the same as addicts anywhere. They steal, lie and cheat for cash to fuel their addiction.

“They do the same hustle for money—steal their mother’s jewelry, tell their father they need new tires for their car, steal stuff from Home Depot and return it for cash, work at strip clubs, go into prostitution, deal, whatever they have to do. The desperation is the same,” Okazaki continued.

The Lost Voices: Parents of Drug Addiction

One of the important areas this documentary tries to focus on is the parents who are affected by their children’s drug use. Okazaki stated that parents who have lost a child to an overdose have some of the strongest voices in activism.

In the documentary, the parents have a group, Parents Supporting Parents,  that meets every Monday on the Cape. When Okazaki came to film the documentary, there were no meeting schedules so he asked the mothers if they would be willing to have one for him to film.  Over 20 people came eager to talk.

Many of the children featured are very connected to their parents. Some live at home and others talk to their parents every day. The parents featured in the film either enabled their kids or work endlessly to find ways to keep their child sober.

“I was totally taken aback,” Okazaki said in an article. “These parents, they’ve been through it and they’re seeking support from each other and they’re tired of feeling uncomfortable around their neighbors. They were really welcoming and incredibly open.”

During the course of filming, little was done to interfere with what was happening. Staff carried the overdose antidote Nurcan in case of an overdose. In the end, two out of eight of the documentary participants overdosed and died which exemplifies how serious heroin drug use is right now. Many are not surviving. Okazaki says it was difficult at times to deal with this reality while filming and editing the documentary.

“It’s really painful. They were once alive and smiling and laughing. It’s heartbreaking. The two young women who overdosed and died were smart, caring, lovely young people. You never know who’s going to survive and get clean, or go on forever using or die.”

Overall, the overall message of the film is how easily obtainable heroin is and how something desperately needs to be done to prevent these tragedies from occurring again.

There is so much sadness and loss over drug use and as of late, the numbers continue to climb. Watch Heroin: Cape Cod, USA on HBO. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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