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Is your tween making a bet on March Madness?

By Seth Woolcock

March may be in the rear view mirror, but we’re still in March Madness. Auburn, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Virginia are this season’s Final Four.

Only 8,000 brackets (less than 0.05 percent) of the 17.2 million brackets created on ESPN’s website this year predicted these four teams. That’s sheer madness!

But last year the United States legalized sports gambling – nationwide. According to the website WalletHub (link) one-in-five adults in the United States will bet on the tournament. That’s about 60 million Americans. For some perspective, only 126 million Americans voted in the last presidential election!

However, only 3 percent of the $10 billion that will bet on the tournament will be legal, sanctioned bets. Most bets will be done in large, illegal betting pools, or small, informal office/fun pools. Still, it is estimated Las Vegas will make $100 million on just the March Madness tournament from betting. That’s because twice as much money is bet legally in Las Vegas on March Madness than on the Super Bowl.

How much money are the college’s making? Well, the cost of the television rights has increased 4,535 percent since 1986 and right now, Duke’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, makes about $8.9 million a year. The combined salary of Duke University’s president AND the governor of North Carolina is only $1.4 million. The University of Kentucky’s basketball program is valued at over $246 million.

And $0 is what the NCAA pays the players for participating in the tournament (though the NCAA President Mark Emmert makes $2.1 million a year.)

So, does your kid bet on the tournament? I did. I do. I started in the 6th grade. And because I’ve won my small pool a couple of times over the years, I bet more this year than ever before. Not enough to break my bank, thank God, because I did miserably this year. My bracket’s been busted for a while. But many, many kids get their first exposure to betting by filling out a bracket for March Madness.

Sure, the basketball tournament can have a positive impact on your child. It exposes them to college athletics and may inspire them to work hard at their own sport. It can also create a bonding opportunity for family and friends. Arguably it might also teach how to lose graciously. Typically, only one person can win a bracket each year, so there are lots of losers.

But, are you also teaching your kid about the dangers of betting? If not, check out our recent blog on sports gambling (link).

If you want some advice on how to talk about your kid about gambling, I recommend this link to the National Center for Responsible Gambling. (link)

And if for any reason you don’t think your child’s in any danger from gambling, read these sobering statistics (link).   Gambling by tweens/teens is only getting bigger. This is not the world you grew up in.

Here’s a listing of our links:

http://www.ncrg.org/sites/default/files/uploads/docs/ncrgtalktochildren2015hi.pdf

http://knowtheodds.org/blog/talking-child-problem-gambling/

https://wallethub.com/blog/march-madness-statistics/11016/

I’m scared of my kids getting into marijuana. You should be too.

pic of Erick Lauber
By Erick Lauber

Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of marijuana. If you are, then simply don’t read any further. You don’t need to get yourself upset. And I don’t need your angry posts and emails.

If you’re still here, there are a few points I want to make.

First, “yes” there is such a thing as marijuana addiction. If you’re above 30 yrs of age, perhaps you’ve known someone who’s become addicted to marijuana. They might have any of several symptoms. The two worst, I think, are occasional psychosis (losing touch with reality) and “amotivational” syndrome (not wanting to do anything). These effects have been documented extensively and are accepted by the medical community. A percentage of long-term marijuana (THC) users will get these, but not all users. At least not with the doses that have been researched. We simply don’t know yet what the more potent marijuana available today will do.  (THC is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. CBD is another chemical in marijuana that supposedly doesn’t get you high.)

Regular users can also find it hard to sleep without taking a “hit”. Sometimes they can’t eat without marijuana (THC). In these cases, the body has simply adapted to the outside chemical and expects (requires) the drug in order to function normally.

If you don’t think there is anything such as “marijuana addiction”, I suggest you check out these sources (NIDA and The Atlantic), or just call any doctor. By the way, the chance for dependence or addiction is much, much higher if you start as a teenager.   

My second point is marijuana (THC) use is far more widespread than when I was a kid – and it was around a lot even back then. This is not the world you grew up in. Maybe you smoked marijuana back then. But things have changed drastically. Oh, and by “spread” I also mean “it is socially accepted”.  May kids today don’t think there’s anything wrong with marijuana. 

And what happens when teenagers do or do not think something is harmful?  Below are two charts from a real, national survey called Monitoring the Future conducted every year. The graph on the left shows that as “perception of harm” from smoking goes up, actual smoking goes down.

pic of 12th grade perception of harm and use patterns

The chart on the right shows that the same relationship exists for marijuana. When perception of harm goes up, smoking marijuana goes down. Except that, for some reason, around 1992, teens turned a corner and started perceiving marijuana as less harmful. Notice how marijuana use jumped up after that? (The two scales do not exactly match, by the way. Marijuana use is generally higher than cigarette smoking through all of these years!)

In my state (PA) we have a survey that students do every two years. Most schools participate. It’s called the Pennsylvania Youth Survey or PaYS.  When I looked at that data, here is what I found…

(You can see some of this data yourself at http://www.bach-harrison.com/payswebtool/Categories.aspx )

This graph shows the percentage of 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders who self-reported using these substances sometime in their life. It shows, logically, that usage goes up from 6th to 12th grades. Marijuana use was relatively low, i.e. it was below cigarettes and about where smokeless tobacco was. However, I’m a little suspicious of this self-report data. Marijuana use might be under-reported because it is still illegal in PA, whereas the others are at least legal.

What surprised me about this graph was the height of the vaping bars. They are almost as tall as the alcohol lines. Recently I read that vaping has seen a 900% increase in teens in the last few years.

And then I recalled that my students have told me that you can vape THC. You can buy vape cartridges full of THC. They can be as much as 80%-90% THC. The marijuana you grew up, by the way, was between 1-10% THC.

They’ve also said you can put “dab” in a vaping device. Dab is a very pure form of marijuana (THC) that is in wax form. It will vaporize in the pen, I’m told. (Here is a bit more on dabbing.)

Now, I know the vape shops sell “flavored” juice in their vape cartridges. They also sell nicotine cartridges. (By the way, the amount of nicotine in vape cartridges can be scary high. But that’s for another day. I think we are making another generation addicted to nicotine.) My students tell me it is really easy to get cartridges with THC – even here in Pennsylvania where that is supposedly illegal.

And here’s another scary graph I found.  When do kids start trying illegal substances? 

graph of when kids try illicit drugs

This chart says by age 18 already 24% of students (nearly a quarter!) have already tried an illicit drug. Of course, that doesn’t jive with the PaYS data, where the numbers are even higher.

Ok. So, I don’t have a real answer for this. I think many kids are going to try this stuff and many are going to have a problem with it. My point is THC use is on the rise, and this may partly be because kids don’t see any harm in it.

Well, I can’t solve this, but at least I can sound the alarm. We’re not going to solve this overnight, parents. My message is simply “Stay vigilant! Do you want your teenager getting in to marijuana?”

(By the way, “marijuana” means “THC”. It’s the chemical that does the harm – even if your kid is no rolling a plant into a cigarette or smoking it in a bong.)

If you are a pro-marijuana or pro-vaping advocate, I know you’re all fired up to “set me straight”. But I’m simply trying to reach tween and teen parents. Maybe we need a more in-depth conversation about all this.

I don’t want my kids or ANY KIDS doing this stuff.

And that’s all I’m trying to say.

Other links:

Here’s a reaction to New York State’s push to legalize recreational marijuana  https://ncadd-ra.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Marijuana-Separating-Fact-From-Fiction-in-NYS-SAM-NY.pdf

And for some quick fact sheets about marijuana try “Smart Approaches to Marijuana – preventing another big tobacco” at  https://learnaboutsam.org/toolkit/ 

NIDA

The Atlantic

Is Your Kid Vaping?

by Erick Lauber

Vaping: Part I

Ok. Here’s a startling statistic. Teen vaping increased 80% last year in high schools. Here’s another one. It increased 50% in middle schools. This is according to the U.S. FDA, so I’m going to believe those numbers.

Ironically, those two numbers don’t include my two boys (who are now in their twenties) who also started vaping in the last few years.

What’s going on here?  It’s quite simple. This is a new drug delivery system that has not yet been adequately regulated. By “drug” I don’t necessarily mean illegal drug. Some vaping devices put out something similar to vegetable oil. But that’s not what I’m hearing about. Most kids are not vaping vegetable oil. The ones I know are vaping nicotine and THC, the mood altering chemical from marijuana.

Is it legal to do this? No. Not if you’re under 18. And recreational THC is still illegal in many states.  But that hasn’t stopped anyone. Vaping has come on super-fast and its catching many parents off guard.

In fact, the FDA has gotten so frightened by the numbers that its recently imposed huge new restrictions on many e-cigarette/vaping manufacturers. But in my town, it’s too late. Vaping is everywhere. And though the chart below says 4.7% of teens vape, more recent data says 12% or higher. Oh, and what’s starting? Unlike smoking cigarettes, vaping is done more by the young!

What’s scary is young people are smoking these MORE than older people!

High school and middle school teachers and administrators are telling me they’re confiscating as many as a dozen vaping devices a day.  And they don’t know what’s in them! There is no testing device they can use to determine if their cigarette policy, their marijuana policy, or perhaps neither should apply!

And where are kids getting these devices? Well, until the FDA recently changed the law, they could be bought in gas stations, convenience stores, etc… They’re still available online. And at vape shops. It’s easy to get a vaping device. And also easy to get it with nicotine or THC.

Will you know if your kid is “smoking” one of these in their room? No. Probably not. The devices don’t have to give off a smell. One kid smoked a THC vape right in front of me and I had no idea. No smell whatsoever. And they don’t have to produce a big cloud of vapor either. Some kids can just blow the tiny vapor up their sleeve. In class! I know. I’ve seen it.

So, is it dangerous?

Yup. But I’ll get into that in another blog post. Look up “popcorn lung” while you’re waiting. And don’t get me started on addiction to nicotine or THC.

Hey parents. This was not around when you were growing up. Get informed. Get a household policy in place. Get with your kids.

Don’t let vaping get your kid.

Here’s some links if you want more information:

https://truthinitiative.org/news/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/health/fda-vaping-ecigarette-regulation/index.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44295336

Sports Gambling: Quickest Way to Teenage Bankruptcy

  By Seth Woolcock and Erick Lauber

If you’re like most parents, you’re probably encouraging your kids to get into sports. I was encouraged like that. So was Dr. Lauber. You probably think you’re helping them avoid dangers, like drug addiction, obesity, teen pregnancy…

My friends and I were always playing backyard football, competing with sports video games, diving into fantasy leagues or consuming all the sports on television we could.

Never did it dawn on our parents that they might be creating a problem: an obsession with sports.

By the time we got to college we were playing fantasy sports competitively, but this included betting on the games.  We extended our competitiveness into late night poker games. It started out as fun, but gradually winning became more about the money than the pride. We eventually started betting more: our fantasy league buy-ins became $50 rather than $20. Our poker buy-ins went from $10 to $30 and then $70.

I confess once I saw my friends attempting to gamble on just about everything, I stepped back. They were so consumed for a while they were making weekly casino trips – while poor college students!  They were also making sports bets on teams for games years down the road – for hundreds of dollars.

Luckily, most of my friends eventually realized this was not a good hobby for them. But only after losing thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, our state, Pennsylvania just officially declared sports gambling legal. I’m afraid for my friends.  Here is what you need to know to make sure your kid doesn’t fall victim to a sports gambling addiction.

What did Pennsylvania (and maybe your state) do? 

The new Pennsylvania law permits wagering “by any system or method,” including in person, on the internet and mobile. This means that while a person can go to registered casinos to place a bet on sports, they can also use their phone, tablet, computer or other device to make bets (as long as they are within the state borders.)

What can people legally bet on?

With the law change, people can legally bet on just about every sport. Wagering can be placed on popular sports in the U.S. such as football, baseball or basketball, but people can also bet on more obscure sports such as cricket, Formula 1 racing and golf.

While people can still make traditional wagers, such as betting against the spread or taking the over or under, they can also bet on just about anything with the new trend of “prop bets.” For example, they can now bet on the length of the national anthem, whether the coin toss is heads or tails, and whether there will be a rain delay or not? Yes, people can now bet on pretty much anything.

What are the legal requirements to make a wager?

Anyone over the age of 21 can legally bet on sports in Pennsylvania. The key word here is, “legally.” While it is still “illegal” to bet on sports while you are underage, it is still not difficult to do so.  Take it from a college student – it is similar to drinking underage. If you want to do it, someone will help you out.  By the way, did you know that 11% of the US’s entire alcohol output every year is drunk by 12-19 year olds? I’m guessing the same will be true for sports gambling pretty soon.

What is the deal with daily fantasy sports apps, such as Fan Dual and Draft Kings?

Fantasy sports is usually a season long game held between a league of people who pick rosters of players. The most popular sport is currently the NFL.  Friends make points off of certain players, such as their yards per game, receptions and touchdowns.

The winner generally is the person with the best players throughout the entire season. While many fantasy football league winners receive nothing but bragging rights, some win a few thousand dollars. It’s big league betting in some circles.

Daily fantasy sports, or “DFS” is similar. But instead of taking place throughout an entire season, it is condensed down into a single day or week. So, while bettor doesn’t have to commit serious time to play a DFS app, it is still very easy to commit large amounts of money.

Many of these games/apps “sell” themselves by guaranteeing prize pools, “cash games”, Head-to-Head matchups and 50/50 games.  Some now offer to match a newbie’s initial investment!  The appeal these games/apps is growing from year to year.

So, how is this harmful?

Presently, 2.6% of the U.S. population has a gambling addiction. Over 50 percent of these 10 million Americans are between the ages of 16 to 24.  They are by far the most affected age group.

Of the 10 million people who have this issue, over 50 percent of them fall between the age range of 16-24. They are by far the most affected age group, according to the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help.

Sports betting isn’t always a problem, but gambling addiction occurs once gambling behavior begins to either cause distress, become a habit, leads to financial stress or disturbs everyday life and functioning.

DFS companies are spending millions to advertise to your kid. The risk is only growing larger.  Educate yourself and your kids. I’m betting teenage “bankruptcy” is only going to grow. Pun intended.

Here are some helpful links for more information:

North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help

How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling

https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/gambling.html

450,000 children aged between 11 and 15 are gambling on a weekly basis…

 

Adderall: “Poster Child” of Teenage Prescription Drug Abuse

  By Erick Lauber

If you’re like me, a parent over the age of 30, you didn’t grow up with Adderall. If you wanted to stay up late to, say, focus on schoolwork, you were stuck with that old fuddy-duddy of a drug, caffeine.  Mountain Dew was my personal favorite delivery system. Rotted out my gut, but I did pass all of my finals.

Today, Adderall is of the most popular teenage drugs ever created in a lab and it’s only been around since 1996. Research suggests it is the second most popular drug on college campuses, behind only marijuana (we’re not counting alcohol).

What you need to know is it is widely available at your kid’s high school and probably their junior high. How do I know? Because all of the national research suggests it, and my college students convinced me it is everywhere.

For those who don’t know, Adderall is the brand name of a drug that is mostly amphetamine salts. It is from the same family as methamphetamine and is a stimulant or an upper. It has been prescribed for over two decades for ADHD. It has some success in helping with this. But the best research I can find says it doesn’t do much for anyone without ADHD. I don’t take it, but I’m guessing it feels like a super-powerful caffeine pill. My students tell me it makes you feel awake and alert, and maybe just a little bit “invincible”.

What scares me is that, with just a little big of digging, I found out it is highly addictive. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across this country have physical tolerance to Adderall and “need” it just to get by.  I also found it is considered the “poster child” of teenage prescription drug abuse in America. It’s use, both legal and illegal, has skyrocketed. The number of prescriptions for legal Adderall alone tripled from 2008 to 2012.  The New York Times wrote an article called “Generation Adderall”.

And your kids aren’t scared of it at all. Not even a little.

You see, they’ve been listening to their peers. “Parents” are old fuddy-duddies who think marijuana is bad. Clearly that’s wrong. Do a little research on the states that have legalized marijuana. Then come back and tell me it has done no harm.

Teens think old people are wrong about Adderall, too, or what some kids call “smart pills”, “beans”, “dexies” or “zing”. It can’t be bad for you, they say. “Several of my friends in school are even prescribed it.”

But it is bad for you. Read this article from the New York Times Magazine. Do even a tiny bit of digging on your own.

Adderall is one of the many ways your kid’s world is not like the world you grew up in.

For a bit more about how drugs today are not like what you grew up with, check out our companion website on parenting with today’s drugs. Prepare yourself and stay clear eyed. You’ve got to look forward, not behind, if you want to stay ahead of your kids.

For more information, try these resources:

New York Times Magazine article

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants