ifIknew

ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Category: Alcohol, Tobacco & other Drugs

Freedom...with a warning label.

It’s the time of year when there is an uptick in the number of alcohol overdoses occurring on campuses across the country. Newfound freedom for freshmen often seems to take the form of the freedom to drink with abandon. But the body has its natural limits. Binge drinking can lead to an overdose or what is otherwise called alcohol poisoning.  This happens when someone drinks more rapidly than his or her body can metabolize. Alcohol’s intoxicating property, ETOH, goes straight to the brain, hence the buzz. The alcohol builds up in the bloodstream and depresses the part of the brain that controls involuntary actions like breathing and physical coordination.  It can cause the drinker to lose consciousness.  At this point  the drinker is at high risk to choke on his or her own vomit, stop breathing, have irregular, slow, or fast heartbeats, brain damage, hypothermia or hypoglycemia (which can lead to a seizure), or death.  Someone who survives an overdose can still suffer irreversible brain damage.

The difficulty in defending oneself against unwanted sexual advances when intoxicated accounts for a high percentage of  rapes, that are reported or go unreported on campuses each year.

College is so much more than drinking.   Find the student activities director on campus and ask for a list of non-drinking fun alternatives around town. Join clubs that may interest you or will advance your social life or future career. Join an intramural sports team.   Constructive activities abound – and it’s much more fun to wake up with a great memory than to have no memory, regrets, or find yourself in the hospital.

What Happened Last Night?

You’re confused, nauseous, dizzy, and embarrassed so you quickly get dressed and slip out of the house. Back at your own place, you sleep a while longer and then ask your friends why they ditched you. To your surprise, they never saw you. The twenty unopened texts confirm their claims. Pretty sure you had sex, you lie in bed for the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do. Finally, on Sunday, your friend’s sister convinces you to go the hospital and tell them that you’ve been raped. Sadly, it’s too late. The Rohypnol used to drug you is already out of your system and your attacker didn’t leave evidence because he (thankfully) used a condom. Going out tonight? Protect yourself.

  • If someone wants to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar and watch it being poured.
  • If you only had one drink and you feel drunk, call 911 or get help immediately.
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you do, dump it!
  • Open your own bottles.
  • Don’t take a drink from someone else.
  • Avoid community drinks.
  • Stay away from punch bowls.
  • If it tastes or smells funny or different, then it probably is!

Have your designated driver keep an eye out for those who are drinking and what everyone is drinking as well.

Resources: National Directory of Rape Crises Centers Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE

Rant - You know what I hate?

I hate lying. I hate deceit. I hate playing on your personality and interests for personal gain. And I especially hate when all of the above are mixed together, along with bright colors, catchy mastheads, and pop culture to produce a concoction that’s sticky sweet in all the wrong aspects. You know what I’m talking about?

I’m talking about those irritating advertisements that take up the first and last thirty pages of whatever magazine you’re reading. Those ads that promise good fortune, lush hair, silky skin lots of friends and lots of easy sex? They are there aimed at increasing hormone-induced fuzzy thinking so we’ll buy their products.

You know why it sucks?

Because we are already genetically prone to temptation, which is hard enough to avoid as it is. You hear all these stories about people who have altered the way their brain and lungs function by drinking and smoking too much, so you resolve that this sort of thing won’t happen to you. You don’t want to grow up to forever regret accepting that Solo cup of Skyy mixed with Redbull, and you promise that this won’t be your future.

You know why this could be your future?

It could be your future because whether or not you want to see this stuff every day, you do. And even though you have that "this-won’t-happen-to-me-because-I’m-smarter-then-that" attitude, you probably check out the ads because they’re colorful, they’ve got hot guys or girls in them, and/or you know the product.  Some ads show people, especially kids doing stuff that requires some serious coordination and alertness, like swimming, for example.  Does anyone you know actually go swimming after ingesting 16 ounces of Four Loko? The problem is they don’t live to tell you about it. So just why are the guys in the picture smiling? We need to remember they are acting and getting paid to appear like it’s all fun and no consequences. - R.S

Want to see for yourself? Check out the website: http://www.camy.org/

The Gateway Effect

A recent study conducted by Tristan Kirby MPH and Adam E Barry Ph.D. confirms that alcohol, not pot, is the primary indicator of whether an individual will experiment with other drugs. Researchers looked at the annual Monitoring the Future survey, in which 50,000 high school sophomores and seniors are questioned about their substance use and lifestyle choices. They compared high school seniors who had and had not consumed alcohol at least once in their lives and found that those who drank were 13 more times likely to smoke cigarettes, 16 times more likely to use  marijuana and other narcotics, and 13 times more likely to use cocaine.

So why isn’t alcohol considered a “gateway” as marijuana is? For one thing, drinking is extremely common. Alcohol is legal and relatively easy to obtain. The Centers for Disease Control recently found that 71 percent of American students have consumed alcohol in their lifetime, and that nearly 39 percent drank within the last 30 days.

Hangovers...UGH!!!

A hangover.  Splitting headache, vile taste of alcohol in your mouth and a nausea that won’t subside. How many times have you woken up with a hangover and then said,“UGH! I’m never drinking again!” Now, how many of those times did you actually quit drinking for more than a day? A week? A month? If your answer was a day or a week, then you are one of the many who experience a horrid hangover, but still continue to turn back to the alcohol that was the enemy only a few hours or days before. What is it that makes us come back for more, after feeling so awful? According to psychological researcher Diane Logan, we turn back to alcohol, the source of the problem, because we just didn’t learn our lesson. We rationalize the splitting headache, claiming it isn’t really that bad and getting rid of it by taking Advil. We downsize the disgusting nausea, and lie in bed for a while understanding that it will subside eventually and looking back to the more positive parts of drinking. We engage in what is sometimes called “euphoric recall,” in which we chose to remember the “awesome” night we had instead of the current hangover. Who wouldn’t prefer recalling positive associations instead of negative ones? Drinking is all fun again.

For a lot of us, drinking has become the social sport we engage in to have a good time. We have accepted drinking as part of our life and have let this “sport” become something that we almost must do in order to fit in. Hangovers can teach us something about our bodies – like knowing when we have pushed ourselves too far - if we are smart enough to listen.

Fake ID, Real Consequences

It’s nearly every high school student and college kid’s dream - the day you are finally old enough to go to a bar and buy alcohol. For most of us this comes at the age of 18, or 21, depending on the legal age in your location. However, for others this opportunity comes prematurely, in the form of fake ID’s. Fake ID’s have become fairly easy to obtain. You can buy one for roughly $100 from a local dealer on campus, make one yourself, or take one from a similar looking older sibling.  Now fake ID’s are also very easily purchased online from offshore fake ID websites. Before you say, “Hey, it’s not such a big deal. What’s the worst that could happen?,” stop and think again.

I used to think the worst that would happen is being thrown out of the bar or having your ID confiscated.  But fines, suspension of your driver’s license and jail time are other possibilities. Some states have now even upgraded the possession of false identification to a felony. And, since 9-11, a fake ID can also be a federal offense under The Patriot Act. College admissions offices and prospective employers aren’t too keen about accepting people who’ve been charged with a felony charges.  It’s something to consider.

What Just Happened?

You’ve just arrived at the party of the year and you’re psyched.  Looking around, you realize that your friends haven’t gotten there yet.  This is the night you’re finally going to talk to  your crush  and you need their encouragement.  Everyone else looks like they’re having a great time so you head to the kitchen.  Maybe there’s some liquid courage around.  Red cups are stacked on the counter and what looks like a new trashcan filled with red punch sits in front of the sink.  You dip your cup in and take a sip.  It’s definitely spiked so you fill your cup and try to blend in while you wait for your friends to join you.  Twenty minutes later you’ve had three or four cups and your friends aren’t there yet.  As the room sways, you feel dinner and the punch start to come back up.  Grabbing the closest thing…the trashcan, you puke red everywhere.   To make matters worse, you see the flash of someone’s camera phone go off out of the corner of your eye.

What just happened?  You thought this was going to be the party of the year and now everyone is mad at you!  The brain could have had something to do with things going wrong.  When we get excited about an upcoming event like a party, a date, a text, a game, or even eating a pizza, we get a surge of dopamine.  This feel-good neurotransmitter is responsible for keeping us wanting more but not being satisfied!    We get a good feeling as we anticipate the event, but unfortunately our expectations often fall short of reality.  It’s like ordering a cherry pie for dessert at the diner and then finding out that it’s nothing like the one Grandma makes.

Our desire to be accepted, wanted, loved, cool, free, and have fun can sometimes kidnap the reasoning part of our brain.  Adding that extra boost from dopamine to the mix can create the perfect storm.  Before we do something we may regret, it’s a good idea to think things through to the end because in the end we have to live with our choices.

The Pocket Guide to Spring Break

That’s right, boys and girls; it’s that time of year again. It’s the week you waited for all semester. You have pulled many all nighters and crammed for exams. You have submitted your 7 page papers three minutes before the midnight deadline and passed (hopefully) your midterms. Now it’s time for some relaxation, that’s right, everybody; SPRING BREAK IS HERE! Spring break to most of us is a time for relaxation, time to go home see your family, time for a little traveling, and of course time for a little partying. With most parties, there are the majority who just want to relax, drink and have a good time. However, every party has its pooper, and there are those that take it to another level and end up sick, hospitalized, drugged and/or injured. From my experience the last few years - here’s your pocket list of DO’s And Don’ts for spring break.

  • As always, if you drink (obviously if you are over 21), DO NOT DRIVE!  Funerals we’ve been to are real downers.
  • Do not take drinks from someone else! If you’re at spring break and drinking, you probably are not new to this and you know the realities of someone slipping something  into your drink.
  • If you are having any sexual contact, USE A CONDOM! Remember STD’s can be transferred through oral sex as well.
  • Many of the spring break spots are located on beaches.  Do not drink and swim.  IF you are drinking on the beach, make sure you are also drinking water, since both alcohol and the sun dehydrate you.
  • Be alert. While you may be responsible, that does not mean that others are acting responsibly. Look out for drunk drivers and potentially belligerent and violent drunks.
  • Have a buddy with you at all times.
  • Stay off balconies. Falling from balconies is known to be one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths at spring breaks.

Have fun. Be “Spring Break” Happy.

Four Loko Blamed for Another Death

On Saturday, February 18, Michael Truluck, 13, was hanging out with his friends like most Saturdays.  This time, though, they had gotten an adult to buy them Four Loko, a high alcohol concoction that has been banned in four states and Baltimore City.  The sweet drink has as much alcohol as four beers and many believe the fruity, carbonated flavors are especially appealing to younger drinkers.   When drinking this mixture, people don’t always realize how much alcohol they’ve consumed and become very drunk, very fast. Michael’s friends said that he threw up twice before texting his family that he needed a ride home. His mother’s fiancé arrived to get him, but once in the truck, he felt sick again.  Without warning, and with impaired judgment and balance, Michael opened the front door to throw up, fell out into the street and was hit by another car. He died. Since the alcohol content is so high in each drink, his body likely did not have time to get the message to slow down which is the usual way our brains prevent us from continuing to ingest more booze.  Vomiting was his body’s way of trying to get rid of the overdose of alcohol.

Michael’s brain got tricked into drinking more and it had deadly consequences, maybe not the usual ones you think of like alcohol poisoning, but the result was the same.  It’s a reminder that you don’t have to reach the point of passing out for drinking to be fatal.

Drunk walking?

Consider this situation - it’s time to go home from a party, but you’ve had a few too many drinks to drive. Just to be safe, you decide to hand over your keys, buckle up your  boots, and walk home. Sounds like a safe plan, right? We’ve all heard about drunk driving. But what about drunk walking?

Steve Levitt, author of the bestselling book Freakonomics, did some number crunching. Around 4,000 pedestrians were killed last year in the U.S. Of that number, an estimated 35% had been drinking.

Maybe it makes sense to bring your toothbrush and prepare to crash for the night on your friend’s couch.

For an article and an NPR podcast click here and forward to 1:25

Happy New Year! Party hearty, but safely enough to see what 2012 brings for you!

Q & A: “Why do people even do drugs or drink at all?”

That’s a great question!  A few reasons: wanting to blow off steam, a way to have fun, wanting to fit in, low self-esteem, boredom, and trying to run from feelings. People want to be accepted – but by whom?  People from high school whom you may never see again after graduation?  (Click here to see what was going on in high school for one our speakers, Francine, when she started using drugs to feel better about her social situation at school. Why fit in when you were born to stand out?  On one level, people are people.  We all go to the bathroom.  We all put on our pants one leg at a time.  We tend to get in trouble when we think we are better or less than others.

How can we tackle fitting in, boredom, self-esteem and feelings?  There are three things we need to help us, according to bloggers from the Search Institute:  We all need a mentor, a passion, and a voice. Mentors, or allies, are people who are good listeners.  They can see situations as they are a little more clearly than we can.  They will also like us enough to tell us the truth if we get off center.

If you don’t want to be bored, find something that you love to do (your passion).  It could be computers, fantasy games, art, music, sports, dancing, or writing, to name a few.  When you do what you love, you’ll find people that you like and who share similar interests – and you’ll fit in!

Finally, take your passion and share it with the world.  We all need to have our voice heard.  Let’s say your passion is the guitar.  You can join a band, play at a senior center, or post on YouTube.

Another good tip is to have a goal in mind.  What do you want to be when you grow up?  How will your choice to do alcohol or drugs affect that goal?

To help you with your decision not to get chemically high, but to be in social situations where others are, here are some tips.  Rehearse what you will say before you go to a party where there might be drinking (or drugs).   Just saying “No, thanks. I’m good,” should be enough.   You could also try blaming your parents - “They’d kill me if they found out” or an upcoming ‘drug test’.  Remember, it is a free country to choose to leave or to stay and stay straight and not have to do what everyone else might be doing around you.  For more tips on staying ‘above the influence’, click here.

More doesn't mean better

Once we get tipsy or high, we are much more likely to misjudge what we are doing, including how much more alcohol is safe for us to drink or what will happen if we take drugs when we’ve been drinking. Recent reports from the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs bear this out, noting a 25% increase in alcohol overdoses and a whopping 76% increase in overdoses caused by a combination of alcohol and other drugs.  When we are relaxed and feeling good with alcohol, our self monitoring is dis-inhibited, and getting high with a drug at that moment seems appealing and less of a concern. At other times, some suppose that drinking is a good way to increase the effect of the drug they are taking to get high. The brain is such an amazing and delicately balanced, fine tuned and resilient machine. When we throw it off balance with intoxicating substances, we experience rather dramatic effects; some pleasurable, some not so. When the effects are pleasurable, at that moment we are often tempted in our slightly off balanced judgment - into thinking that “more would be better.”  More often than not, the reality is that it is not better. Instead, many unintended, not so pleasurable consequences like overdosing, non-consensual sex or drugged driving can be the result.

Keep your mask up, but don’t let your guard down

Halloween – what a great time of year.  It’s a great way to transition into the dreary winter season.  It’s also a fun way to try on different personas and even hide behind a mask.  Oh, and then there are the parties.  It’s easier to let our guard down when we’re in disguise.  Just keep in mind, though, that lowered inhibitions can lead to increased drinking.   Binge drinking is considered consuming four or more beers in one sitting with the intention of getting drunk.  It may be just a one time thing – or an occasional event.  Either way, we still have the same consequences.  We’re pretty sure local law enforcement doesn’t give partiers a pass for looking cute in a cat costume,  at least not around here.   Underage drinking on campus can be grounds for being kicked out of the dorms.  For those in high school, getting caught drinking can directly affect college admission chances and your standing in high school, too.

Lively parties tend to get out of control pretty quickly.  It’s always best to pre-plan. Ask yourself: •    Can I bring my own juice or beverage if I alcohol isn’t my thing? •    What’s my limit if I do choose to drink? •    What if I don’t follow my own limit that I set for myself? •    How will I turn down a drink when offered? •    Which friends have my back? •    Who is the designated driver? •    What’s my exit strategy if things get out of control? •    What is my back up plan in case our designated driver drinks?

Sometimes it’s a matter of just realizing that “not everyone is looking at me and watching to see if I drink alcohol and how much I drink. As if they really care - they’re caught up in their own drama.”

So, as long as custody of the drink is never lost, why not just put a soda in a red cup.  Who has to know?  And remember, “no” is a complete sentence.

Honoring Marc Goldberg's Memory

Today, on the fifth anniversary of his death, we honor the memory of Marc Goldberg.  Marc was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend who had been drinking.  In an instant, one promising life was lost and the lives of all who loved him were changed forever.  In “Everybody Thinks It Can’t Happen to Them,” Marc’s friends, including the friend who was driving the car, talk about that night and its impact.  We encourage you to visit www.marcspromise.org , the foundation Marc’s parents established in his memory, to learn more about what each of us can do to prevent something like this among our own family and friends.

What Happened Last Night?

You found the perfect outfit.  Your hair and makeup is done just right.  You can’t stop smiling because it’s Friday night and you are ready for a good time.  As you approach the club, your heart starts to beat in time with the pounding music seeping out through the doors.  Just the idea of the fun you could have within those four walls gives you butterflies.  Once inside, you get your drink and pull out your phone to see where your friends are.   You put your drink down to answer a text and the next thing you know, you’re waking up with no memory of the previous night.  You’re in some frat house you’ve never seen with people you’ve never met.  You wonder how you could have blacked out if you only had one drink.  You’ve been “roofied.” You’re confused, nauseous, dizzy, and embarrassed so you quickly get dressed and slip out of the house.  Back at your own place, you sleep awhile longer and then ask your friends why they ditched you.  To your surprise, they never saw you.  The twenty unopened texts confirm their claims.  Pretty sure you had sex, you lie in bed for the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do.  Finally, on Sunday, your friend’s sister convinces you to go the hospital and tell them that you’ve been raped.  Sadly, it’s too late.  The Rohypnol used to drug you is already out of your system and your attacker didn’t leave evidence because he (thankfully) used a condom.

Going out tonight? Protect yourself.

  • If someone wants to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar and watch it being poured.
  • If you only had one drink and you feel drunk, call 911 or get help immediately
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended.  If you do, dump it!
  • Open your own bottles.
  • Don’t take a drink from someone else.
  • Avoid community drinks.
  • Stay away from punch bowls.
  • If it tastes or smells funny or different, then it probably is!

Have your designated driver keep an eye out for those who are drinking (but the same rules apply for them!  They shouldn’t leave a soda can unattended either!)

There’s an old PSA tagline that stated, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”  The same is true for letting a friend leave a bar, club, or party with a stranger – especially while intoxicated.  Friends who are under the influence can be very persuasive and stubborn.  It’s better to have your friend mad at you for a moment than to live with the idea that you could have done something to prevent a tragedy.

Resources: National Directory of Rape Crises Centers Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE

FAQ: How do I know if I have a drinking problem?

Maybe friends or family members have told you they’re concerned. Or maybe you've recognized that your drinking might be a problem. If you are concerned, read the following statements and keep track of how many times they sometimes apply to you. Drinking Patterns

  • You sometimes intend to "just have a drink" but end up drinking more then you planned.
  • It is difficult for you to stop drinking after you've had one or two drinks.
  • When you drink, you frequently wind up drunk.
  • Even after your friends say they've had enough alcohol, you want to continue drinking.
  • You turn to certain “drinking buddies” or to a specific environment when you drink.
  • You crave a drink at a specific time every day, like after class or after work.
  • When you’re out with friends, you sneak a few drinks without their knowledge.
  • A significant part of your day is spent obtaining, consuming, or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • You sometimes have a drink to help you fall asleep.
  • You sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time.

After Drinking

  • The day after drinking, you have trouble remembering what you did the night before.
  • You sometimes feel guilty about your drinking.
  • Most of the time, you have a hangover or headache after you've been drinking.
  • When you’re sober, you often regret things you said or did while you were drinking.
  • After drinking, you have experienced severe anxiety, shaking, or visual or auditory hallucinations.

Consequences

  • Drinking has caused you to be late for class or work.
  • Your performance at school or work has suffered because of your drinking.
  • You have gotten into an argument or a fistfight while you were drinking.
  • You found yourself arguing with someone you like for no really good reason.
  • Your drinking has led to financial problems.
  • You have neglected your classes, job, family or other obligations for two or more days in a row because you were drinking.
  • You have been arrested for intoxicated behavior or driving under the influence of alcohol.

Drinking and Emotions

  • When you’re in a social situation and no alcohol is provided, you feel "out of place."
  • You use alcohol as an escape when you’re angry, disappointed, or otherwise upset.
  • Your personality is altered when you consume alcohol.

Family and Friends

  • Your family or friends have expressed concern about your drinking.
  • You get irritated when your family or friends want to discuss your drinking.
  • You have lost a friend or created a rift with a family member based on their feelings about your drinking.

You've tried to change

  • You've promised yourself to slow down or stop drinking, but you can only keep the promise for a few days or weeks at a time.
  • You have tried switching from one kind of alcohol to another in an effort to cut down or remain in control of your drinking, or to try to avoid getting drunk.

If 4 or more of these statements apply to you, you may have a problem with alcohol or have the potential to develop one. Examine your habits honestly. Patterns of heavy drinking can lead to a more serious problem down the road. You can reduce your drinking with some of the ideas listed below.

If 5 or more of these statements apply to you, there’s a strong chance that you frequently misuse and abuse alcohol. Now is the time for you to change your drinking patterns and behaviors. Because of the brain development occurring in teenagers and young adults, you could be at high risk for having these habits develop into set patterns.

Visit our “Get Help” tab for resources.

FAQ: What do I do if a friend is sick from drinking?

At a recent after-prom party in Dallas, an 18-year-old died from apparent alcohol poisoning. This type of tragedy is entirely too common. It’s important to think ahead about what you might do if a friend (or even a stranger) gets so drunk that you need to make the decision to call for help. Know the warning signs that someone is at risk and needs serious medical attention beyond having someone “hold their hair back.” These are the general guidelines offered by health professionals. Firstly, make sure the person doesn’t drink any more alcohol, and try to prevent him or her from wandering off alone. Impaired judgment can lead someone to get hurt, engage in risky sexual or violent behavior, or just plain embarrass him or herself-- with permanent documentation thanks to camera phones and Facebook. Also, make sure he or she does not get behind the wheel of a car!

A person doesn’t necessarily need to be throwing up or passed out to need medical attention. Worrisome signs to look out for include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Stumbling while walking or trouble maintaining balance without help
  • Trouble making eye contact
  • Feeling excessively cold or warm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Erratic, withdrawn, or aggressive behavior
  • Queasiness, vomiting, or dry heaving
  • Unconsciousness

If a drunk person throws up, it often means that the stomach is too irritated for food and water. If the person is willing to drink water, it can help him or her stay hydrated. However, remember that this doesn’t help make a person sober more quickly (neither will coffee, eating food, or taking a cold shower). Only time will allow alcohol to work its way out of the body. Once a person is already intoxicated, food may actually make him or her feel sicker or cause choking.

If your friend wants to lie down, make sure he or she is lying on his side or stomach. If someone vomits while on his or her back, it can cause choking and death. It’s important for a responsible (preferably sober) person to stay awake and watch the individual for several hours, making sure he doesn’t roll on his back and occasionally checking that the person is conscious. Someone who is unconscious will not respond to gentle shaking or being spoken to, and may have shallow, slow breathing.

If there are signs that someone is having trouble breathing, is severely ill, has mixed alcohol with other drugs (including prescriptions), or is unconscious, call for an ambulance as quickly as possible. Alcohol poisoning is a real possibility and time is of the essence. If you are unsure, always err on the side of caution. Many university campuses have their own emergency medical services that you can call, but otherwise, call 9-1-1.

Remember, it is dangerous to leave drunk friends to fend for themselves or ignore warning signs. Even if you’re afraid of getting into trouble, your safety (and that of your friends) should be the first priority.

One key strategy for safety is to make sure there’s at least one person in your group who is completely sober who can make decisions in case someone gets dangerously drunk. Drinking impairs judgment, and so if you have been drinking too, alcohol might cloud your ability to make the right call.

If you have a friend who is repeatedly drinking to the point of being unable to care for him or herself, perhaps it’s time for a new approach. Do you like spending weekends cleaning up vomit, trying to stop bad behavior, and worrying for others’ safety? You may want to bring it up with your friend, privately at a time when he or she is sober. Tell your friend how you feel about this behavior. Convey concern, but try not to preach. Offer your support, and encourage the friend to get help.

For more tips on talking with a friend about his or her drinking, click here.

For general information about alcohol, click here.

Selling Booze to Fight HIV?

When we read that Belvedere Vodka & Product (Red) with the help of Usher were launching a special edition vodka bottle to "help eliminate HIV/AIDS," we hoped it was an April Fools' joke. Unfortunately, this is for real. The specially designed vodka label reads: "(PRODUCT)RED HELPS SAVE LIVES."

Even if 50% of proceeds go to the Global Fund, this product choice seems a wildly insensitive and hypocritical move.  Rather than saving lives, alcohol is the cause of 4% of deaths worldwide- even more than AIDS! Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries.

Beyond this, alcohol use plays a major role in HIV transmission. Alcohol can cloud decision-making abilities and lead to high-risk sexual behaviors or drug use that can spread HIV. Alcohol is also quite harmful to people who are HIV positive; it can lead to failure of medications and other complications.

In a statement, the President of Belvedere said, "As one of the world's leading spirit brands, we are in a unique position to harness the power of our customers to benefit the millions of people who are at risk, or are living, with HIV. We want to raise consumer awareness and incite more global action to eliminate AIDS in Africa. Our message is simple - (PRODUCT)RED helps saves lives." The (PRODUCT) RED campaign also added the Penfold brand of wines to its lineup recently. This trend is worrisome.

The real message should be about the negative effects of alcohol advertising and that drinking can put you at risk for HIV. As this recent reaction from the Marin Institute puts it:

"If Usher and PRODUCT(RED) really wanted to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa, they would counteract the oversaturation of alcohol advertising, rather than promoting it. Instead, it seems that Belvedere and its parent company...are targeting the populations at highest risk of HIV, to increase sales and consumption of a product that increases both the risk of contracting HIV and the progression of HIV/AIDS disease."

Senior Week: A Parent’s Letter

To My Child, I am letting you go to Senior Week, but that doesn’t mean I won’t worry.  I know you want me to start treating you like an adult by giving you some space and some trust.  But I also know that sometimes people your age think that nothing can ever happen to them; they don’t really think about some of the risks they are taking and how the consequences can haunt them forever.  I love you and don’t want to lose you.  I don’t want to be one of those parents who get the nightmare call in the middle of the night from the police, the hospital, or G-d forbid, the morgue.

So, here are my Senior Week Commandments.  Please read them, take them seriously, and come home to me safely.

1. Always have someone with you, even if it’s just a quick walk to the store.  You will probably meet new people, but do not get into cars or go off alone with people you don’t know.

2. Always keep your drink, of any kind, with you.  Don’t ever leave your drink unattended.  If you ever do, get a new one.  Don’t take the chance that while your back is turned, someone may slip something into your drink.

3. If someone you are with “passes out,” do not just leave the person to sleep it off.  Sometimes a black-out or stupor induced by alcohol or another drug can be life threatening.  You may be saving a life if you let someone else know what’s going on.

4. Do not, for any reason, take someone else’s prescription medication or mix any medication with alcohol.  Besides decreasing your ability to make healthy decisions, it could kill you.

5. Drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal.  The police will suspend your license. And, the police will not be fooled by someone drinking beer out of a soda cup. The fine for this offense is $500 plus a court date in the fall. Using a fake ID or altering a real ID can lead to 12 points on a driver’s license (almost enough to have your license revoked).

6. Make sure your purse, money, iPod, camera or anything valuable is in a safe place in your room.  You can’t keep track of everybody who comes to your room, and not everyone, even people you know, can be trusted.  Also, if you let more than the registered number of people stay in your room, you could be evicted and possibly lose your security deposit.

7. Be safe when going from one place to another.  Don’t take chances crossing those crazy high traffic streets.  The bus is free.  Use it!  If you absolutely must ride in someone’s car, make sure you wear your seatbelt and ABSOLUTELY NEVER get into a car with someone who has been drinking.

8. ABSOLUTELY NEVER go swimming while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.  Don’t swim alone and don’t swim at night.

9. It is even illegal to ride a bike when you’ve been drinking. You’ll be charged with the same offense (DWI, DUI) as if you were driving a car.

10. If you are 18, the police can charge you as an adult, which means that you will have a criminal record. The police do not call parents to come and get you.

11. People do stupid things when they are “in the moment,” like “hook up” with people they don’t really know or other things that put them at risk for getting hurt.  Think about the consequences of what you’re doing and the possibility that you will have to live with those kinds of regrets for the rest of your life.

12. Please remember to keep in touch with us regularly.  For us, “out of sight is definitely NOT out of mind.”  A brief phone call or text message reassures us that you are okay.

You may be rolling your eyes by now.  I just hope you understand that I want you to have fun, but as your parent, I am going to worry and I want to help you stay safe.  After all, that’s my job!

Love,

Your Parent (who loves you very much)

By Susan Kurlander, M.Ed., and Robin Sweeney, Health Educators, Prevention Education, and Jacki Post Ashkin, LCSW-C, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD.

Acknowledgment to the Ocean City Police Department for some material.