First, THANK YOU to everyone who has been reading our blog. Our statistics say we’ve been visited over 45,000 times! That’s fantastic. We’re very grateful that you decided to spend some of your valuable time with us.
But it’s the end of the semester for us, and all of my students are graduating or leaving for their summer job. So we’re going to take a little break this summer and hopefully come back strong in the fall.
If you’ve enjoyed our content, please let us know. And if you have any ideas or topics you think we should cover, feel free to reach out to me.
When I hear MTV television shows, I usually think of reality television shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom.”
What I don’t think of, and what I don’t think many people think of, are honest and serious shows with an in-depth look into real life.
MTV’s new four-part show, “16 and Recovering,” details the struggles and hardships of teenage addiction, and how parents and caretakers can effectively help teens with addiction.
I think that parents and teens should all sit down and watch this mini-series, whether its together or separately.
The show takes place at Northshore Recovery High School in Massachusetts, where the MTV film crew, including award-winning director Steve Liss, was given an inside look into the lives of teens with addiction, their families and their teachers.
The founder of Northshore, Michelle Lipinski, is not only the school principal but a confidant, friend and even loved one to all of the students. The students not only trust Lipinski but all of the staff at Northshore. They share their struggles, secrets and hardships with the staff members, as they would close friends.
The teachers and caretakers at Northshore don’t punish students when they relapse or make a mistake. They just express their support and love for their students and encourage them back onto the right path.
I think that the way the Northshore staff handles teen addiction is a perfect model for how parents and caretakers everywhere should handle their own teens who may be struggling. By showing only love and support, with no anger or strong discipline, the kids feel like they can always be honest with them, rather than fear them and hide their wrongdoings.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Lipinski spoke about how she did not wish for the camera crew to record the students using any drugs. She said that the show is about teenage recovery, not the drug use.
The show also shows how mental illness and addiction go hand in hand. In one scene, a student named Alba says how depression and addiction go together like “cheese and crackers.” Many of the students struggle with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, on top of the addictions.
While the series shows how the support and love of family and caretakers can help struggling youth addicts, it doesn’t hide the fact that some teens end up giving in to their addiction and are unable to survive because of it.
MTV hopes to lead the change in the entertainment industry when it comes to depicting mental illness on screen.
The show has four parts, each airing Tuesday evenings at 9 pm on MTV. The first episode aired on September 1.
While the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic is the top story on most news channels, we need to remember that our nation is facing another crisis: the opioid epidemic.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), during the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of opioid-related deaths.
The AMA said that during this pandemic, more than 35 states have reported increased numbers in opioid-related deaths as well as continuing concerns about substance use disorder.
Reversing the Trend
The Coronavirus has begun to reverse the strides made in recent years to reduce the effects of the opioid epidemic in the United States. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January showed there was a slight decline in overdose deaths. This was the first reported decline in 28 years.
But the pandemic is reversing those trends. This is due to the isolation, quarantine and economic devastation many have experienced during this pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit, some authorities hoped it might lead to a decrease in overdoses by disrupting drug traffic as boarders and cities shut down,” said William Wan and Heather Long from The Washington Post.
But the pandemic brought anxiety and depression, both of which can drive someone to drug use. Because of the pandemic and quarantine, people have been seeking out new dealers, many of whom are desperate for money due to lack of work because of the pandemic.
Also, during the beginning of the pandemic, many recovery programs and treatment centers had to close to enforce the quarantine and social distancing. Locally, some 12-step programs had to temporarily close because the non-profit facilities they were using were closed to all group meetings.
Drug Use and Your Child
If you’re worried that your child may be affected by the pandemic and may turn toward drug use, there are signs to look for. These signs include lack of motivation, lack of communication, hostile or angry behavior, secretive behavior, lack of focus, sudden loss of inhibitions, and periods of sleeplessness or high extended periods of energy, followed by a crash and then more sleep.
Checking their social media is another way to know if they partake in drug use. Their social media posts or their closer friends may point to drug use.
We’re deeply concerned about both the pandemic and the opioid crisis. Please take the necessary steps to keep your kids, and yourself, safe.
Hey, parents. Do you know the difference between La Croix and Truly? Between bubly and White Claw? Kirkland and BON V!V?
You’re going to want to learn which are alcoholic and which are not. We’ll give you that later.
Last year, hard seltzers brought in more than $500 million in sales and contributed to the decline of both beer and wine sales, according to Nielson.
Why are hard seltzers so popular right now?
Ok. So by now you know that the next big alcoholic drink
with teenagers is the alcoholic seltzer. Why? First, they’re low in calories.
White Claws and Trulys both have 100 calories per can. Beer ranges from about
50 calories to more than 300 with some heavier options like IPAs. Seltzers are
all low calorie options and they are also low in sugar.
They’re also low in alcohol, typically between 4-6% alcohol
by volume. And the alcohol in many of them is from fermented cane sugar, not
They’re the perfect alcoholic beverage for a hot summer day.
I’d know. I’ve had them (I’m over 21), and they’re delicious.
Take it from a young person: hard seltzers are fun, and
there are plenty of different flavors for everyone.
Some people like the idea that they can get drunk while also hydrating themselves. (Note: It doesn’t work like that. Alcohol dehydrates you – even with hard seltzers.) Others like that they can drink quite a few seltzers before getting full – which would happen much sooner if they were drinking beers. But does mean they can get drunker in a shorter amount of time, because they’ll just keep drinking.
Being packaged in cans is also a selling point. Seltzers,
like beers, can be taken on the go. The wine industry saw this appeal and
started canning some of its products for the convenience of the consumer.
Seltzers are also versatile drinks. People drink them on
their own or use them as a mixer.
So there you have at least four different reasons why
they’ve become so popular so quickly.
What are the popular hard seltzer brands?
Smirnoff Sparkling Seltzer
Bon V!V (Bon & Viv)
Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water
You should also know that beer brands like Natural Light and Bud Light have hopped on the seltzer train creating their own additions to the market. They will probably grab significant market share quickly, so this top five might change.
Familiarize yourself with these before your kids do.
If you have teenagers, you’re probably already thinking
about the possibility of your underage kids drinking. Who would they drink
with? What would they drink? Where would they get it?
The internet has tons of literature on that, so I’ll keep it
By age 15, about 29.8% of teens have had at least 1 drink, and by age 18, about 58% of teens have had at least 1 drink, according to the 2018 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Whether you think your kid
will drink or not, those are the numbers. And regardless of your personal
course of action in handling that, you should at the very least be aware of the
products they can be consuming.
I’ve seen stories on social media about parents who have
mistaken alcoholic seltzer for normal seltzer. I’m trying to keep you from
becoming one of those parents, especially if your kid is sneaky and might try
to pull one over on you.
In short, stay up to date on the latest fun drinks your kids are getting their hands on! Educate your kids about the dangers of drinking, and keep an eye on what kind of can they actually have in their hand.
Although vaping has stolen all the headlines when it comes to teen tobacco use, it’s not alone as a significant threat to teenagers because of tobacco addiction.
That’s right, smokeless tobacco, also known as snuff, dip, cha, whatever you want to call it, is still very present in teen’s lives, despite new vaping technology.
Recent Smokeless Tobacco Trends with Teens
According to a 2017 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5.5 percent of high school teens admit to using smokeless tobacco.
While the number of chewing tobacco users definitely favors males, 7.7 percent vs. 3.0 percent for females, keep in mind that these figures could be lower than the actual numbers, as these are only the teens who self-reported using in the last 30 days.
I know when I was given these self-reporting tests back in high school, many students didn’t take it seriously and answered untruthfully.
According to the chart below, smokeless tobacco use by males has had a gradual increase since 2005.
In my opinion, as one of America’s youth not that long ago, I think the trend will only continue. I think some teens might reason there are clear advantages to being hooked on smokeless tobacco versus smoking cigarettes. The first is price.
Today, the average can of smokeless tobacco costs about $3, compared to the average price of $6.85 for a pack of cigarettes. According to JUUL’s website, pods normally cost between $4-$5 a pod, before tax. If the number one factor for a teen’s tobacco habit is the price, chewing tobacco could be where they land.
Another reason is that it is pretty discrete. While vapes are pretty good at this also, like cigarettes they can also leave some odor both in the air and on the user’s breath. Nowadays that smell might be some sort of minty or fruity smell.
Chewing tobacco, on the other hand, can be hard to trace back to a kid if it’s disposed of correctly.
The Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco for Teens
The bottom-line regarding smokeless tobacco is that there is still nicotine in it, an addictive and toxic carcinogen. Because teens’ brains are still developing and they have greater neuroplasticity, it is easier for them to fall victim to an addiction.
An addiction to smokeless tobacco can cause lip and gum issues, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and in some cases, oral cancer.
In the most severe cases, smokeless tobacco has been known to cause permanent disfigurement with loss of teeth and/or even bones in the face, according to TeensHealth.
A New, Innovative Way to Wean Off of Smokeless Tobacco
Even though smokeless tobacco use and addiction are continuing to rise in the U.S., so are alternative forms of the product, designed to help users quit.
Parents, I present you, Grinds Coffee Pouches, a tobacco and nicotine-free coffee pouch used by many to actually quit chewing smokeless tobacco.
The startup, originally created by two college baseball players, eventually made its way into Major League Baseball and onto Shark Tank, the entrepreneur reality show on ABC.
The product comes in six different flavors (Wintergreen, Vanilla, Cherry, Cinnamon Roll, Mocha and Caramel). It gives users an energy boost while helping them wean off of smokeless tobacco.
Possibly the best part about the product is that the caffeine in Grinds is actually not all that bad for you either, as one pouch only contains about ¼ cup of coffee.
I have a few friends and former-collogues who have used Grinds to quit chewing. If your teen is chewing smokeless tobacco, I highly recommend getting them some Grinds as a healthy alternative.
We’ve put our best stuff, plus a lot of new stuff, in our recently released book. Great as a gift for any caregiver that has to understand the world of our children and youth. In a clear and accessible way, it shines a light on the social and technological environment that parents find mystifying and frightening. It covers a host of important and up-to-date issues including social media, finances and gambling, television, health (alcohol, drugs, vaping, depression, suicide), relationships, bullying, gaming, and many others. The book’s organization into topical chapters allows the reader to quickly find well-researched information on a given issue. A salient feature of the book is that it is largely written by young people themselves who have experienced these challenges yet have done the hard work of thoroughly investigating and reporting each topic. Get it now in Kindle or paperback version at Amazon.com
Your family members
and friends might have already substituted their cigarettes for the latest in
smoking technology. Instead of walking down the sidewalk and being hit in the
face with a cloud of tobacco smell, you’re now greeted with scents like cotton
candy or bubblegum.
Kids certainly seem to find vaping to be a preferred form of smoking. JUUL proved that. I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of JUUL pods on the ground in lieu of cigarette butts.
And vaping is still
on the rise. Here’s what you need to know about vaping as we head into a new
Vapes Make It Easier Than Ever For Your Kid To Smoke
Picture this: A kid is sitting in the park with his friends smoking
a cigarette. You and many others would pass by without giving it a second
thought. It’s not necessarily an unusual occurrence.
Now, consider this: A kid and his friends are sitting in the
park passing a joint between them. It’s far more obvious they’re smoking
marijuana because of their behavior and the distinct smell. They’re more likely
to get in trouble for this scenario either with their parents, the law, or
There’s a thin line between these two circumstances. Vapes can
completely erase that line.
Regardless of the substance in the vape, odds are you’re
going to smell something delightful, not tobacco or marijuana. Unless you get
up close and personal with the cartridge in the vape, you’re not going to be
able to tell what’s in it unless you’re super familiar with the substances and cartridge
Not shockingly, kids are taking advantage of this.
Kids Are Vaping Marijuana (THC)
A survey from the University of Michigan (posted in the Journal of the American Medicine Association) found that 1 in 5 high school students have vaped marijuana in the past year.
While more kids are still vaping nicotine (1 in 4 said they had done it in the past year), the number of kids vaping marijuana has taken a huge leap from the previous year.
The survey showed that 1 in 7 kids are considered to be current users of marijuana vaping (meaning that they had vaped it sometime in the month before the survey), while the previous year showed only 1 in 13 were current users. Almost double the amount of kids are taking up marijuana (THC) vaping.
Vaping is making it easier than ever before to take up smoking
marijuana. It’s convenient. It takes away some of the paranoia that you’re
going to get caught since people near you can’t tell what substance is in the
But black market THC cartridges aren’t just causing your
kids to get high. They’re posing some serious health risks for users.
With Vaping-Related Hospitalizations Going Up, Officials Are Cracking Down
More than 2,400 people have been hospitalized for
vaping-related lung illnesses since the beginning of the summer, and vitamin E
acetate is to blame in most cases, according to the CDC.
Vitamin E acetate is used as a thickening agent in illicit THC vape cartridges. You can read more about it in this blog post.
The FDA and the DEA have since shut down 44 sites claiming to sell illegal cartridges. This Associated Press article names Stoners Marketplace and Anonymous Meds as two now-shutdown sites. Investigators were led to some of these sites through interviews with patients. Other websites were shut down because they were scam sites that took money without delivering products.
While studies show that high school kids are decreasing their average usage of alcohol and cigarettes, there has been a slight increase in daily marijuana usage overall and a concerningly large increase in marijuana vaping.
Public health officials are worried about this, and you should be, too.
Chances are you’ve already seen your local news outlets covering a large number of people ending up in the hospital because of vaping.
Vaping consists of the user inhaling and exhaling “vapor,” which is actually aerosol, as well as substances like nicotine, according to the Center on Addiction. Vaping is your kid’s generation’s version of experimenting with cigarettes. It seems to them like a lot of people are doing it, but like smoking cigarettes, it can be harmful to their well-being.
How would you know if your kid is vaping? The American Lung Association says nosebleeds and increased thirst are two signs your child might be vaping.
Some other symptoms you should look for in your child if you suspect they are vaping:(from USA Today and the CDC)
Frequently leaving groups to go to a certain
place (outside or the bathroom) to vape
In addition to nicotine, kids might also be vaping THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in marijuana that causes you to get high. Kids can just as easily put a THC cartridge in the same vape they would use for nicotine. (You can read more about THC here.)
Marijuana is recreationally legal in only a few states, but
that doesn’t mean these cartridges are difficult to get in a state where it’s
illegal. Odds are your kid knows someone who knows someone who has access to
marijuana or THC cartridges.
Whether you’re for or against vaping, the most pressing issue is: some people are ending up in the hospital after using these products.
The CDC has named Vitamin E acetate as a “chemical of concern” in vaping products related to the recent string of deaths. It is used as an additive and a thickening agent in some black market THC products. Vitamin E acetate is usually harmless in the form of a supplement or when it is applied to the skin, according to the CDC, but when it is inhaled, it can disrupt lung function.
As of Nov. 13, about 2,200 cases of e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injuries (EVALI) have been reported, including all states besides Alaska and including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (source: CDC). The ages of the patients ranged from 17 to 79 with a median age of 52, so young smokers are not the only ones being affected.
The CDC documented symptoms that these EVALI patients came in with, many of which are similar to flu symptoms.
Here are symptoms you should be aware of, so you know when to ask for help (pulled from the charts of 339 EVALI patients):
Respiratory: cough, chest pain, shortness of
If you find a vape, how do you know if it’s nicotine or
The look of vapes can vary, so it can be difficult to tell if your teen is vaping nicotine or THC. A USA Today article said narrower cylinder vials are more likely to contain THC, while wider and larger ones generally have nicotine. THC oil is thick and wouldn’t seem to move in the cartridge if turned upside down. Nicotine would move more easily. You can purchase home drug tests for the vials, but they will tell you only the contents, not the percentage of substance. Some THC cartridges have been found to have as much as 80% pure THC. For reference, the joints from the 1960’s had about 1-2% THC.
How will you know if the cartridge your kid has is one of
the bad ones?
The CDC is working on that. A cartridge with Vitamin E
acetate is a cartridge that has been tainted.
When people buy cartridges from someone other than a dispensary, they don’t know what they’re getting. They won’t know what’s been added. Keep in mind, a few states have allowed full legalization of marijuana, so the market for cheap goods is in high demand. And that’s where problems come in.
Dealers on the street aren’t reliable. They can’t always get users exactly what they asked for. Also, some cartridges will have additives to make them last longer – like the Vitamin E acetate – and some might even have other unknown substances. They might seem cheap, especially to young people, especially in comparison to legal products that can only be used in certain states by those age 21 and up, but at what cost?
Numerous newspapers have reported that health officials have found Vitamin E acetate in some products by Dank Vapes, TKO, Off White, Moon Rocks, Chronic Carts and West Coast Carts. This doesn’t mean every cartridge by these brands will have the chemical, but of those cartridges associated with EVALI patients, these brands came up.
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.
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.
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…
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?
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.