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