October 1, 2022

LYSB Offers Free Narcan Training to Lyme-Old Lyme Community TONIGHT; All Attendees Receive Life-Saving Narcan Kit

OLD LYME — Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) and the Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention (LOLPC) coalition are offering a free Narcan training session for the entire Lyme-Old Lyme community on Wednesday, June 29, from 6:30 to 7 p.m. in the Old Lyme Town Hall.

All participants will receive a free Narcan kit.

Registration is required (to ensure sufficient Narcan kits are available) at this link.

You never know when you might need this knowledge to protect someone you know. Together, through better and more effective awareness resources, we can save lives. 

Summertime is a time for kids to take a break and have fun, but studies also show it is a time when an increase in the likelihood that youngsters will experiment with harmful substances is seen.

Perhaps it is intuitive, with increased leisure time and less adult supervision, bored teens who crave acceptance and dopamine highs may make poor choices.

In 2021, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses driven by fentanyl, and the fastest-growing group is under 19.

Seventy-three percent of teens have never heard of fake prescription pills being made with fentanyl, and accidental fentanyl poisoning is killing kids in every community across the country.

Fentanyl is:

  • A potent, prescription, synthetic opioid drug approved by the FDA for pain relief and anesthetic.
  • Fentanyl is 80-100 times stronger than morphine.
  • A potentially lethal dose of fentanyl is the size of two grains of salt.
  • According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, two out of five pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

Important things you need to know and rules to follow about fentanyl:

  • You cannot smell or taste fentanyl, and you cannot tell if a pill is fake just by looking at it.
  • Do not take any pill that you do not directly get from a doctor or pharmacist. 
  • Pills purchased online or from social media are not safe no matter what someone tells you.
  • If you or someone around you takes an illegal pill, know how to recognize an opioid overdose. 

Awareness is key, and youth need to be educated right now. Preparation is important to having a successful conversation with your child. To assist you with this challenging conversation, visit this link to the free Natural High Fentanyl Toolkit: www.naturalhigh.org/fentanyl

Even if substance use is the last thing you feel you need to worry about with your child, consider that their awareness could help save a friend.   

Contact Allison Behnke, MSW-  LOLPC Prevention Coordinator, at abehnke@lysb.org with any questions or for more information about being involved in the work of our Prevention Coalition.  Behnke submitted this article on behalf of the LOLPC.

Alli Behnke

About the Author: Alli Behnke, MSW, MA is the Prevention Coordinator at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. She has been a Social Worker for 20 years working in the fields of prevention, therapy, youth leadership, and health coaching. Alli believes strongly in providing accurate information, education, and tools for success when empowering the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition and REACH Youth Coalition to work together on strengths-based campaigns. The Coalitions address substance abuse and other risky behaviors challenging our youth and families. Contact her at abehnke@lysb.org or visit  www.lysb.org to become involved in this important community work.

It’s Prom/Summer Party Season! Let’s Work Together to Stop Teen Access to Alcohol

LYME/OLD LYME — With Prom and summer just around the corner, it’s a great time to focus awareness in Lyme and Old Lyme on underage drinking. Remember alcohol continues to be the number one substance used by youth. 

One way we can work to prevent teens from drinking is to prevent easy access to alcohol and recognizing that teen drinking is not inevitable.

The Lyme-Old Lyme 2021 Youth Survey reports that 62 percent of high school seniors do not drink alcohol regularly.

Unfortunately, 70 percent of 12th graders report that it is easy to get alcohol. Most teens who drink get alcohol without having to pay for it. They obtain it from friends (83 percent) or family members, at parties, or by taking it without permission.  

The 2021 Youth Survey shows that nearly 50 percent of students, who report drinking, take it from their parents with and without permission. Underage drinkers, who pay for alcohol, usually give money to someone else to purchase it for them.

Here’s what you can do to reduce access to alcohol:

  • At home, make sure teens can’t access alcohol without your knowledge. Unmonitored alcohol, including alcohol stored in a cabinet, refrigerator, basement or garage, can be a temptation. When in doubt, lock it up.
  • Liquor stickers can be a helpful tool and are available at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau.
  • Exercise your influence. Data shows that teens continue to care what their parents think, even while they are in high school and college – 63 percent of students choose not to drink because they feel their parents would disapprove. Let your teen know that you don’t want them to drink and that most teens, in fact, don’t drink.

  • Speak up, because silence can be misinterpreted. It may have happened already. A neighbor announces she is hosting a teen party, but you shouldn’t worry — she’s taking the car keys from every kid who comes in. Or a colleague says he’s serving alcohol to his high school son’s friends so they can “learn to drink responsibly.”
  • If you hear about a situation, say that you don’t want other people serving alcohol to your teen or condoning teen drinking. Let your friends, neighbors, and family members know that the minimum drinking age is a policy that protects teens, and that you don’t want your teen to drink.
  • Take action before a situation arises. Start talking to the parents of your child’s friends early — as early as 6th grade. Tell them about the risks of teen drinking and let them know that you don’t want anyone to allow your teen to drink alcohol.
  • Talk to adults, who host teen parties. Let them know that the overwhelming majority of parents support the legal drinking age and agree that it is not okay to serve alcohol to someone else’s teen — and not okay to turn a blind eye to teen alcohol consumption.
  • Let local law enforcement know that you encourage active policing of noisy teen parties that may signal alcohol use.
  • Tell local alcohol retailers that you want them to check ID’s before selling alcohol. Limiting alcohol sales to legal purchasers is an important goal and well worth the time it takes.
  • Consider joining the Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition.

For more information on how to help your teen make healthy choices surrounding drugs or alcohol, visit www.lysb.org/prevention or contact Alli Behnke, Prevention Coordinator, abehnke@lysb.org

Alli Behnke

About the Author: Alli Behnke, MSW, MA is the Prevention Coordinator at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. She has been a Social Worker for 20 years working in the fields of prevention, therapy, youth leadership, and health coaching. Alli believes strongly in providing accurate information, education, and tools for success when empowering the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition and REACH Youth Coalition to work together on strengths-based campaigns. The Coalitions address substance abuse and other risky behaviors challenging our youth and families. Contact her at abehnke@lysb.org or visit  www.lysb.org to become involved in this important community work.

Lyme-Old Lyme Students Present Findings from Community Survey at Forum

These Lyme-Old Lyme students led the 2022 Community Forum, which presented the findings of the 2021 Community Survey.

LYME/OLD LYME — On March 29, results from the 2021 Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB)/Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition (LOLPC) Youth Survey were discussed at a Community Forum at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School.

This survey was conducted in December 2021 with 662 students in 6th through 12th grade reporting on behaviors and trends related to alcohol, marijuana, vaping, other substances, and mental health.

Eight Lyme-Old Lyme (LOL) High School students participated in a youth panel to offer parents and other community members an opportunity to learn directly from them what it is like to be a teenager in Lyme-Old Lyme.

Highlights from their well-spoken, direct dialogue with the audience included kids growing up much too fast in a time of easy access, reduced perception of harm of substances, perfectionism, being over-scheduled, and being inundated with social media platforms from a very young age.

The Youth Survey reported that alcohol is still the number one substance used by LOL students with average age of first use being reported at 14.0 years old. Lifetime and recent use trends of alcohol have reduced since 2019, but national trends advise that we should understand that a “COVID Effect” might be in play resulting from isolation and lock-down.

An alarming statistic shows that the number of students, who think drinking every day is harmful, decreased from 50.9 to 27.7 percent in just two years. Similar numbers were reported for binge drinking (five or more drinks at a time) and using marijuana one to two times per week. 

The panel of students offered some insight for this drop in perceived harm. 

One reason they provided is that during isolation kids turned to their phones and social media for entertainment and communication. They explained that Snap Chat, TikTok, and Instagram normalize drinking and drug use, and kids don’t actually realize the amount of danger they can be put in with substance use. 

Social media also supports a climate for bullying, social influencing, negative mental health and self-image. The Youth Panel reported feeling that kids aren’t ready for today’s social media in Middle School or younger. Panel members encouraged parents to educate themselves and think about their own choices for their young children when it comes to phones and social media.

Survey data revealed that the mental health of our youth has followed national trends and reduced over the past two years. 

Of the students surveyed, 70 percent reported feeling stressed, 60 percent reported feeling anxious, 28% reported feeling so sad over the past two weeks that it limited daily activity, and 21 percent reported thinking about suicide. The Youth Panel agreed with these numbers and strongly encouraged audience members to understand the challenges of growing up as a teenager right now.  

Teens are inundated with pressures, intense schedules, social media influences, and the connection with drugs and alcohol plays a definite role. The survey data shows that youth, who reported marijuana use, identify coping with stress and other challenges as a primary reason they use. 

The survey also showed that only 40-60 percent of students (grade-dependent) feel that their families have clear rules around alcohol and drugs. This is an important statistic because the October LOLPC Community Survey showed that 100% of participating parents reported clear rules around alcohol. 

This is an opportunity for parents to recognize the importance of early, consistent, and on-going conversations around drugs and alcohol. The Survey and Youth Panel identify parents as role models with parental disappointment being one of the main reasons kids choose not to drink or use drugs.

The panel reported that kids are watching their parents and how they deal with stress, cope with life around them, and how they role model substance use. One student said “That’s what we are going to absorb and see as normal. My advice is to keep talking and to do the kinds of things that are healthy and good because kids are watching.”

Marijuana use, perception of harm, and its connection to our kids’ mental health was also discussed at the Forum  

The survey data shows the average age of first use of marijuana in LOL is 14.1, and by 12th grade, 19 percent of students reported trying marijuana, but the Youth Panel felt that number was under-reported.  

They also shared that teens acknowledge drinking and driving is very dangerous, but that “smoking weed” and driving is something that “kids do all the time.” This is another area for us to keep discussing with our kids and each other, with recent adult-use cannabis legalization and its impact on our communities.

The Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition is a DFC grant-funded community organization dedicated to prevention and supporting all youth and families. 

For more information about this survey, LOLPC campaigns and programs, or to become involved, visit www.lysb.org/prevention or contact Alli Behnke, MSW at abehnke@lysb.org

Editor’s Note: Alli Behnke, MSW is the LYSB Prevention Coordinator.

Letter to the Editor: Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition Responds to Hartford Fentanyl Tragedy, Encourages Community Approach to Substance Abuse Issues Locally

To the Editor:

An Open Letter to the Lyme-Old Lyme Community

I’m sure many of you have heard the tragic news about two recent drug exposure incidents in two Connecticut middle schools. Tragically, a young 13-year-old boy died after being exposed to fentanyl at his middle school in Hartford. The following day, five students were hospitalized after ingesting THC edibles (candy) at their New Haven middle school.
As we process these tragic incidents, the Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition is sharing resources and support to our community’s youth and families.
We strongly encourage you to join us and embrace a community approach to supporting youth and families around substance abuse prevention. Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) staff is working to schedule community Narcan trainings.
To receive prevention updates, visit this link to join our mailing list.
To find upcoming events and links to useful resources about current drug trends, conversation starters, and data, visit our website.
Our Coalition depends on input, expertise, and energy from community members, and we welcome you to our meetings. We are available to answer questions about substance abuse prevention, personal concerns, and be a resource to any youth, parent, or community member needing support, referrals, and/or guidance. Please let us know if we can be of help to you or your family. You can reach me at 860-434-7208 or by email at abehnke@lysb.org.
Sincerely,
Allison Behnke, MSW,
Old Lyme.
Editor’s Note: The author is the Prevention Coordinator at LYSB.

Keeping Kids Safe Through the Wonders of Winter Ball

LYME-OLD LYME — The Winter Ball and all milestone celebrations are amazing events where memories are made for our teenagers.  They also offer unique opportunities for open conversation with teens about alcohol/other drugs and the risks they pose for individual and group safety.  

The best thing parents and other adults can do in an adolescent’s life is to talk often and early with an open mind and clear rules and expectations.

The Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition is reaching out to students, parents, and other adults to reinforce the legal and safety consequences of underage drinking and marijuana use. Too often, communities across the US have seen this time of celebration turn into a time of tragedy.  

Criminal charges related to underage drinking can change a person’s life. Even worse, serious injury or death can turn what should be a wonderful memory into a tragic end. 

We want our kids to have a great time but also to celebrate drug- and alcohol-free.  We would like them to have fun safely and not see them (or you!) get into legal trouble that could have a long-term effect.

Alcohol/Marijuana—Teens should know that buying or possessing alcohol or marijuana under the age of 21 can result in multiple, serious criminal charges. It may prevent them from being able to have a driver’s license

DUI—A DUI conviction could mean the loss of a driver’s license, and a fine.

Parents—Parents and other adults can play a role to help ensure teens’ safety. Do not provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, even in your own home. It is ILLEGAL in Connecticut.  Charges carry a heavy fine and violators must appear in court. Do not take the chance.

Police Patrols—Police officers will be patrolling during the evening of the Winter Ball and are hoping not to find drivers exhibiting signs of impairment. Parents are urged to remind your kids not to ruin the night by getting a DUI, or much worse. If possible, arrange for rides both ways with a parent and have a safety plan in place.

We have one goal in mind: keeping our young people safe. There is no desire to diminish the fun of the evening nor make it harder to celebrate. Our universal wish is that your kids come home.

Please, be our partners in this effort and talk openly and honestly with them about the dangers of substance use and misuse.

For more information and resources, contact Alli Behnke, Prevention Coordinator at LYSB, abehnke@lysb.org   www.lysb.org/prevention

Alli Behnke

About the Author: Alli Behnke, MSW, MA is the Prevention Coordinator at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. She has been a Social Worker for 20 years working in the fields of prevention, therapy, youth leadership, and health coaching. Alli believes strongly in providing accurate information, education, and tools for success when empowering the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition and REACH Youth Coalition to work together on strengths-based campaigns. The Coalitions address substance abuse and other risky behaviors challenging our youth and families. Contact her at abehnke@lysb.org or visit  www.lysb.org to become involved in this important community work.

Red Ribbon Week Includes Virtual Presentation on Marijuana Dangers, Thursday

LYME/OLD LYME — Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) and Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition (LOLPC) are planning a number of activities to celebrate Red Ribbon Week, which is taking place through Oct. 31.

The week is aimed at uniting youth, parents, schools, and communities in order to take a stand against drug misuse. As part of this year’s observance — which will be themed “Drug Free Looks Like Me” — the Upstanders Club at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School (LOLMS) is hosting a Door-Decorating Contest and other Red Ribbon events, and LYSB will be aglow in red lights for the week.

On Thursday Oct. 28, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., the LOLPC is sponsoring a virtual workshop titled, The Dangerous Truth About Today’s Marijuana: Johnny Stack’s Life and Death Story.

Laura Stack, best-selling author and public speaker, will share the story of her son Johnny’s marijuana addiction from a mother’s point of few, a poignant chronicle of shocking descent from innocence to eventual suicide.

This important event is free and all are welcome.

Register here to obtain the Zoom link for the presentation or at www.lysb.org.

These events are supported by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award funded by ONDCP.

Editor’s Note: For more information about Red Ribbon Week or the Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition, contact Alli Behnke, MSW, MA at abehnke@lysb.org.

In It Together: College Drinking — Rite of Passage or Risky Business?

Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash.

Underage college drinking is a significant public health problem, and it exacts an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives of students on campuses across the United States. Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience.

Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem. 

About one in four college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.

In a national survey of college students, binge drinkers who consumed alcohol at least three times per week were roughly six times more likely than those who drank but never binged to perform poorly on a test or project as a result of drinking, and five times more likely to have missed a class.

Although the majority of students come to college already having some experience with alcohol, certain aspects of college life, such as unstructured time, the widespread availability of alcohol, inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws, and limited interactions with parents and other adults, can intensify the problem.

In fact, college students have higher binge-drinking rates and a higher incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol than their non-college peers.

The first six weeks of freshman year are a vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year. 

How much is a drink?

To avoid binge drinking and its consequences, college students (and all people who drink) are advised to track the number of drinks they consume over a given period of time. That is why it is important to know exactly what counts as a drink.

In the United States, a standard drink is one that contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content;
  • 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content;
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40 percent alcohol content.

Unfortunately, although the “standard” drink amounts are helpful for following health guidelines, they may not reflect customary serving sizes. A large cup of beer, an over-poured glass of wine, or a single mixed drink could contain much more alcohol than a standard drink. 

Factors related to specific college environments also are significant. Students attending schools with strong Greek systems and with prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students at other types of schools.

In terms of living arrangements, alcohol consumption is highest among students living in fraternities and sororities and lowest among commuting students, who live with their families.

An often-overlooked preventive factor involves the continuing influence of parents. Research shows that students who choose not to drink often do so because their parents discussed alcohol use and its adverse consequences with them.

Ongoing research continues to improve our understanding of how to address the persistent and costly problem of harmful and underage student drinking. Successful efforts typically involve a mix of strategies that target individual students, the student body as a whole, and the broader college community.

For more information and resources, contact Alli Behnke, Prevention Coordinator at LYSB, abehnke@lysb.org   www.lysb.org/prevention

Article source: NIH

Alli Behnke

About the Author: Alli Behnke, MSW, MA is the Prevention Coordinator at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. She has been a Social Worker for 20 years working in the fields of prevention, therapy, youth leadership, and health coaching. Alli believes strongly in providing accurate information, education, and tools for success when empowering the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition and REACH Youth Coalition to work together on strengths-based campaigns. The Coalitions address substance abuse and other risky behaviors challenging our youth and families. Contact her at abehnke@lysb.org or visit  www.lysb.org to become involved in this important community work.

Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition Needs Community Input, Asks Readers to Take Online Survey

LYME/OLD LYME — The Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition (LOLPC) is a group of volunteers, who collaborate with all sectors of the community to prevent substance misuse and abuse. Working together over the past 16 years, they have achieved significant reductions in adolescent substance misuse. 

Their work continues to change as the culture, climate, and concerns facing Lyme/Old Lyme youth and families shift. The Coalition is thrilled to work with the community to enhance the safety, well-being, and happiness of all our youth.

The key part of the Coalition is our community and its members. The group is made up of volunteers from all sectors of the community with the result that many voices, experiences, and expertise can be heard and utilized to support our youth and families. 

In December 2020, the Coalition was awarded a five-year Drug Free Communities Grant. This is the first year of the grant and the Coalition is asking all members of the Lyme-Old Lyme community to fill out this online Community Survey. The survey asks about social norms, perception of harm, and how community members think and feel about substance misuse and abuse.

This data will help lead the work of the LOLPC as the group collaborates with the community to utilize best practices and continue to be pioneers in youth substance abuse and misuse prevention.  All of the Coalition’s efforts are data-driven and rely on the willingness of our community members.

Visit this link to access and complete the online survey.

The LOLPC thanks community members for their time.

Editor’s Note: Contact LOLPC Prevention Coordinator Allison Behnke, MSW, MA, at abehnke@lysb.org with any questions about the survey or for more information about being involved in the work of the Prevention Coalition.   

LYSB, LOL Prevention Coalition to Hold Free NARCAN, QPR Training for Community, Tonight; All Welcome to These Potentially Life-Saving Sessions

LYME/OLD LYME — On Thursday, Aug. 19, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) and the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition will be hosting a free Narcan and Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training session.

NARCAN (naloxone) is an opiate antidote.  Opioids include heroin and prescription pain pills such as oxycodone, codeine and morphine. NARCAN is a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose.

NARCAN® Nasal Spray may counteract the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. Since most accidental overdoses occur in a home setting, it was developed for first responders, as well as family, friends, and caregivers—with no medical training required. Its characteristics are:

  • Needle-free
  • Designed for ease-of-use in the community setting
  • Inhalation not required

The Narcan training from 6:30 to 7 p.m. will provide participants with knowledge about overdose prevention strategies, administering Narcan, and support information and resources. Each participant will go home with a free Narcan kit.

The QPR portion from 7 to 8 p.m. will help participants learn the three steps to help save a life, warning signs of a suicide crisis, how to respond, and where to go for resources and support.

These sessions will be held at Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall.  Register for one or both trainings at this link.

Data indicates that emergency personnel are seeing a slight uptick in overdose calls in our region with state and national data showing that the pandemic has contributed to this rise.

Every week in the US, an average of 20 people die from a drug overdose, and eight by suicide. Accidental overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.

This training is crucial if you ever find yourself in the position to save a life. It will be facilitated by staff from SERAC (Supporting and Engaging Resources for Action and Change).

For more information about the training sessions, visit this link.

Mental health problems and substance use disorders sometimes occur together. More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem. Substance use problems occur more frequently with certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders because:

  • Certain illegal drugs can cause people with an addiction to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem.
  • Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, as some people with a mental health problem may misuse these substances as a form of self-medication.
  • Mental health and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma

Someone with a mental health problem and substance use disorder must treat both issues. Treatment for both mental health problems and substance use disorders may include rehabilitation, medications, support groups, and talk therapy.

Shared decision making allows an individual and their healthcare provider to determine together the most appropriate treatment or care choices. It is a fundamental process in primary care and behavioral health care integration — making it vital that individuals with behavioral health conditions acquire skills to participate in decisions with their healthcare providers.

For more information on mental health and substance use disorders, visit samhsa.gov  and/or www.lysb.org/prevention

Alli Behnke

About the Author: Alli Behnke, MSW, MA is the Prevention Coordinator at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. She has been a Social Worker for 20 years working in the fields of prevention, therapy, youth leadership, and health coaching. Alli believes strongly in providing accurate information, education, and tools for success when empowering the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition and REACH Youth Coalition to work together on strengths-based campaigns. The Coalitions address substance abuse and other risky behaviors challenging our youth and families. Contact her at abehnke@lysb.org or visit  www.lysb.org to become involved in this important community work.

In It Together: Binge Drinking is Bad for the Brain … Even for Teens

Underage binge drinking is a reality in all communities and Lyme and Old Lyme are no different. Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash.

Summer is here, parties are happening, and alcohol consumption will increase. This is a good time of year to dive deeper into the effects of binge drinking on the brain and development.

You have surely heard that abusing alcohol hurts your health. But how many years of drinking do you think it takes to visibly affect your brain? Ten years? Twenty?

Turns out that it doesn’t take that long at all — in fact, scientists can already see changes in the brains of teenagers who drink.

In a research study, Professor Susan Tapert of the University of California at San Diego used an MRI to scan the brains of teens who binge drink — defined as drinking four or five (or more) drinks in a couple of hours. Dr. Tapert found that the “white matter” in their brains — the part that transmits signals, like a TV cable or a computer USB cord — was abnormal compared with the white matter of teens who do not binge drink.

Transmitting signals is a big part of what the brain does, so affecting the white matter in this way could also affect a person’s thinking, learning, and memory.

The really scary part is that these teens weren’t alcoholics, and they didn’t drink every day. All they did (to be considered “binge drinkers”) was drink at least four (for women) or five (for men) drinks in one sitting, at least one time during the previous three months.

A Youth Survey conducted by Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) in 2019 in Lyme and Old Lyme found that 67 percent of students in grades 7-12 reported having engaged in binge drinking at least once in their lifetime. The survey also found that 24 percent of students in grades 7-12 reported binge drinking within the past 30 days and 34 percent of all 12th graders reported the same thing. 

Underage binge drinking is a reality in all communities and ours is no different.  

How could it be possible for just a few sessions of heavy drinking to affect the white matter of the brain? Well, science has shown that alcohol can poison brain cells and alter the brain’s white matter in adult alcoholics.

Dr. Tapert thinks that teenagers’ brains are even more susceptible this way. She states, “Because the brain is still developing during adolescence, there has been concern that it may be more vulnerable to high doses of alcohol.”

And the bottom line?

If you’re a teen, drinking to the point of getting drunk could damage the white matter of your brain—even if you do it only once in a while.                               

Tips for parents about how to talk to your kids about alcohol, and more information on the LYSB’s survey results are  available at this link.

Article source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Alli Behnke

About the Author: Alli Behnke, MSW, MA is the Prevention Coordinator at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. She has been a Social Worker for 20 years working in the fields of prevention, therapy, youth leadership, and health coaching. Alli believes strongly in providing accurate information, education, and tools for success when empowering the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition and REACH Youth Coalition to work together on strengths-based campaigns. The Coalitions address substance abuse and other risky behaviors challenging our youth and families. Contact her at abehnke@lysb.org or visit  www.lysb.org to become involved in this important community work.

In It Together: Understanding Critical Connections Between Drug Use/Abuse and Mental Illness


LYME/OLD LYME —
As we recognize both National Prevention Week this week (May 9-15) and National Mental Health Awareness Month during the whole month of May, the Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition is actively working to educate the community about substance abuse, our youth, and the role of prevention. 

Understanding how substance use and abuse before the age of 25 has a profound impact on our youth is a critical step in preventing adolescent alcohol and drug use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug addiction is classified as a mental illness because addiction changes the brain in fundamental ways, disturbing a person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires, and substituting new priorities connected with procuring and using drugs. The resulting compulsive behaviors that override the ability to control impulses, despite the consequences, are similar to hallmarks of other mental illnesses.

In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the definitive resource of diagnostic criteria for all mental disorders, includes criteria for drug use disorders, distinguishing between two types: drug abuse and drug dependence.

Drug dependence is synonymous with addiction.

By comparison, the criteria for drug abuse hinge on the harmful consequences of repeated use, but do not include  compulsive use, tolerance (i.e., needing higher doses to achieve the same effect), or withdrawal (i.e., symptoms that occur when use is stopped), which can be signs of addiction.

Many people, who regularly abuse drugs, are also diagnosed with mental disorders and vice versa. The high prevalence of this comorbidity has been documented in multiple, national population surveys since the 1980s. Data shows that persons diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders are about twice as likely to suffer also from a substance use disorder (abuse or dependence) compared with respondents in general.

The same is true for those diagnosed with an antisocial syndrome, such as antisocial personality or conduct disorder. Similarly, persons diagnosed with substance use disorders are roughly twice as likely to suffer also from mood and anxiety disorders.

Adolescence – A Vulnerable Time

Although substance abuse and addiction can happen at any time during a person’s life, drug use typically starts in adolescence. Photo by Gras Grun on Unsplash.

Although substance abuse and addiction can happen at any time during a person’s life, drug use typically starts in adolescence, a period when the first signs of mental illness commonly appear. It is therefore not surprising that comorbid disorders can already be seen among youth.

Significant changes in the brain occur during adolescence, which may enhance vulnerability to drug use and the development of addiction and other mental disorders. Drugs of abuse affect brain circuits involved in learning and memory, reward-comprehension, decision-making, and behavioral control, all of which are still maturing into early adulthood. 

One of the brain areas still maturing during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that enables us to assess situations, make sound decisions, and keep our emotions and desires under control. The fact that this critical part of an adolescent’s brain is still a work-in-progress puts them at increased risk for poor decision-making (such as trying drugs or continuing abuse.)

Thus, introducing drugs while the brain is still developing may have profound and long-lasting consequences. This is especially true as we see a rise in marijuana use and the extremely high amounts of THC found in today’s cannabis market.  

The more we learn, the better we understand the abilities and vulnerabilities of teens, and the significance of this stage for life-long mental health. The fact that so much change is taking place beneath the surface may be something for parents, family members, and others to keep in mind during the ups and downs of adolescence. 

Research has shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective in reducing drug abuse.

For more information about the work of the Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition, visit www.lysb.org.   

The Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition also hosts a Community Podcast:  L-OL:In it Together where you can find episodes related to prevention. Find links to the show at www.lysb.org/podcast.             

(Source: NIDA)

Alli Behnke

About the Author: Alli Behnke, MSW, MA is the Prevention Coordinator at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. She has been a Social Worker for 20 years working in the fields of prevention, therapy, youth leadership, and health coaching. Alli believes strongly in providing accurate information, education, and tools for success when empowering the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition and REACH Youth Coalition to work together on strengths-based campaigns. The Coalitions address substance abuse and other risky behaviors challenging our youth and families. Contact her at abehnke@lysb.org or visit  www.lysb.org to become involved in this important community work.

In It Together: April is Alcohol Awareness Month so Let’s STOP Teen Access to Alcohol

LYME/OLD LYME — April is Alcohol Awareness month and one way we can work to prevent teens from drinking is to prevent easy access to alcohol.

Teen drinking is not inevitable.

Nationally, more than 70 percent of high school seniors do not drink alcohol regularly. Unfortunately, according to 2019 data, 73 percent of 12th graders at Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS) report that it is easy to get alcohol.

Most teens who drink obtain alcohol without having to pay for it. They get it from friends or family members, at parties, or by taking it without permission.

Underage drinkers who pay for alcohol usually give money to someone else to purchase it for them.   

Here are some steps you can take to reduce access to alcohol:

  1. Liquor stickers are available from LYSB and LOL Prevention Coalition.

    At home, make sure teens can’t access alcohol without your knowledge. Unmonitored alcohol, including alcohol stored in a cabinet, refrigerator, basement, or garage, can be a temptation. When in doubt, lock it up.

    This is also important for grandparents, family, and anyone else with youth in their homes. Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau and the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition have “Liquor Stickers” available to help secure open bottles in the home.

  2. Exercise your influence. Data shows that teens continue to care what their parents think, even while they are in high school and college. Let your teen know that you don’t want them to drink and that most teens, in fact, don’t drink. Talk often and talk early.
  3. It may have happened already. A neighbor announces she is hosting a teen party, but you shouldn’t worry — she is taking the car keys from every kid who comes in. Or a colleague says he is serving alcohol to his high school son’s friends so they can “learn to drink responsibly.” Speak up, because silence can be misinterpreted.
  4. According to Connecticut’s Social Host Law not only is it illegal to provide alcohol to a person under 21, but as a host you are advised to actively prevent use by underage youth on your property.  Connecticut’s law on hosting reads that hosts “knew or should have known” that underage drinking was taking place. Monitoring during the course of the entire party is required.

  5. If you hear about a situation — speak up! Say that you don’t want other people serving alcohol to your teen or condoning teen drinking.  Let your friends, neighbors, and family members know that the minimum drinking age and Social Host Law are policies that protect teens, and that you don’t want your teen to drink.
  6. Take action before a situation arises. Start talking to the parents of your child’s friends early — as early as 6th grade. Talk together about the risks of teen drinking and share that you don’t want anyone to allow your teen to drink alcohol. Talk to adults who host teen parties. Let them know that the overwhelming majority of parents support the legal drinking age and agree that it is not okay to serve alcohol to someone else’s teen — and it is not okay to turn a blind eye to teen alcohol consumption.
  7. Let local law enforcement know that you encourage active policing of noisy teen parties that may signal alcohol use. Tell local alcohol retailers that you want them to check ID’s before selling alcohol. Limiting alcohol sales to legal purchasers is an important goal and well worth the time it takes.

For more information on how to help your teen make healthy choices surrounding drugs or alcohol, visit www.lysb.org or email Alli Behnke at abehnke@lysb.org 

(Sources:  Federal Trade Commission, MTF 2019,  LYSB Youth Survey 2019)

In It Together: The E-cigarette Epidemic Among Youth

LYME/OLD LYME — The Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition is recognizing National Drug and Alcohol Fact Week (March 22-28) with a look at e-cigarettes, vaping and its impact on our youth.  We are proud to be working with youth leaders at both the High School (REACH) and Middle School (Upstanders) to bring awareness to peers, families, and the community.

Considerable progress has been made in reducing cigarette smoking among our nation’s youth. However, the tobacco product landscape continues to evolve to include a variety of tobacco products, including smoked, smokeless, and electronic products, such as e-cigarettes.  E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine, THC (marijuana), flavorings, and other additives to the user via an inhaled aerosol.

In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students, used e-cigarettes. 

In 2019, Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) partnered with the schools to survey student use in grades 6-12.  Data reveals that recent electronic cigarette use is reported by 10 percent of youth in grades 7-12 with use going up as students move to a higher grade.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and many feature kid-friendly flaors.

E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine – the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain – which continues to develop until about age 25.

Nicotine exposure during adolescence can impact learning, memory, and attention. Using nicotine in adolescence can also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs. 

In addition to nicotine, the aerosol that users inhale and exhale from e-cigarettes can expose themselves and bystanders to other harmful substances, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. 

Many e-cigarettes also come in kid-friendly flavors. In addition to making e-cigarettes more appealing to young people, some of the chemicals used to make certain flavors may also have health risks. E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver other drugs, including marijuana.  

You Can Take Action 

We must take steps to protect our children from these highly potent products that risk exposing a new generation of young people to nicotine. The bad news is that e-cigarette use has become an epidemic among our nation’s young people.

The good news, however, is that we know what works effectively to protect our kids from all forms of tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes. We must now apply these strategies to e-cigarettes, including USB flash drive-shaped products such as JUUL and Puff Bars.  

These strategies include:

  • Recognize that you have an important role to play in addressing this public health epidemic.
  • Learn about the different shapes and types of e-cigarettes and the risks of all forms of e-cigarette use for young people at   https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/.
  • Set a good example by being tobacco-free. If you use tobacco products, it’s never too late to quit. Talk to a healthcare professional about quitting all forms of tobacco product use. For free help, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  • Adopt tobacco-free rules, including e-cigarettes, in your home and vehicle.
  • Talk to your child or teen about why e-cigarettes are harmful for them. It’s never too late. Talk early. Talk often.
  • Get the Surgeon General’s tip sheet for parents, Talk With Your Teen About E-cigarettes, at https://ecigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/.
  • Start the conversation early with children about why e-cigarettes, including JUUL, are harmful for them.
  • Let your child know that you want them to stay away from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, because they are not safe for them. Seek help and get involved.

Set up an appointment with your child’s health care provider so that they can hear from a medical professional about the health risks of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. 

Speak with your child’s teacher and school administrator about enforcement of tobacco-free school policies and tobacco prevention curriculum. 

Encourage your child to learn the facts and get tips for quitting tobacco products at Teen.smokefree.gov.

For more information or support, contact Alli Behnke, MSW, who serves as the LYSB Prevention Coordinator at  abehnke@lysb.org or visit www.lysb.org

Alli Behnke

About the Author: Alli Behnke, MSW, MA is the Prevention Coordinator at Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. She has been a Social Worker for 20 years working in the fields of prevention, therapy, youth leadership, and health coaching. Alli believes strongly in providing accurate information, education, and tools for success when empowering the Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition and REACH Youth Coalition to work together on strengths-based campaigns. The Coalitions address substance abuse and other risky behaviors challenging our youth and families. Contact her at abehnke@lysb.org or visit  www.lysb.org to become involved in this important community work.