Category Archive: Drugs

AAA teen driving program

AAA Wants Teens To Make The AAA PROMise

With the arrival of prom and graduation season, the American Automobile Association (AAA) is promoting a program to help teens remain safe on the roads.  In conjunction with the program, a survey of students in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Wisconsin conducted by AAA showed some disturbing information. Among the data found;

  • 41% of teens report it is likely that they or their friends will be under the influence of drugs or alcohol sometime during prom or graduation season.
  • 22% of teens have ridden in a car with an impaired driver or driven impaired because they didn’t want to call their parents for a ride.

The program sponsored by AAA is called the AAA PROMise. In the larger metropolitan areas of FL, GA, TN, and WI, if teens can’t get home safely from their prom or graduation and they call their parents for a ride, the parents can then call AAA for a free tow home for the family vehicle. Read more: Make the AAA PROMise

Developing teen brains

Marijuana May Hurt Developing Teen Brains

The teen years are important for developing teen brains. Studies show IQ points and cognitive skills are lower for adults who used marijuana as a teen. Read more:

"black out in a can" energy-drink

Be Aware of “Black out in a can” or “Liquid Cocaine?”

Lately, there has been much attention given to a new version of alcoholic drinks that are gaining popularity. The specific brands cited are Four Loko, Joose, Max and Torque combine large does of alcohol with caffeine. These drinks are marketed to youth, with colorful packaging and flavors including grape, fruit punch, watermelon, and lemonade. Four Loko is said to contain the alcohol equivalent of up to five beers (12 percent alcohol) and the caffeine of one cup of coffee plus a can of Red Bull. The caffeine buzz delays the ability to feel the effect of the alcohol or monitor their body’s response. Before the drinker is aware, they have consumed several beers at once and are on a caffeine high, increasing the likelihood of alcohol poisoning. Because alcohol poisoning is so frequent after drinking these drinks, the term “black out in a can” has become a common nickname for these alcohol energy drinks.

These drinks first caught the attention of doctors, hospitals, police, and government officials as they began to warn the public of the dangers the drinks pose and tried to force changes in packaging, warnings and content. The containers look attractive and to the unknowing eye could easily mistake the beverage for an energy drink. The terms “liquid cocaine” or “cocaine in a can” are also used as slang for these drinks, because of the high amount of caffeine, taurine and guarana. The risk of caffeine intoxication is high and symptoms after consuming the drink include restlessness, increase in blood pressure, heart rate and heart palpitations. Emergency Room doctors report that patients are coming into hospitals drunk and also complaining that their hearts are pounding out of their chests.

But now, the alarm level has risen, as college and university campuses across the United States are banning the drinks as well. The University of Florida conducted a study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. The study found that of the patrons exiting bars, those who drank energy drinks mixed with alcohol were three times at risk of leaving a bar highly intoxicated and were four times more likely to intend to drive after drinking than bar patrons who drank alcohol only. “There’s a very common misconception that if you drink caffeine with an alcoholic beverage the stimulant effect of the caffeine counteracts the depressant effect of the alcohol and that is not true,” said study co-author Bruce Goldberger a professor and director of toxicology in the UF College of Medicine. “We know that caffeine aggravates the degree of intoxication, which can lead to risky behaviors.” ABC News interviewed Doctor Mary Claire O’Brien of Wake Forest University on the study she conducted on the effects of combining alcohol and caffeine. Her results showed that students who mix caffeine and alcohol are “twice as likely to be injured, require medical attention, ride with an intoxicated driver, and more than twice as likely to take advantage of someone sexually.”

Colleges are not the only ones to feel the effects. Nickie Gorce, Director of Prevention with EPIC Community Services, has seen a large increase in alcohol-related referrals to her agency. Many of the referrals are for youth and young adults under the legal drinking age of 21. “Their impulsive behavior after consuming these types of drinks would appear to be out of control, which is frequently the result when adolescents or young adults binge drink (5 or more drinks in rapid succession). The increased risk taking behavior such as driving under the influence is an unintended outcome when individuals consume alcohol energy drinks. In addition, the Blood Alcohol Content (B.A.C.) level after consuming just one of these beverages like Four Loko may be twice the legal limit.”

With both the alcohol and caffeine being diuretics, dehydration is another real risk leading to other health complications as well, including a terrible hangover. When the intoxication effects wear off, not only do you have a crash from the high doses of alcohol, there is also a caffeine crash that occurs with most people.

Several states, including Michigan, Washington, Utah, Oklahoma and New York have banned the sale of these drinks and some vendors are voluntarily removing them from the shelves. As the safety concerns mount, the Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing the products and has stated they want the drink in its current state to be removed from shop shelves by December 13.

Energy Drinks

The Effects of Energy Drinks and Driving

There are many common misconceptions about energy drinks. Since they are marketed as supplements (and often times sold in health food stores), many people assume they are healthy. Or at the very least they assume energy drinks are not unhealthy. However, energy drinks are more harmful than many people realize. The FDA regulates how much caffeine a company can put in its soft drinks. A 12 ounce soft drink may have no more than 71 mgs of caffeine. However, many energy drink makers have found a way around these restrictions. By marketing their products as supplements, instead of soft drinks they are able to put as much caffeine as they wish into their drinks. Some energy drinks on the market have over double the amount of caffeine the FDA allows in soft drinks.

Ingesting such high amounts of caffeine causes people to go into an altered state, known as caffeine intoxication. Many characteristics of caffeine intoxication are similar to the characteristics of alcohol intoxication. People experiencing caffeine intoxication experience twitching muscles, increased irritability, and slurred speech. Additionally, people who drink energy drinks often become more willing to take risks and are more likely to become distracted. It is a recipe for disaster when a distracted, irritable person who is likely to take risks gets behind the wheel of a car.

When a person uses energy drinks to compensate for missing a good night’s sleep it becomes far more dangerous. Caffeine cannot compensate for the mental and physical alertness that a person gets from a full night of sleep. For a short time caffeine may seemingly do the trick. The effects of the caffeine in energy drinks may help mask a driver’s fatigue for a short while. However, when the effects begin to wear off drivers become increasingly more fatigued and their reaction times and ability to concentrate suffer greatly. Many people describe a crashing effect and they become more acutely aware of their mental and physical fatigue. This feeling is commonly referred to as crashing, which can be likened to the hangover people have the day after a long night of drinking.

Instead of turning to caffeine drinks for artificial energy people preparing to go on a long drive should get a full night of sleep. Additionally, they should take frequent stretch breaks, stay hydrated and take power naps if needed to ensure they are mentally and physically alert on the road.

Read more driver safety tips and dangers related to energy drinks at National Safety Commissions Driver Alerts Blog.

Teens using alcohol

How to Deal with Underage Drinking: Tips for Parents

Restricting your teen’s access to alcohol is one of the most important things you can do for them as a parent. There are highly-publicized risks of fatal alcohol poisonings and devastating motor vehicle crashes due to drinking and driving, for example. But there are other, less-publicized risks that could be equally destructive to your teen’s health and well-being, such as increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy, violence and rape, and suicide.

Of course, underage alcohol use has consequences other than legal ramifications:

  • Early alcohol use, independent of other risk factors, strongly predicts the development of alcohol dependence. Of all people who ever meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence in their lifetime, nearly half do so by age 21 and two-thirds by age 25.
  • Due to differences between the adult brain and the brain of the maturing adolescent, many young drinkers:
    • Are able to consume much larger amounts of alcohol than adults before experiencing the negative consequences of drinking, such as drowsiness, lack of coordination, and withdrawal/hangover effects.
    • Are particularly sensitive to the positive effects of drinking, such as feeling more at ease in social situations; young people may drink more than adults because of these positive social experiences (NIAAA, 2009).
  • Recent evidence suggests adolescent drinking can inflict permanent damage on the developing brain (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2004).

To help your teen avoid the use of alcohol and its attendant problems, maintain an ongoing, open dialogue about underage drinking and the risks involved. Make sure she understands that underage drinking is never acceptable. The fact that she is at a party or it is a special occasion or that some parents might “look the other way” when their teenage children drink alcohol does not change the fact that underage drinking is illegal and very dangerous. If your teen is attending a party at a friend’s house, make sure her friends’ parents don’t intend to provide alcohol; this is illegal in every state. You might be surprised to discover that other parents plan to provide their teens and their friends with alcohol in a “safe” manner and location. Make sure your teen understands that other adults can’t give her permission to drink alcohol. An alternative is to talk to your teen about organizing a get-together at your own home.

If you and your teen decide to host a party, make a guest list with your teen. Limit the number of teens so you can be sure of adequate chaperonage. Be sure you have contact information on each teen’s parent. Make sure guests and their parents understand that if a teen leaves the party, he won’t be allowed to return and parents will be called. Make sure parents who won’t be chaperoning know the start and end times of the party and will prearrange transportation. Collect all keys so you can keep track of who is arriving and leaving. Keep coats and purses in an area that can be monitored. Speak to each person before he leaves; check for warning signs of impairment. If a guest arrives at the party already under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, keep him there while you call a parent to pick him up. If he leaves and someone is hurt or injured, you could be held responsible.

When your teen spends the night at a friend’s house or goes to a party, call the hosting parent to find out the details. Make sure the hosting parent shares your concerns about the availability of alcohol and that none will be permitted. Ask how much supervision will be provided. Volunteer to chaperone and provide transportation. Let your teen know that you will not approve any outing without sufficient notice so you can speak to the hosting parent first. If your teen will be riding anywhere, at any time, with a friend, make sure it is with someone whose parents do not permit the use of alcohol. Teens are at great risk when riding with other teens, even under the best of circumstances. Talk to your teen about a back-up plan in case something goes wrong.

When your teen is going out for a special event, have her make a record of the planned itinerary for the evening and make sure she agrees to inform you of any changes. Be alert to spontaneous changes in plans on the night of the event; your teen won’t have as much control over the situation if it takes place in an unfamiliar location and/or with people she doesn’t know well. In the excitement of the evening, she could end up in a risky situation before she realizes what is happening.

Create a code with your teen so he can signal for help without attracting the attention of friends. If you don’t know how to text, ask your teen to give you a few lessons; texting is a much easier way for you to communicate than via phone. When you arrive to pick up your teen, he can blame you for having to leave or you can give the excuse of a “family emergency.” Make an agreement that if you do have to pick him up, a discussion about the reason can be tabled until the next morning, when you and your teen are both calm and safe. Otherwise, your teen may avoid calling you for help because he doesn’t want you to know about the circumstances that required the ride home.

And, last but certainly not least, realize that your teen is vulnerable to making poor choices every day. Don’t let your guard down. Finding a balance between being too controlling and allowing too much freedom will require constant effort, but it is a worthwhile endeavor. Your teen’s health and happiness may depend on it.