Your Teen

4 Dangerous Teen Trends Parents Should Know

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When kids get together they not only share the latest gossip or fashions, but also dangerous trends.

Children in middle school and high school are sharing videos of kids their age doing incredibly perilous activities and many times, their parents don’t have a clue.

Today, parents need to know what kinds of influences their kids are being inundated with. The types of trends that are gaining in popularity aren’t necessarily the ones that your child will easily divulge.

As the school year reconnects students and introduces new peers into the mix, pre-teens and teens-in search of recognition-are either doing or considering doing some seriously stupid things.

We know that kids in this age group act out impulsively with little thought given to consequences. There’s a scientific reason for this type of behavior.

Brain scans reveal that the frontal lobes, used in making critical and objective decisions, do not mature until about age 25.

Since the brain is still developing, choices teens make can be strongly influenced by peer pressure, a need to stand out among others and intense emotional feelings. A pre-teen or adolescent’s decision making may become overwhelmed by their immature circuitry.

While you may think your child would never do something truly dangerous, he or she may surprise you.

Here are four popular trends that parents need to be aware of:

The Fire Challenge: This one is particularly dangerous. Teens are taking the “fire challenge.” They are dousing themselves in flammable liquids, lighting it and — in theory —extinguishing it before being seriously injured, while recording the act and then sharing the video on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Yes, our kids are recording themselves being engulfed in flames, flailing and screaming in pain. 

There are thousands of the videos circulating and injuries have included severe burns and hospitalization. Officials around the country, along with the American Burn Association, are asking parents to warn their child about the game.

Many parents just can’t believe their child would actually do something like this, but even “good” kids are taking the challenge. Be sure and talk to your child about these types of videos and persuade them not to share or promote them with friends.

Synthetic Pot or Spice: Also called “Scooby snacks,” “K2,” or any of half a dozen other names, teens might consider this an “alternative” to pot, but it’s dangerously more potent. These “synthetic cannabinoids” consist of dozens of chemicals manufactured in China, Eastern Europe and American labs.

The drug looks like potpourri or lawn clippings. The pieces have been sprayed or soaked with a solution of designer chemicals.

 Because of the popularity of these drugs, there has been an explosion of ER visits related to Spice or K2 over the past few years. There’s been a reported death in California of a 19 year –old that took one after he took just one hit of Spice. So if you hear your kids talking about it, know that despite the name, the only thing that is being cooked here is your teen’s brain.  

Dirty Sprite: Although this may sound like a soda that’s got dirt on it- it’s much more insidious than that. When you hear a reference to “Dirty Sprite,”. Kids are talking about the latest teen party drink. It’s also called “Drank” or “”Lean.” It’s a combination of Sprite, candy (usually Jolly Ranchers) and prescription drugs or codeine cough syrup.

There are YouTube videos of teens creating the concoction, and even sweatshirts with the recipe printed on it.

Experts warn that Dirty Sprite can be addictive and tell parents that it’s best to keep prescription meds locked up, as well as discarding ones that have expired. If you think that it won’t help to talk to your kids about prescription drug abuse, you’re wrong. Children who learn a lot about the risks of drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use them, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Texting and Walking or Driving:  Every year a new batch of teens is behind the wheel, especially once school begins.  Never stop reminding your teen of the dangers of texting and driving. They may roll their eyes or give you the typical “I get it mom (dad)” response, but repeated warnings stick in the mind. A recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that among teens, 25 percent reported responding to a text message at least once every time they drive, and 20 percent admitted to holding multi-message conversations.

Since videos are one way that other dangerous trends are spread, you can share more valuable videos by showing your teen stories that show the outcomes of teens’ texting and driving. They act as a third-party negotiator that makes the point clearly.

But perhaps the best type of parental influence is to just be a good role model. Sadly, adults are the biggest offenders of texting and driving. The “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude never brings about the desired results.

It's not just driving, either. Pedestrian injuries among 16 to 19-year olds have been increasing and the death rate among older teens is at least twice that of younger kids, according to SafeKids.com. It's unclear how many of those are because of mobile devices, but it's worth reminding your teen, "eyes up while walking." 

These are only four of the most dangerous trends this year. Kids are often too afraid to say no to their peers. As parents, it’s our job to teach them how and to report what they are seeing and hearing from other teens.

Research, open communication and reminders are essential to helping your child understand that these are not the sort of activities that will bring a brighter, happier or healthier future.

Source: Kavita Varma-White, http://www.today.com/parents/fire-challenge-spice-4-things-parents-should-get-clue-about-2D80183586

Your Teen

“Sexting” and Teen’s Sexual Activity

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Sexting is texting accompanied with sexual pictures of your self to someone else. They can be nude photos, pictures of genitalia only or provocative poses. A new study looks at teens and sexting to see if teens that participate in sexting are more likely to become sexually active. A kind of which comes first scenario- sexual activity then sexting, or sexting then sexual activity?

Earlier research has shown teens that sext with explicit images are more likely to be sexually active than kids that don’t sext.

But which comes first?

The new findings suggest that, at least for some kids, the sexting comes first – the activity later. It’s being referred to as the current form of “getting to first base.”

“This behavior isn’t always new, it’s just a new medium,” said Jeff Temple, an associate professor and psychologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and the study’s author. “But it’s not safe because it can be shared.”

The study’s findings come from a 2012 study covering a 6-year period. Almost 1,000 teens in Texas answered anonymous surveys detailing their history of sexting, sexual activity and other behaviors.

Temple and his postdoctoral fellow, Hye Jeong Choi, then looked at data from years two and three of the surveys to determine if sexting led to risky behaviors or if risky behaviors came first.

“Sexting preceded sexual behavior in many cases,” Temple said. “The theory behind that is sexting may act as a gateway or prelude to sexual behaviors or increases the acceptance of going to the next level.”

The study also found that among the teens having sex, most weren’t engaging in risky sexual behaviors.

Temple, who spends much of his time working with teens in local high schools and middle schools to discuss issues related to sexuality said this news shouldn’t send parents locking their kids away. In fact, he welcomed the findings, as a “call to arms to talk to your kid about sexual health or behavior,” he said. “This is kind of good news that sexting comes first. So if I catch them sexting, then maybe I have an opportunity to talk to them.”

While sexting is certainly a concern for parents, the subject itself is something that teens and parents should spend time discussing. The more trust worthy information teens have on the subject of sex, the better decisions they are able to make and the better they are at protecting their mental and physical health.

Source: Amy Joyce, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/10/06/sexting-is-the-new-first-base-yes-maybe-even-your-child/

Your Teen

Are Energy Drinks Rotting Your Teen’s Teeth?

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A lot of parents know that too many high sugar sodas are not only hazardous to their child’s waistline and health, but they can also cause cavities. But what about the energy drinks teens are gulping down? A new study suggests those drinks could be stripping the enamel right off their teeth.   

In a study published in the May/June issue of General Dentistry, researchers have looked for the first time at the effects of energy drinks on teeth. It turns out there's often a lot of citric acid in the drinks.

To give drinks a long shelf life and to enhance flavors, preservatives are added. It’s the preservatives that are very good at stripping the enamel off of teeth.

Dentists are especially worried about teens. 30 to 50 percent are now drinking energy and sports drinks and losing enamel. Once it's gone, teeth are more prone to cavities and more likely to decay.

"We are well aware of the damage that sugar does in the mouth and in the whole body — the role it can play in obesity, diabetes, etc," says Poonam Jain, an associate professor in the School of Dental Medicine at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and the lead author of the study. "But the average consumer is not very well aware that acid does all kinds of damage, too."

To measure just how energy and sports drinks affect teeth, the researchers looked at the fluoride levels, pH, and something called "titratable acidity" of 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks, including Gatorade and Red Bull.

The researchers then measured how much enamel the drinks took off teeth, dousing sliced-up molars in a petri dish with the beverages for 15 minutes, followed by artificial saliva for two hours. This was repeated four times a day for five days.

The researchers found that teeth lost enamel with exposure to both kinds of drinks, but energy drinks took off a lot more enamel than sports drinks.

Drink labels list citric acid in the ingredients, but they don’t have to show the precise amount.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) was quick to respond to the study.  

"It is irresponsible to blame foods, beverages or any other single factor for enamel loss and tooth decay (dental caries or cavities)," the ABA said in a statement responding to Jain's paper. "Science tells us that individual susceptibility to both dental cavities and tooth erosion varies depending on a person's dental hygiene behavior, lifestyle, total diet and genetic make-up."

"This study was not conducted on humans and in no way mirrors reality," the ABA noted in its statement. "People do not keep any kind of liquid in their mouths for 15 minute intervals over five day periods. Thus, the findings of this paper simply cannot be applied to real life situations."

Jain is concerned about health effects beyond cavities. She says consuming a lot of citric acid can lead to loss of bone mass and kidney stones. "This has become a big concern because people are drinking more of these drinks and less milk," she says.

Dentist Dr. Jennifer Bone, spokesperson for Academy of General Dentistry, the organization that publishes the journal, said in the statement that teens and adults should curb their intake of these types of drinks. If they're going to drink one anyway, she recommends they chew sugar-free gum or rinse their mouth with water after drinking the beverage.

"Both tactics increase saliva flow, which naturally helps to return the acidity levels in the mouth to normal," Bone said.

Sources: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/health/main204.shtml?tag=hdr;cnav

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health

Your Teen

Is Your Teen’s Aching Knee More Than “Growing Pains”?

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Many kids experience what is commonly referred to as “growing pains” as they get older.  Children may experience aches and pains as young as 3 to 4 years old, then again around 8 to 12 years of age.

When a teen’s legs and knees hurt, he or she may also be told that they are probably suffering from growing pains and that they will grow out of it. 

There are times when a youngster or teen has simply overdone it by running and / or jumping too much. Like anyone else, if they haven’t used those muscles enough – they’ll be sore.

However, consistent knee pain is something else.

A Danish study says that if a teen’s knee pain persists, it could become a chronic condition affecting their quality of life.

"We can see from the study that one in three young people between the ages of 12 and 19 experience problems with pain in their knees," said Michael Skovdal Rathleff, a physiotherapist from Aarhus University. "Seven percent of the adolescents experience daily knee pain in the front of the knee. More than half still have problems after two years, so it is not something they necessarily grow out of."

The study involving 3,000 teens revealed knee pain is a more significant problem than previously thought.

"If knee pain is not treated there is a high risk of the pain becoming chronic. And this clearly has a big consequence for the individual's everyday life and opportunities," Rathleff noted in a university news release. "Our findings show that these adolescents have as much pain symptoms and reduced quality of life as adolescents on a waiting list for a cruciate knee ligament reconstruction, or as a 75-year-old six months after receiving a new knee."

Other studies have shown that about 25 percent of patients who've undergone a knee replacement because of osteoarthritis of the kneecap also had knee pain since they were teenagers. Osteoarthritis of the kneecap, the researchers concluded, may sometimes begin early in life. They added, however, that earlier treatment and proper training could help.

According to a study published in BMC Pediatrics, pain resolves in about half of the young people with knee pain when they get the right physical therapy. Unfortunately, many kids may not get the therapy they need soon enough.

"It is worrying that the pain only disappears in the case of half of the young people who actually do the training," said Rathleff. "The indications are that we should start the treatment somewhat earlier where it is easier to cure the pain."

Do all teens with a bad knee need physical therapy? Not necessarily, it all depends on the child's circumstances, Rathleff noted.

If your child has knee pain that doesn’t seem to go away or consistently comes and goes, you might want to talk with your family doctor or pediatrician about physical therapy and see if he or she recommends it. The benefits could be life changing for your active teen. 

Source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/teen-growing-pains-may-persist-for-years-690210.html

Your Teen

Do Expensive Football Helmets Prevent Concussions?

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These days, parents, student athletes and coaches are much more aware of the long-term medical problems that concussions can cause. Fortunately, many efforts are being made to protect kids from head injuries.

Sports equipment companies have jumped on the bandwagon and have improved the protection their helmets and pads offer. However, some of these newer products, like football helmets, are quite expensive. Parents want to know if these more expensive football helmets actually offer more protection. According to a new study, just because a  helmet may be heavier and more expensive, it will not lower a player’s risk of concussion.

Why is that? It could be because a helmet doesn’t keep the brain from moving around in the skull. It may offer better protection against a skull fracture, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with concussion.

A study of more than 1,300 players on football teams at 36 Wisconsin high schools found that players wearing older helmets received just as much protection from concussion as players with flashy new models, said study author Timothy McGuine, senior scientist and research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin Health Sports Medicine Center in Madison.

"The helmet technology is advanced as it can be. They've done a wonderful job. We don't have skull fractures in football," he said. "But I don't know how much padding can be put in to prevent the brain from sloshing around inside the cranium."

This research, to be presented Saturday at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Chicago, comes at a time when some sports equipment manufacturers are marketing expensive football helmets amid claims that they offer better protection against concussion than earlier models, McGuine said.

"They're all being touted as the next best thing to prevent sports injuries, and it really puts the squeeze on athletic directors and coaches," he said. "Some companies are going right to the parents and saying, 'We know it's too expensive for the school to pay for it, so you should pay for this helmet to protect your child.'"

Here’s how the study worked. Licensed athletic trainers at each of the high schools taking part in the study, kept thorough records during the 2012 football season. All safety equipment used by the athletes was noted. Data was also recorded on the numbers of games and practices each player participated in and the number of sports-related concussions.

The players wore helmets manufactured by Riddell, Schutt and Xenith.

Out of 1,332 players tracked, 115 sustained a concussion during the season, McGuine reported.

Researchers found no difference in the rate of concussion by either the type of helmet worn or the helmet's age.

"We found the actual incidence of concussion was not more for players wearing the newest helmets versus wearing helmets 3, 4 or 5 years old," McGuine said. "We also looked at [concussion] severity by helmet model. No difference there, either."

Another interesting fact also popped up during the study. Players who wore a specialized or custom-fitted mouth guard actually had a higher risk of suffering a concussion than players who wore the generic mouth-guard provided by the school.

The American Medical Society of Sports Medicine released a position statement in January that said hard sports helmets can prevent impact injuries such as lacerations or fractures but have not been shown to reduce the incidence or severity of concussions, said Dr. Anne-Felicia Ambrose, medical director of the traumatic brain injury unit in the department of rehabilitation medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

"In terms of equipment, there really isn't that much more we can do," Ambrose said. "Where we have a lot of potential for reducing concussion is the way the game is played."

Some experts believe that changing how games are played is more likely to prevent concussions than equipment.

For example, limiting contact between players outside of competition is one means of reducing concussions, she said. "A lot more concussions occur during practice, when coaches cannot have their eyes on everyone on the field," Ambrose said. "The chance of impact is increased."

McGuine agreed. "I don't see any reason for kids to have full tackle on practice days," he said.

Since football players are going to be wearing helmets for other safety reasons, McGuine suggests that coaches and trainers make sure that each player’s helmet is properly fitted and checked weekly.

How many high school football players receive a concussion every year during play or practice? McGuine says about 40,000. That’s a lot of concussions.

Parents want to make sure that their child is as safe as can reasonably be expected, so they are more vulnerable to high-pressure sales pitches that tout the safety of certain products. According to this study, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean safer, especially where concussions are concerned. 

The research presented at the meetings mentioned above, are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: Dennis Thompson, http://consumer.healthday.com

Your Teen

Chronic Pain in Teenagers on the Rise

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If your teenager tells you that he or she has a stomach ache it might be more than just an excuse to get out of doing something you’ve asked them to do.  A new study looks at chronic pain in teenagers and finds that hospital admissions for these youngsters has risen nine-fold between the years 2004 and 2010.

Researchers reported that 23% of the cases analyzed showed that the most common chronic pain teenagers experience is in the abdomen.

Other conditions included reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (when an injury – such as an ankle sprain - does not heal properly and sends constant pain signals to the brain), chronic pain syndrome (pain lasting more than 3 months), headaches, migraines, limb pain and back pain.

"We are seeing a lot more young patients with chronic pain syndrome" said study author Dr. Thomas A. Coffelt, assistant professor of clinical medicine and pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. "It is quite alarming to us."

For the study, researchers gathered information on 3,752 children admitted to 43 pediatric hospitals throughout the United States.

Teenage girls led the demographics with the average age being fourteen. The average hospital stay was 7.32 days.

The majority of hospitalized kids received additional diagnoses. The average was 10 diagnoses per child.  Children were also diagnosed with conditions such as abdominal pain, mood disorders, constipation and nausea. Altogether, 65 percent of patients received a gastrointestinal diagnosis, and 44 percent received a psychiatric diagnosis.

The results also showed that even after being hospitalized, many youngsters continued to have pain. Coffelt said that 12.5 percent of the children were back in the hospital within a year — 9.9 percent were readmitted at least once, and 2.6 percent more than once.

So what’s causing all this chronic pain? Experts aren’t really sure.  Coffelt says some secondary conditions could be playing a role. Conditions such as depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. A small percent of the young pain sufferers (2.1%) report physical, emotional and sexual abuse or assault.

"We can't identify the underlying [cause] of pain, which is why we struggle with it," Coffelt said. "We need to find a better way to treat these patients."

Gary A. Walco, director of pain medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital, who was not involved in the study, says chronic pain may not be as well understood by the medical community as it should be and that the condition is quite common in many children. 

"The chronic pain field now recognizes that a good deal of chronic pain has to do with a change in how the brain and spinal cord are processing the stimuli coming into the body," Walco said. "This study shines a light on how poorly understood and mismanaged recurrent and chronic pain syndromes are."  

The multiple diagnostic procedures and readmissions cited in the study underscore the need to do better when it comes to dealing with pain in youngsters, Walco said. Instead of treating chronic pain as an acute problem, physicians need to focus on rehabilitation, he explained.

And "rather than continuing to see pain as a symptom of another illness, parents need to recognize pain is the illness, and seek out a pain expert for treatment," Walco said.

If your child suffers from chronic pain, you can check with your local hospitals to see if there is access to a pediatric pain management specialist.

Living with chronic pain can cause kids to miss out on a lot of the joys of childhood. These children tend to drop out of sports programs and other extracurricular activities and sleep poorly. It also affects the rest of the family oftentimes adding extra tension and stress to the household.

Pain is complex and individualized. Pediatric pain is even more complex and difficult to manage, but it should not be ignored.

The study appeared in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics.

Source: http://www.livescience.com/37868-chronic-pain-children-teens.html

Your Teen

New Guidelines for Treating Acne

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I recently ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in about 5 years. We were catching up on each other’s lives when her teenage son joined us. The last time I saw “John” he was about 11 years old and full of pre-teen energy and curiosity. This time however, he was quiet and kept his head down when he said hello. When he finally looked up, I saw why he had been avoiding full-face eye contact. “John” had a pretty severe case of acne. Not a few pimples, but entire areas on his face that were red and dotted with large pustules and cysts.  It looked painful.

Typically, acne isn’t a serious medical condition. It comes and goes throughout life and is more of an annoyance than anything else. For some though, acne can cause emotional distress and lead to scarring of the skin and psyche.

Fortunately, there are many over-the-counter (OTC) medications that when combined with a consistent face cleaning routine, keep breakouts to a minimum.

But for some people, teens in particular, acne can progress to the point where OTC medications don’t control the problem. Pediatricians are often called upon to help teens come up with a plan of treatment. 

There is a range of medications that can clear up even severe cases of acne, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Writing in the May issue of its journal Pediatrics, the group throws its support behind new guidelines from the American Acne and Rosacea Society that detail how to treat acne in children and teens of all ages.

That "all ages" part is important because acne is becoming more and more common in pre-teens, too, said Dr. Lawrence Eichenfield, the lead author of the AAP report. One study of 9- and 10-year-old girls found that more than three-quarters had pimples.

A possible reason for why kids are experiencing breakouts at a younger age is that, on an average, boys and girls are starting puberty earlier than in past generations says Eichenfield.

According to the AAP, milder cases of acne can be managed with OTC soaps, washes, lotions or gels containing benzoyl peroxide.  Another common ingredient used to battle acne is salicylic acid. Department stores now have sections of aisles filled with these types of products making them easy to find.

But what if the OTC medications do not help clear up your teen’s acne? The AAP recommends going to the next step of trying a topical retinoid. Retin-A, Avita and Differin are the most commonly prescribed treatments. They are vitamin A derivatives and work by speeding up skin cell turnover, which helps unclog pores.

The main side effects of all the topical treatments are skin irritation and dryness, the AAP said.

If the acne is considered moderate to severe and other treatments have failed to work, the next step may be oral antibiotics. When pores become clogged with oil and skin cells, bacteria can grow in the pore and cause inflammation. Antibiotics help by killing bacteria and soothing inflammation.

But, Eichenfield said, "it's important to use antibiotics appropriately."

Antibiotics can have their own set of problems and should be used with caution. The overuse of antibiotics has made some acne causing bacteria more resistant. Other side effects can be stomach upset, dizziness and, in girls - yeast infections.

When all else fails and acne is severe, the prescription drug isotretinoin may be an option. Brand names include Roaccutane (formerly known as Accutane) and Claravis.

The drug is very effective, but it can cause birth defects, so girls and women have to use birth control and get regular pregnancy tests if they go on the medication. Isotretinoin also has been linked to inflammatory bowel disease, depression and suicidal thoughts in some users, although it's not clear the drug is to blame, the AAP said. (Severe acne itself can cause depression and suicidal thoughts, for example.) Other side effects can include sun-sensitivity, dry eyes, mouth, lips nose and skin as well as itching, nosebleeds and muscle aches.

Why do we get acne?

Acne occurs when hair follicles become plugged with oil secretions, dead skin cells and sometimes bacteria. The most common areas on the body where acne erupts are the face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. It takes time for acne lesions to heal and quite often another breakout will appear as one is finally clearing up.

Hormones and certain medications can play a role in triggering acne. Whether diet is a factor is still up for debate. "The idea that food plays a role became relegated to myth," Eichenfield said. But recently, he added, some researchers have been revisiting the issue. There is some evidence that a sugary diet may promote acne, for example. But for now, it's not clear whether any diet changes will actually help keep kids' skin clear, Eichenfield said.

Stress may not cause acne but it can aggravate it.

Keeping skin pores open and unclogged is the key ingredient to preventing acne. While it may seems that scrubbing your face, using astringents and drying masks would help do that, they aren’t generally recommended. Too much washing and scrubbing can irritate the skin.

It's best to wash your face gently twice a day, with a soap-free pH-balanced cleanser, the AAP said. Facial toners -- which commonly come in pre-packaged acne regimens -- can help clear away oil. But the group suggested going easy on toners, since they can irritate the skin.

One myth that seems to never go away is that tanning and more time in the sun is good for acne. A sunburned face may look better to you because your whole face is red instead of just certain areas. Too much sun can actually make acne worse for some people. It also ages your skin and can cause skin cancer. Certain medications (including some for acne treatment) can make your skin very sensitive to the sun’s rays. Always use a “face-friendly” sunscreen that doesn’t clog the pores.

I really felt bad for my friend’s son when I saw how miserable he was. To me he’s still handsome and has a bright and interesting future ahead of him. I’m not so sure that he thinks that, at least not until his acne is under control.

The bottom line, Eichenfield says, is that many treatment options are available. "There's no reason that children have to live with acne that is severe and troubling to them.”

Sources: Amy Norton, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/news/20130506/pediatricians-endorse-new-acne-treatment-guidelines

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acne/DS00169

 

Your Teen

Teen Pot Use May Lower IQ in the Future

2.00 to read

Teens and pre-teens may be puffing on cigarettes less, but they are inhaling pot a lot more. Adolescent marijuana use has increased in the last decade and that’s not good according to a new study that suggests teens that smoke pot may suffer a considerable decline in IQ that lasts into adulthood.

In a New Zealand study, more than 1,000 adolescents who began smoking marijuana before age 18, showed an 8 point drop in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38. The average IQ is 100 points. A drop of eight points represents a fall from the 50th percentile to the 29th percentile in terms of intelligence.

As a part of the study, IQ tests were performed at age 7,9,11 and 13 – most likely before any marijuana use – then again at age 38. The decline in IQ was seen only in the participants who began using marijuana regularly before the age of 18.

Family members and close friends were also asked to complete questionnaires about the 38 year-olds. The questions pertained to any trouble they might have noticed about the participant’s ability to stay focused, any memory loss or the ability to function socially.

The eight-point drop was noted in the subjects that were habitual users – smoking marijuana at least four days per week. People who started smoking in adolescence but smoked less often still had a hit in their IQ’s, but it was less pronounced than the group that used it early and persistently.

On the other hand, kids who never smoked marijuana actually gained one IQ point on average.

Madeline Meier, lead researcher and a post-doctoral associate at Duke University, said that persistent use of marijuana in adolescence appeared to blunt intelligence, attention and memory. More persistent marijuana use was associated with greater cognitive decline.

“Collectively, these findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects,” Meier writes in the study.

Adverse effects and some neurological effects persisted into adulthood for the children who smoked pot on a regular basis before the age of 18. 

Why does marijuana use effect adolescents more than adults? Experts in child development said the reasons could have to do with a substance called myelin. Myelin can be thought of as a kind of insulation for nerve cells in the brain that also helps speed brain signals along — and in adolescent brains, the protective coating it forms is not yet complete.

“Frontal lobe myelination is not fully completed until age 25 years or so, and the pre-myelinated brain is more susceptible to damage from neurotoxins,” says Dr. Richard Wahl, director of adolescent Medicine at the University of Arizona. “Cannabis, most likely, is a neurotoxin in high and continuous doses.”

One of the major difficulties in getting the message across to teens that smoking pot can be detrimental to their long-term health is their attitude. Many teens believe that smoking cannabis may be illegal, but it’s not dangerous.

“Increasing efforts should be directed toward delaying the onset of cannabis use by young people,” writes Meier, “particularly given the recent trend of younger ages of cannabis-use initiation in the United States and evidence that fewer adolescents believe that cannabis use is associated with serious health risk.”

“The findings provide evidence for the actual — rather than ideological and legal — basis for concerns regarding cannabis use,” said Dessa Bergen-Cico, a assistant professor of public health, food studies and nutrition at Syracuse University.  “These findings reinforce recommendations on the importance of primary prevention, evidence based drug education and policy efforts targeting not only adolescents, but elementary age children before they start.”

Sources: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/08/27/teenage-marijuana-use-may-hurt-future-iq/

http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20120827/pot-use-teen-years-lower-iq

Your Teen

AAP Supports Condoms for Teens

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While teens should be encouraged to abstain from sex, not all adolescents will follow that advise.  The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) would like to see free or low-cost condoms made available for teenagers, along with sex education programs, in schools.

Research has shown that easy accessibility to condoms and sex-ed classes does not increase sexual activity in teens, but there is still resistance by some to providing teens those options, said researchers. 

"I think one of the main issues is the idea that if you provide condoms and make them accessible, kids will be more likely to have sex. But really, that's not the case," Amy Bleakley said.

"Getting over the perception that giving condoms out will make kids have sex is a real barrier for parents and school administrators," she told Reuters Health.

Bleakley studies teen sexual behavior and reproductive health at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia but wasn't part of the AAP committee.

Bleakley also noted that there are some studies that show that when teens have access to condoms and comprehensive sex education classes, those teens actually wait longer to start having sex than peers who don’t.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen pregnancies are down in the U.S. In 2011, there were 31 births for every 1,000 U.S. women aged 15 to 19. In 2012, there were 29 births per 1,000 teens.

While the decrease in teens having babies is an improvement, that number is still higher than in other developed countries.

Rates of many sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Chlamydia and gonorrhea, are highest among teenage and young adult women.

The new policy statement, an update to the AAP's 2001 statement on condom use by adolescents, was recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

"The biggest difference is that we have more evidence about how effective they are against sexually transmitted infections," Dr. Rebecca O'Brien, the policy statement's lead author, said.

That's especially true for viruses like herpes and HIV, she added.

Are condoms 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy? No, the committee said. Even when used exactly as they are supposed to be, 2 percent of condoms will fail when used all the time-every time- over a year. In reality, the failure rate is about 18 percent during a year of typical use, the committee said.

Using condoms along with another birth control method, such as the Pill or an intrauterine device, may be the best way to prevent pregnancy and STIs.

In its recommendations, the committee said doctors should support consistent and correct use of condoms. They should also encourage parents to discuss condom use and prevention of STIs with their adolescent children.

Still, the committee said, abstinence should be encouraged as the best way to prevent STIs and unintended pregnancy.

Bleakley echoed the importance of communication between parents and teenagers.

"Parents really need to be proactive about communicating with their adolescents before their kids engage in sexual activity," she said.

"Really parents who talk to their kids about sexuality, about contraception, about condoms - their kids have much better outcomes," like fewer unintended pregnancies, Bleakley said.

If you’re not sure when to begin discussing sexuality with your child, talk to your pediatrician. It’s probably a lot earlier than you think.

Source: Genevra Pittman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/28/us-teens-condoms-idUSBRE99R03N20131028

 

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