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Your Teen

Parenting Style And Teen Drinking

2.00 to read

Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that teenagers who grow up with parents who are either too strict or too indulgent tend to binge drink more than their peers. A new study suggests that your child could become a binge drinker depending on your parenting style. For teenagers, friends play a big role in the decision to take that first drink. And by the 12th grade, more than 65 percent of teens have at least experimented with alcohol. But what parents do during the high school years can also influence whether teens go on to binge drink or abuse alcohol. Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that teenagers who grow up with parents who are either too strict or too indulgent tend to binge drink more than their peers. "While parents didn't have much of an effect on whether their teens tried alcohol, they can have a significant impact on the more dangerous type of drinking," says Stephen Bahr, a professor of sociology at BYU, and the author of the study that was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. As part of the survey of 5,000 teenagers, Bahr and his colleagues asked 7th- to 12th-grade students a series of questions about their alcohol use. "We asked how many had taken five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks," says Bahr. That's the typical definition of binge drinking. They also asked the kids about their parents: What kinds of rules did they have? Did their parents know where they were on weekends? Did their parents check up on their whereabouts and set curfews? How much oversight and monitoring was typical? The teens who were being raised by so-called indulgent parents who tend to give their children lots of praise and warmth — but offer little in the way of consequences or monitoring of bad behavior — were among the biggest abusers of alcohol. "They were about three times more likely to participate in heavy drinking," says Bahr. The same was true for kids whose parents were so strict that no decision was left to the teenager's own judgment. "Kids in that environment tend not to internalize the values and understand why they shouldn't drink," says Bahr. They were more than twice as likely to binge drink. Striking The Right Balance The parenting style that led to the lowest levels of problem drinking borrowed something from each of the extremes. From the strict parents: accountability and consequences for bad behavior. From the indulgent parents: warmth and support Bahr says these parents tend to be more balanced. "They recognize their kids when they do good things and praise them, but they offer direction and correction when they get off a little bit," he says. Lots of factors contribute to teenagers' experimentation with alcohol and drugs. Genes play a significant role, as do peer relationships. And the teenage years can be adversarial. "Parents get really frustrated with teenagers," says Aimee Stern, who has written “Delaying That First Drink: A Parents’ Guide.”  “I have two of them — and you can't tell them anything they don't already know." That's why it's important to start talking to kids about alcohol when they're young — as early as fourth grade, recommends Stern. Her free book, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is intended as a teaching tool for parents and contains plenty of evidence-based information on drinking and addiction. It explains the science of alcohol, both in terms of what it does to the body and the developing brain. The guide can be used as a companion to a series of Science Inside Alcohol lessons developed by AAAS or as a stand-alone tool that parents can use in talking with their children. More information about Aimee Stern’s free book “Delaying That First Drink: A Parent’s Guide”  is at

Your Teen

Almost Half of Teens Drink, Use Drugs, Smoke

2.00 to read

If you have a teenager, there’s a high probability that he or she will be exposed to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during their high school years. And, there is a good chance your teen will try these drugs.If you have a teenager, there’s a high probability that he or she will be exposed to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during their high school years. And, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there is a good chance that your teen will try these drugs.

A new report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) has even more startling news for parents. Nearly half of all American high school students smoke, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs. One in four, who start using these substances before they turn 18, may become addicts. The report also indicates that one-quarter of people in the U.S. who began using drugs or alcohol before age 18 meet the criteria for drug or alcohol addiction, compared with one of 25 Americans who started using drugs or alcohol when they were 21 or older. Why is dinking, smoking and using drugs more addictive for a younger person? Harold C. Urschel, MD, an addiction expert in Dallas, says that from the age of 15 to 22, the adolescent brain is still developing. “A complex layer of neural networks is being laid down and brain growth is exponential during these years, so even a little bit of injury from alcohol or drugs is greatly magnified.” “I was surprised at the prevalence of substance use disorders among young people,” says study author Susan E. Foster, CASA’s vice president and director of policy research and analysis. The new study opens a window of opportunity for providers and parents to intervene and prevent addiction, she says. “Do everything you can to get young people through their teen years without using drugs or alcohol. Every year they don’t use drugs or alcohol reduces their risk of negative consequences, such as addiction.” The report also mentioned other findings that give parents an insight to the kinds of drugs teens are choosing. - The most common drug of choice among high school students in the U.S. is alcohol, followed by cigarettes and marijuana. - Ten million, or 75%, of high school students have tried tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine; and one in five of them meet the medical criteria for addiction. - Of the 6.1 million, or 46%, of high school students who currently use addictive substances, one in three is addicted to these substances. The findings are based on surveys of 1,000 high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students, and 500 school officers, along with expert interviews, focus groups, a literature review of 2,000 scientific articles, and an analysis of seven data sets. “Health care providers need to integrate screening for substance abuse into their practice, and treat and refer patients,” Foster says. This may be easier said than done because there is a dearth of addiction treatment information and options available as well as insurance barriers, she says. Most teens don't begin taking drugs thinking they will become addicted. They usually start trying drugs or alcohol to have a good time and be more like their friends. There’s a certain vulnerability to peer pressure that often replaces common sense, and moral teachings. According to many teens who are addicted don't see a problem with their behavior or their drug use. Drugs make them feel good, and are a way to relieve the stress of school, problems at home, disagreements with friends, and other pressures of growing up. “Teen substance abuse is a huge problem,” says Stephen Grcevich, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Family Center by the fall in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “The numbers in the new report are very consistent with what we see in context of our practice and surrounding areas.” But teen substance abuse and addiction are not inevitable, he says. Preventing substance abuse starts with “intentional parenting” at an early age. “You have to have a plan that allows you to be a positive influence on your children at a young age so that when they get to an age where they are exposed to drugs and alcohol, they will know how to say no,” he says. “Kids who do well academically, are involved in religion, and/or are actively engaged in sports are less likely to get involved with these substances,” he says. “We need to look at giving kids something meaningful and important to do.” For many teens, the stigma of drug use, drinking and smoking has vanished. It’s become acceptable, and almost expected, behavior. It’s time for parents and caregivers to take the blinders off and become educated about teenagers and drug use. Parents often notice that their teen will start pushing away from their guidance, and advice. Sometimes communication is almost impossible when both teen and parent don’t agree on a particular behavior. But this is the most critical time for parents to keep trying and finding new ways to reach their teen. If the parent – child relationship reaches the point where no valuable communication is happening, then you may want to try family counseling. It’s worth the heartbreak, effort, costs, and stress in the long run.

Your Teen

Kids Using Inhalants To Get High

More kids are using household products to get high.Take a look around your house. Do you have hairspray, furniture polish or air freshener?  Lock it up!  A recent study reveals children as young as 12 years old are more likely to use these products to get high than marijuana or alcohol.

The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition  released new findings showing kids are experimenting with everyday products and inhaling them to get high. Many of these products are accessible in a child’s home providing easy access to a quick buzz. Parents:  be aware of what common household products are in your home.  Talk with your children and explain to them just how dangerous inhaling these liquids and sprays can be. If you don’t think it can happen in your home, take note.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse says one in five 8th graders have tried inhalants.

Daily Dose

Moms Drinking During Play Group?

1.15 to read

I was chatting with one of my daughter-in-law’s good friends from college who recently finishing her master’s in psychology with her thesis focused on drinking patterns among young adult women and how it affected their sexuality.  Really interesting!

While discussing her data, I brought up the topic of young mothers and alcohol.  I seem to see/hear about more alcohol consumption at play groups and toddler birthday parties. 

Maybe it is just that I am older, but I don’t remember my children’s play groups serving wine and margaritas.  But many of the young mother’s I see, routinely talk about “who is bringing the wine” to the after nap play group. They even told me that you can now by mini wine boxes that look like juice boxes.  They come in 6 packs and have straws! Some of their children refer to this as “mommy’s milk”. 

I don’t want to be a hypocrite as I often enjoy an evening glass of wine with a late dinner after work. I know that I drank in front of our children as they were growing up and tried to teach them responsible drinking. But, I don’t remember taking wine to the park or to the pool to drink while the children had play group.  

Back when my children were young the grocery stores did not carry alcohol, so it was not as easy to throw it in the basket along with the animal crackers and apple juice boxes that often accompanied us to play group. 

One of my concerns is with young mothers drinking in the afternoon before heading home to cook dinner or bathe young children. Many times this might involve driving children from one place to another.

There may be older children that need to be picked up after school or shuttled to early evening events. They are being driven by a parent who has had “several” glasses of wine with friends while the little ones were playing. There may also be more wine or a cocktail with their husband’s as they get home from work. 

The evening is tiring and hectic enough without adding a “buzzed” parent.  I just wonder if any of these children are suffering from a parent who begins drinking in the late afternoon?

I am also concerned about the child’s perception of drinking and alcohol as they are getting older and more aware of what “mommy’s milk” really is. 

Like I said, I might just be getting older, but some of the statistics about women’s drinking habits show that mothers are routinely drinking more and more. More research is being conducted tight now and I am anxious to see some of the newest data.  I might start a study in my own practice.

What are your thoughts? I would love your feedback!

Daily Dose

Online Alcohol Sales

1.30 to read

What do you know about online alcohol sales?  I must admit that I knew little about this industry and was amazed with some of the statistics I recently discovered while reading an article in the September 2012, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. If you are a parent of a tween or teen, here is another topic for discussion and for monitoring as well. 

According to this study that was done in 2011 out of the University of North Carolina there are greater than 5,000 internet alcohol venders (IAV), and there is little regulatory attention being paid to this 2.4 billion /year industry.  It seems that another place for teens to purchase alcohol while underage is no longer just the corner liquor store, or grocery.  In many communities it is much becoming more difficult for minors to purchase alcohol as there seems to be a push to improve enforcement by“carding” any one under the age of 30.  I find this to be true in our area as I watch my 28 year-old married son have to produce his ID. (regretfully they no longer ask for mine!) 

In this study 45 of 100 internet alcohol purchase (done by students age 18-20) attempts were successful and the alcohol (predominately wine, but beer and liquor as well) were successfully received by underage buyers. There was very little age verification at point of order, with some of the orders being processed using a parents birthdate or by simply checking a box stating that “buyer is over 21 years of age.”   All of the orders in the study were for less than $100 and were made using prepaid gift cards that are difficult to track. Teens are savvy and are will buy a card with cash and then they do not have to worry about parents tracking credit card purchases. 

Age verification at time of delivery was also inconsistent. Even when packages were shipped and labeled “age verification at delivery” half of the time the package was still delivered to a minor.  In some cases the alcohol was delivered to a neighbor who then handed it off to the minor, with the neighbor not paying any attention to what was in the box. (this seems like an easy thing to miss as I often receive packages for my neighbors, sign and then put them on their porch). 

So, it is hard to stay ahead of tech savvy teens and with little regulation underage internet alcohol sales may continue rise.  I guess the good news is that this takes a bit of pre planning on the part of adolescent, but with a little notice and a pre paid gift card a party a few weeks out may be easier to pull off than heading to the local liquor store on a Friday night.  

Daily Dose

Binge Drinking Numbers Rising!

Binge drinking and alcohol use among teens continues to rise. A college freshman as already died from alcohol poisoning What parents and teens need to know. Colleges are gearing up for finals, high school prom and graduation season is underway and the incidences of binge drinking continues to climb.  Why put these topics in the same sentence?

Underage and excessive drinking by high school and college students has been recognized as a problem for a long time, but recent studies only confirm that binge drinking continues to rise.  One report from a 2002 task force on drinking stated “abusive drinking by college students is widespread, dangerous and disruptive.”  Drinking excessively is associated with date rape, unintentional sex (is that an oxymoron), violence and poor academic performance. What is binge drinking? By definition it is drinking “five or more drinks in a row for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women.”  But this definition does not take into account length of time in which the alcohol is consumed or a person’s body weight. A better definition now defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above.“ This typically occurs within a two hour window of excessive drinking. Underage drinkers typically tend to drink on fewer occasions than their older peers but have more alcohol related problems than students of legal drinking age.  Sadly, more than 1,700 college students age 18-24 die each year from unintentional alcohol related injuries and more than 5,000 underage youth die from alcohol misuse. Another alarming statistic is that an underage youth dies in an alcohol related incident every two hours! So with these sobering statistics at hand , it is incumbent that parents begin educating their children, even at early ages, about alcohol use and misuse. Our children need to know that alcohol is a legal psychoactive drug that changes brain chemistry and may have long term effects on the still maturing teenage brain. Alcohol effects both the pre-frontal cortex (the brain’s chief decision maker) and the limbic system.  MRI studies on youth from 14-21 years of age who are frequent (that is scary) alcohol drinkers show definitive changes in both of these areas. Due to the fact that a teen’s brain is still developing, it is surmised that there might be permanent physiologic and psychological damage to an adolescent brain from early alcohol abuse.  There are ongoing studies looking at whether this damage is reversible. Teens also need to know that while alcohol is a “drug” it too may cause over-dosage and death similar to other drugs. Many teens do not realize that you can die from binge drinking. No, not in a car accident or from falling out of a window, but due to the central nervous system depression from high blood alcohol levels, that then “turn off “ vital areas in the brain resulting in coma and death. Talk to your teens about the signs of “alcohol over-dosage”, which may include vomiting, cold and clammy skin,  shallow breathing and unresponsiveness.  Letting a friend “sleep it off” after a night of heavy drinking is never the right idea. A good resource for parents to help educate their teens and college students about binge drinking is They have recently released an app The Gordie Check that reviews the signs of alcohol poisoning, stores emergency contacts and can help locate nearby medical facilities or call 911.  Pass this on to your college students (and high school students for that matter). Lastly, as binge drinking continues to rise among high school and college students, and more youth are reporting drinking in their early teens,  it is incumbent that parents discuss their views on underage drinking and also model the behavior they want to see in their children. In other words,  teach your children about responsible drinking when they become of age. When talking to my teenage patients about alcohol they often comment to  me “ Dr. Sue why don’t you talk to my parents about coming home drunk” and then they can talk to me!  Truer words could not be spoken. That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Alcohol During Lunch with Your Baby?

1:30 to read

I know I often give advice, but I also have lots of opinions, so this may be a bit controversial but what do you think about drinking wine at lunch with your babies in tow?  I was meeting a friend for a “casual” lunch at a “healthy food” restaurant (I won't name it)  and while I was waiting I noticed a group of young mothers at the next table with their precious babies.  All of these little ones were under the age of one year.: one in a high chair while the other two were in the car seats. 

So, I also noticed that they were drinking a glass of wine while they were visiting with one another. I guess that a glass of wine is not a big deal…but I wish they had been paying a bit more attention to their babies.  I continued to watch them and when they finished the first glass of wine they ordered another while they started eating their lunch.  Again, no one was really interacting with their child.

While I am not against drinking wine at lunch, I must admit I have been guilty of this when on vacation.  But, sitting at lunch on a weekday with your tiny babies in tow and now on a second glass of wine?   By that time my friend had arrived and we started eating our lunch….but I just could not stop watching the table next to me.

The young women finished their lunches, one having another glass of wine and got up to leave.  As they were leaving the mother closest to me was buckling up her baby and we leaned over to admire him. He really had been the best baby and had sat quietly in his seat and watched all of the people around him…an easy baby. When we commented to his mother about his sweet demeanor, her comment was, “do you want him”?

I was disturbed by the entire event. How can you take your babies to lunch, for what was a seemingly normal Thursday afternoon, drink 2-3 glasses of wine and then drive your children home?

Unfortunately, when I was discussing this event with several of the young mothers in my practice they said that this was becoming more and more common. Take the kids to lunch or the park and drink while the children occupy themselves is becoming more and more “normal”.  

If you want to drink…then do it responsibly. That would not be at lunch with three young children, and then hop in the car to drive home.   Get a babysitter and take an Uber. I told you I have lots of opinions!

Daily Dose

Binge Drinking on the Rise

1:30 to read

Binge drinking among teens has always been an issue, but unfortunately alcohol use is becoming more prevalent at younger and younger ages.  While many parents (including me) discussed the use of alcohol with their teenagers during their high school years, a recent clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics published in the journal Pediatrics states that “by the eighth grade a quarter of those surveyed had consumed alcohol”.   

The report found that children start to “think positively about alcohol between 9 and 13 years of age”. With this finding it is incumbent upon parents and pediatricians to start the discussion about alcohol use at even earlier ages.  Personally, I think that one of the reasons we need to discuss alcohol use with younger children, may be due to the fact that alcohol use and availability has become more and more prevalent across our society. Many young children’s birthday parties in my area include alcohol for the adults.  Some play groups now have “mommy juice” in coolers at the park  as well as apple juice for the toddlers. Parents are drinking on the sidelines of the soccer and baseball game.  Grocery stores and pharmacies all carry beer and wine which makes it easy to pick up a bottle of wine while you wait for your child’s prescription.  Recently,  more and more college sporting events are allowing alcohol sales in their stadiums, field houses and coliseums. 

The statistics reveal that alcohol is the substance most frequently abused by children and adolescents in the U.S.  In 2014, “half of twelfth graders and one in nine eight graders reported having been drunk at least once in their life”. We also know that among our youth, the proportion who drink heavily is higher than among adults who drink. 

Because teens typically weigh less than adults, binge drinking is teens is defined differently than for adults. For girls ages 9-7, three or more drinks in a two hour period is considered binge drinking and for boys ages 9-13 the cutoff is three or more drinks, for boys 14-15 it’s four or more drinks, and for boys 16-17, its five or more drinks.   

It is also not difficult to understand the correlation between binge drinking and risk taking behaviors among teens.  Binge drinking has been associated with earlier sexual activity and teen pregnancy, fatal car accidents and even alcohol poisoning and death.  Not only does alcohol affect choices while imbibing, but it  “may interfere with important aspects of brain development that can lead to cognitive impairment, brain injury and substance use disorders later in life”.

Lastly, not surprisingly, teens look to their parents on their decision to drink or not. Modeling behavior could not be more important, as one teen once told me when discussing her use of alcohol, “why don’t you talk to my mom about coming home drunk every night, then I will talk to you”.  

Your Teen

Smoking and Drinking Rates Among Teens Dropping


There’s good news to report on teens’ use of alcohol and cigarettes. According to new government data, smoking and drinking among teenagers fell to new lows in 2015.

According to the data gathered, just 9.6 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 17, reported using alcohol in 2015, down from 17.6 percent in 2002.

Far fewer adolescents smoke every day: about 20 percent in 2015, down from 32 percent in 2002.

The numbers came from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency that tracks addiction and mental health issues in the United States.

It appears that today’s teens are choosing not to follow in their parent’s footsteps, which had much higher rates of smoking and drinking when they were adolescents.

Kana Enomoto, principal deputy administrator at the agency, said the new numbers showed that rigorous public health efforts to reduce smoking and drinking among teenagers were paying off.

The survey also tracked prescription drug use and abuse, as well as the use of illegal drugs like heroin. While the trend is still down, the difference was not statistically significant from 2014, but headed in the right direction. Heroin deaths have been increasing rapidly across the country, health experts are hoping the data showing a decline in use could be an early indicator that the trend is reversing.

Prescription drug abuse is still very high in the United States. The survey found that about 119 million Americans 12 and older, or about 44 percent of that population, used prescription psychotherapeutic drugs in the past year. Of those, the vast majority — about 98 million — used pain relievers.

In all, about 19 million people age 12 and older, or about 7 percent of that population, misused prescription drugs in the past year, including about 12.5 million people who misused pain relievers.

Government funded treatment programs for drug abuse continue to lack congressional approval, frustrating mental health and drug abuse service providers.

“There’s no other condition for which we would accept the fact that less than 10 percent of people are treated,” Ms. Enomoto said.

A decrease in the numbers of teens drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes is really a welcomed change. Smoking is the largest cause of preventable death in the United States, with illnesses linked to it taking more than 480,000 lives a year.

Research indicates that alcohol use during the teenage years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD.) In addition, underage drinking contributes to a range of acute consequences, including injuries, sexual assaults, and even deaths—including those from car crashes.

No one wants to see his or her son or daughter become one more sad statistic.  Family support and treatment availability are key in helping our young people live healthier and happier lives.

Story source: Sabrina Tavernise,



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