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Should Parents Be Penalized for Giving Minors Alcohol?

Should Parents Be Penalized for Giving Minors Alcohol ?

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

Author: Shernide Delva

Growing up, I was not exactly popular when it came to the high school in-crowd. It’s okay; I got over it, I promise.  Nonetheless, I remember hearing about parents who were “totally cool” with having their teenager bring friends over to drink. Their ideology was, if they are going to do it anyway, might as well keep an eye on them, right?  Not exactly…

In fact, the state of Maryland has had enough of parents promoting underage drinking. Just recently, the state released a bill stating any parent caught giving alcohol to underage minors will face heavy fines, even jail time.

The Maryland Senate passed the bill unanimously in an effort to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.  The bill, titled Senate Bill 564, was introduced by Montgomery County Senator Brian Feldman as a response to a recently accident involving high school students, Alex Murk, and Calvin Li. The two teens were tragically killed in a car accident after they had been drinking at a party under parental supervision.

The bill, nicknamed Alex and Calvin’s law, now must pass through the Maryland’s House of Delegates. If passed, parents who host underage drinking parties and provide alcohol to minors will be fined double what was fined prior. The fine would increase from $2,500 to $5,000 maximum and jail time would be a consideration.

“Federal data shows that parents and other adult family members are a leading source of alcohol for U.S. teenagers,” said Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program and a registered Maryland lobbyist.

Erickson is a proponent of both Bill 564 and a similar House Bill that also calls for alcohol restrictions related to the fatal crash.

“At minimum, this legislation addresses the supply-side of underage drinking’s supply-and-demand paradigm,” said Erickson. “At maximum, this potentially lifesaving bill will serve as a deterrent to parents’ enabling of unlawful teen drinking and its too often life-changing consequences.”

A 2013 study conducted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that when it came to high school seniors:

  • 42% had consumed alcohol
  • 6% had binge drank
  • 7% had been a passenger in a car driven by someone who had been drinking

The statistics are very daunting when it comes to minors and the access they have to alcohol. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the second most likely group to give alcohol to minors is parents. The most common are non-family members who are of legal age.

Even with all these statistics, parents argue that they are giving alcohol to minors more as a preventative strategy, than as a way to promote irresponsible reckless behavior. After all, if the number one way underage minors gain access to alcohol is outside of the home, one could argue that you might as well try and control the drinking by keeping it in the home.

Do Parents Who Serve Alcohol at Home Raise Responsible Drinkers?

Parents teach their children how to walk, swim, and drive a car. However, should parents also teach their teen how to drink responsibly? It’s this question that results in some parents decided to allow teens to have alcohol under their supervision.

While it may seem like a great idea, the research says otherwise. In fact, a study reveals that teens who drink with adult supervision are actually more likely to develop problems with alcohol than children who are told not to touch the stuff until they are 21.

Be the Example.

Instead of letting children drink in the home, experts suggest that parents lead by example through encouraging moderation. Keep children away from excessive drinking in the home and special occasions. Project a healthy image. By learning how to exemplify healthy behavior, children will understand moderation early on and make better decisions in their own life.

While promoting drinking in the home may seem like a way to prevent risky drinking outside of the home, the truth is it causes more harm than good.  Parents’ approval of underage drinking sends the wrong message to teens. Send the right message. 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

Researchers Are Using Instagram to Monitor Underage Drinking?

Researchers Are Using Instagram to Monitor Underage Drinking?

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

Author: Shernide Delva

In the past few years, Instagram has soared in popularity. Now researchers are finding ways to utilize the popular app to monitor the drinking habits of teenagers.  Using photos and text from Instagram, researchers are able to expose patterns of underage drinking more cheaply and faster than conventional surveys. They also are able to gain information on new patterns of drinking such as what alcohol brands are favored among different demographic groups.

Researchers believe exposing these patterns can help promote effective underage drinking intervention. As we know, Instagram is extremely popular among teens. Large amount of information is readily available about this target population on Instagram. As Jiebo Luo, professor of computer science at the University of Rochester, and his colleagues describe in a new paper, underage drinkers “are willing to share their alcohol consumption experience” in social media.

Compared to standard surveys, researchers believe Instagram will be a more accurate method to monitor alcohol consumption. Often, teenagers are not honest when they respond to an administered survey about alcohol use. One example is the “Monitoring the Future” survey by the federal government. The accuracy of results is skewed because of the small size of the representative sample. Also, the answers may not be answered honestly by teens who are worried about divulging the truth.

How Instagram is Being Used

Although Instagram does not offer a way of searching users by age, the research team was able to target users that fit their profile by applying computer vision techniques.  Luo and his team have been pioneering techniques that teach computers how to extract information from the internet. They are able to use computers to analyze the profile faces of Instagram users and get sufficiently accurate guesses for their age, gender and race.

After the computer gathered a group of underage users to study, the researchers monitored drinking related activities via their Instagram photos by analyzing social media tags and monitoring the alcohol brands the users follow.

The study revealed that underage alcohol consumption, like with adults, happens on weekends and holidays and at the end of the day. The drinking is not limited to one specific gender. Both female and male teenagers were engaging in drinking at similar ratios.

However, when it came to alcohol brands, the results varied. Different genders followed different brands. Also, teenagers tend to drink certain brands of alcohol more commonly than adults. Researchers found that certain brands attracted younger audiences in social media. This information could be useful for people working to prevent underage drinking.

“There are several ways we can go about doing that,” said Luo. “We can keep government agencies or schools better informed and help them design interventions. We could also use social media to incorporate targeted intervention and to measure the effect of any intervention. And perhaps other things we haven’t thought about.”

The researchers hope that information like this is used in a positive way to address the problem of underage drinking. They are worried though that the information could be used by brands to target these underage drinkers. The next important step is to collaborate with people who are working to reduce underage drinking and collaborate with professions who are working on addressing other youth problems such as tobacco use, drugs, teen pregnancy, stress or depression.

Elizabeth Handley, clinical psychologist and research associate at the University’s Mount Hope Family Center had this to say about the study,

“This new method could be a useful complement to more traditional methods of measuring youth drinking. It could provide important new insights into the contexts of youth drinking and be a valuable tool for evaluating the effectiveness of school or community-based preventive interventions.”

Utilizing social media to prevent and tackle underage drinking could be an effective intervention tactic. How do you feel about it being used?

Underage drinking has been known to cause a variety of health implications in the long run. Let someone know if you are having a problem with abusing substances. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125

Childhood Brain Injuries Linked to Adult Alcohol Abuse in Women

brianinjuries

Author: Shernide Delva

Growing up, maybe you were athletic or maybe, like me, you were just plain clumsy. Either way, if you suffered a concussive bump on the head as a child, you could be at a higher risk to abuse alcohol as an adult. That’s right; a study just discovered the two are correlated. Recent research suggests that women who suffered a concussive bump in the head during childhood abused alcohol more as adults.

The research on mice found that females with a mild close-brain injury were more likely to misuse alcohol in adulthood and associate drinking with reward and pleasure. In the study, mice received a concussive head injury at 21 days, which is comparable to between 6 and 12 years old in human years.

Physiological tests suggested that the head injury was not related to changing how alcohol was processed. Instead, it changed how the female mice associated alcohol with pleasure. Research were motivated to find out exactly how female mice linked alcohol to potential award.

In the experiment, mice were placed in a box with visibly different patterns covering separate different sections of the floor. Over 10 days, researchers injected the mice with alcohol in specific sections of the box and with saline in other sections.

Then the researchers allowed the mice to walk back and forth between boxes. If they preferred alcohol, they would stay on the side of the box associated with alcohol consumption. Female mice who suffered brain injury spent 65 percent of their time in the box linked to alcohol. The researchers concluded that there must be something about the way reward and pleasure is processed in the mice regarding alcohol.

The Effects of Enrichment

The scientists wanted to see if enrichment would reverse the effect of alcohol on the female mice. In studying the effects of enrichment, the colleagues put the female mice that were more attracted to alcohol in cages with running wheels, toys, and tunnels providing a new experience every week for six weeks. When the mice were tested in six weeks for alcohol intake, the enriched environment has completely blocked the female’s increase in drinking. It also reduced damage in their brains by about 40 percent.

They found out the effect of alcohol abuse was reversible as long as the female mice began living in a more enriched environment.  The environment even reduced degeneration of parts of the axons, and nerve cell body of the brain.

The enriched environment was to mimic follow-up care after a human brain industry, explained by lead author of the study Zachary Well:

“The best therapy for a childhood brain injury is everybody getting great medical care and rehabilitation, regardless of socioeconomic status,” he said. “People with juvenile head injuries are already at risk for memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor learning and reduced impulse control. If we can prevent alcohol misuse, chances for a good life are much better.”

So the question still is whether it’s possible that brain injury you experienced during you juvenile years would make you more prone to heavy drinking later on. Alcohol is already associated with traumatic brain injury. More than a third of concussion patients are intoxicated at the time of their injuries

Weil states that his researchers hope to determine more about whether those prone to heavy drinking are then prone to traumatic brain injury as an adult:

“There is some evidence that if you have a brain injury, you’re more likely to drink. But nobody has looked at the time of the injury and nobody has looked at sex differences.”

The results for females are particularly concerning because the two populations increasing in traumatic brain injury are elderly adults and young women. These are not just athletes, Weil said, there is more research needed to understand why the injury effects are different between men and women.

Until more research is done, we won’t have any solid answers of whether or not brain injury we experience as a child makes us more prone to alcohol problems.  Regardless, if you are abusing alcohol, it’s time to take control on your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Why More Than a Third of Teenagers are Drinking Alone

Why More Than a Third of Teenagers are Drinking Alone

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

Author: Shernide Delva

A survey revealed that over a third of teenagers admit to drinking alone. As a response, researchers delved into the reasons why solitary drinking is increasing in popularity among teenagers. The researchers discovered that teenage alcohol consumption may be due to the inability to control impulses and negative emotions.

Researchers from two U.S. universities, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, wanted to know why teenagers were falling into the pattern of solitary drinking. They investigated and from their results, they concluded that drinking alone results in an increase in the presence of negative emotions.

Teen Solitary Alcohol Consumption

Typically drinking is motivated by social factors such as a desire to fit in with peers, be more social and increase confidence. Nevertheless, many people opt to drink alone. Solitary drinking is not always bad though. Millions of Americans drink one or two glasses a day on their own without suffering any consequences. However, overtime drinking alone may lead to an increase in alcohol consumption, and could contribute to alcohol abuse.

The team at Carnegie Mellon University found that drinking alone is not that uncommon among U.S. teenagers. In a study published in 2013 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, researchers found that over a third (38.8 percent) of all teenagers drink by themselves at least some of the time.

Drinking alone is shown to increase the chances that an adolescent will develop alcohol use disorder as adults.  Teenagers who drink alone often deal with negative emotionality which is defined as the inability to balance your negative emotions with positive ones. Negative emotions are feelings that tend to destabilize a sense of mental and psychological well-being.

Common examples of negative emotions are:

  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Jealousy and envy

Negative emotions can counterbalance with positive emotional states such as:

  • Joy
  • Love
  • Empathy
  • Gratitude

However, some people have such a large number of negative emotions that they find it challenging to balance out with their small number of positive emotions.  Psychologists often refer to a long pattern of negative moods and feels as negative emotionality. People affected by negative emotionality may experience damaging effects to their well-being such as symptoms of depression, anxiety and a poor ability to adapt to stressful situations.

Impact on Teenagers

Solitary drinking has an even more damaging effect on teenagers as they are still growing into their own. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh used data gathered from 161 teen alcohol consumers to help determined how negative emotionality affects alcohol consumption in a solitary setting.

All the participants took a screening test called Lifetime Drinking History designed to identify their typical pattern of alcohol use. Each participant also took several screens to identify their personality straits and level of negative emotionality. These surveys included the Constructive Teaching Questionnaire and the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire.

In the end, the researchers concluded that the chances a teenager will drink alcohol alone depends on their level of negative emotionality. They also found that the ability to resist consuming alcohol while in a negative emotional state directly correlates as a determining factor in teens’ solitary drinking.

Essentially, teenagers able to control their impulses had a lower chance of participating in solitary drinking while in a negative state of mind. Teenagers who are able to control their impulsive behaviors experience a 79 percent reductive in their chances of becoming alcohol consumers while in a negative emotional state.

So there you have it: teenagers who are more negative and more impulsive are the ones who tend to engage in solitary drinking.  And like most habits, this type of negative behavior and interaction with oneself usually progresses into adulthood.

If you find that you have trouble managing your negative emotions, it might be time to seek counseling to understand how to manage your emotions in a healthy state. Don’t wait until it’s too late and you develop unhealthy ways of coping with your emotions like falling into a negative cycle of addictive behavior.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125  

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