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 Tag: drugs

Oh, Man! Pot lowers your I.Q.

Since 1972 scientists from all over the world have been following 1,000 people living in New Zealand.  First they tested their IQs as kids, and then checked back in with them much later.  What they found may scare some.  Those who started smoking pot before the age of 18, and smoked it on average four times per week over a long period of time (say 20 years), had a lower IQ by as much as 8 points.  Sadly, if the long time smokers stopped, their IQ didn’t go up.   Interestingly, those who started smoking pot later in life – after 18 years old -- did not have a lower IQ.  Says a lot for the developing brain, doesn’t it. Click here for background basics on marijuana. To read more on this study go to  BBC News Health.

"Where's Molly?"

Over the summer, blissed out music fest goers were wearing “Where’s Molly?” t-shirts with increasing frequency.  Who is this Molly? Considered to be a pure form of Ecstasy, Molly is slang for a psychoactive drug containing, or reported to contain, MDMA.  It has dis-inhibitive properties like alcohol, but instead of slowing you down as drinking does, it also is a central nervous system stimulant that “lets you ‘party’ all night long.” It also functions much like a psychedelic drug, producing euphoria or extreme dysphoria in some cases. Like with LSD and other hallucinogens, losing touch with reality can run its risks.

In an informal survey http://mollydrug.net/n at Syracuse University, 25% of those students interviewed had tried the drug and yet only 30% of them knew what was in it.

MDMA is a controlled substance in most parts of the country. Its “use can produce psychedelic and stimulant side effects such as anxiety attacks, tachycardia (the heart beating more than 100 beats per minute), hypertension and hyperthermia. The variety and severity of adverse reactions associated with MDMA/Ecstasy use can increase when the drug is used in combination with other substances of abuse – a common occurrence among Ecstasy users.” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration)

Whatever names the drug is called, it is easily abused if you end up liking it. Additionally, one runs the risk of seriously hooking up with strangers that, with a clearer mind you would avoid hooking up with, and also overlooking to use protection from a STD.

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.

Painkiller Abuse a Game of 'Whac-a-Mole'

When OxyContin, a drug of choice for middle class kids, was reformulated to prevent the pills from being crushed for snorting or injecting to achieve a more intense high, resourceful drug abusers switched to another powerful prescription pain killer, Opana. Now the manufacturer of Opana is changing its formula to make it harder to abuse. In a USA Today article, Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Mineola, N.Y. is quoted as saying, "It's almost like a game of Whac-A-Mole. You get a handle on OxyContin; they switch to Opana. My guess is it will be something new tomorrow." What’s the next medicine to rise and fall for addictive cravings?

Click to read the USA Today article, Opana Abuse in US Overtakes OxyContin.  For more information on prescription drug use and abuse, click here.

Study, Don't Cram!

If you’re one of the millions of students who has trouble studying come finals season, don’t fret.  Every year during finals and midterm season Twitter and Facebook are bombarded with comments like “Drinking coffee to help me stay up and study all night for my 8 a.m. Midterm...I’m screwed.”  It doesn’t have to be like that.  Other students have turned to dangerous prescription drugs such as Adderal and Vyvanse which are used to deal with symptoms of ADD.  It doesn’t have to be like this either. While schools pile the students with mounds and mounds of information, most students are never taught one of the most essential skills of learning: how to study. Help is here so you can pass this finals season without the use of drugs, sleepless nights and excessive coffee. Here is a list of effective and healthy ways to study. 1.            Study in Chunks: Don’t try to study everything at once. Break up the test into sections and chapters and study 30-50 minutes at a time. For best results try to break up the whole test into a week’s worth of studying.

2.            Switch study locations: A change in study locations has been proven to improve retention of information. If you cannot switch locations at least move around the room.

3.            Form study groups:  Study groups are extremely helpful. When you may not be in the mood to study, one of your peers will be there to motivate you. Additionally, when studying in groups, each member usually has his/her own devices to help memorize material, and sharing those can be extremely helpful. Warning: groups are for studying; do not allow the groups to distract you.

4.            Exercise:  Exercise and cardio exercises in particular have been proven to help memory. In addition a little exercise will help take your mind off your work for a little while and help with attention deficit disorders.

5.            Make your study information interesting: One way to help retain knowledge is to create mnemonic devices that relate to something you are interested in, whether it be sports, music or movies. Give the characters names or create a song out of your study information.

6.            Make a schedule: Make a schedule beforehand for all your studying. It is important to adhere to your schedule.  This will allow you to study a few chapters each day of each topic and will help you avoid cramming.

Using any combination of these methods can be very helpful. There are plenty of other methods that may work as well, but cramming the night before should never be one of them. Study hard, stay focused and Good Luck on your finals!

Check out our blog piece, "Not Your Study Buddy."

Information drawn from a Huffington Post study.

Q&A: I find that having a drink or smoking up before getting in bed makes it easier to fall asleep. Is there a downside to that as long as I don’t make a habit of it?

Some drugs like marijuana and alcohol slow you down and “mellow” you out. While it sometimes helps with the “falling asleep” part of sleeping, most of us discover that it is not a particularly re-energizing, restorative sleep, often leaving us nearly as beat as when we went to sleep.  Part of the “hung-over” feeling is the result of falling asleep but not getting the full restful sleep you need. This anecdotal evidence was confirmed by a 2011 Stanford University sleep study.  Healthy 21 year old subjects who were given alcohol before bedtime for a few weeks showed “increased slow-wave sleep during the first half of sleep, but then their sleep became disruptive.”  The study concluded that “alcohol interferes with the restorative functions of sleep.”

Long time marijuana users report much the same effect.  While they say that smoking initially helps them fall asleep, staying asleep is another matter; they often find themselves waking up 3-5 hours later as the THC  moves out of their system. Awake, but not feeling so great.

For more information about getting the Z’s you need, visit the National Sleep Foundation website.

Only as Directed

Thank God for modern medicines and the relief from disease and suffering they provide. Palliative care and pain reduction have been important treatment goals of doctors during the past decade. This was in response to their previous reluctance and holding back painkillers, fearing that they might make their patients dependent on these drugs. However, in the past few years we have seen the downside of making these drugs so readily available and the consequences of their getting in the wrong hands. In a recent study reported on by Medscape Medical News, researchers at the University of Maryland at Baltimore noted a 291% increase nationwide in prescription opiate overdoses since the early 90’s. The primary increase was noted with Caucasian women. Their drug of choice? Oxycodone. “Use only as directed”, the tagline for some of the TV commercials marketing medicines, ends up being good advice for getting the benefits of modern medicines. But, this works only if we take them exactly as directed by the prescribing medical professional, as opposed to listening to the sensory pleasure-seeking part of us.

Nikki’s story shows how recreational prescription drug use can take a serious and tragic turn.

Not your study buddy

College was challenging, to say the least. My friends and I struggled to juggle our classes alongside work and extracurricular activities responsibilities. We became desperate to make the best use out of every second in the day. While I resorted to sipping coffee to get through my evenings, some of my friends were drawn to the underground illicit trade of prescription pills.  To be frank, this wasn’t exactly an underground phenomenon at my college. Adderall and Ritalin were purchased in the hallways of our dorms!

At first, non-prescription drug usage was so common that few entertained the notion that it could be potentially dangerous. In my psychopharmacology classes, though, I learned about some of the many ways in which stimulants affect the body. Adderall and Ritalin, when used incorrectly and by those who don’t medically need them, have been shown in some cases to cause increased blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, seizures, hair loss, and even sudden death!

After a few months of taking these pills, addiction is almost inevitable: the brain re-structures itself and becomes increasingly tolerant to that drug’s effects. As a result, that person has to consume a higher dosage to feel similar effects and then crashes when he doesn’t get it, leaving the person dragged out for days on end.

Addiction to amphetamines completely changed my friends who got into using them. They were miserable most of the time and very irritable. They would do pretty much anything to get these pills. Some attempted to fake symptoms of ADHD so that doctors would write them their own prescriptions. Others began selling them and other drugs so that they could afford their own habits.

The irony was that addiction made these friends struggle even more in school. They were no longer able to sleep at night and, as a result, could not concentrate on their assignments. Their health began to deteriorate and they began missing classes.  Some even had to take leaves of absence or drop their classes so that they could enter recovery programs to address their addictions.

Watching friends struggle with addictions has reinforced our belief that illicit drug use is not the way to go. Our advice to college freshmen; avoid these illicit stimulants. It’s better to fight your way through exhaustion than wind up with a serious health problem! - R.L.

Read more about prescription drugs or stimulants. To find help for yourself or a friend, check out these resources.

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.

Highs and Lows of Energy Drinks

You see them neatly arranged on the shelves in convenience and grocery stores. Television commercials and photos in magazines show people looking happy, athletic and energetic just drinking them.  Their marketing strategies include claims of increased performance, ability to focus and feeling energized. But I am just a little skeptical.  Do energy drinks really do all this? Are they really as healthy as they claim? After looking into it, I now see that not all energy drinks are created equal…Have you looked at the list of ingredients? Most brands include a whole lot of caffeine, sweeteners, vitamins, amino acids, herbal stimulants plus a bunch of ingredients I can’t even pronounce! The amounts and combinations of ingredients are different from one brand to the next.  The effects seem to vary depending on the amount in the drink, how much is consumed, whether the person has eaten recently, as well as how much the person weighs.  Many people say that one energy drink gives them a boost of energy and helps them concentrate. At the same time, some people  are sensitive to some of these ingredients and can experience rather uncomfortable side effects.

The Highs: Energy drinks can increase alertness, focus, cognitive and physical performance, for short periods of time.

The Lows:

  • What goes up must come down. The quicker the boost, the more exhausted we get after it wears off.
  • The high caffeine content (average 70mg-200mg) can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as nervousness, headache, nausea and sleeplessness.
  • Guarana, a common ingredient, adds additional caffeine, speeds up the brain’s activity and may cause nausea, dizziness and anxiousness. Guarana has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, effectiveness or purity.
  • Mixing with alcohol can be extremely dangerous as you might not feel impaired due to the caffeine, although your blood alcohol level may be high, which can result in lapses in judgment, thinking and coordination.
  • There is a serious risk of dehydration and excessive strain on your heart if used before or after exercise.
  • One full can of the drink may be the equivalent of 2 servings, which increases the risks of side effects.

Now when I’m at the store checking out energy drinks, I look at the ingredients more closely, and I think twice about when and what else I am drinking it with. Sometimes, I even consider healthier alternatives, like getting enough sleep and a bit more exercise to give me the energy I am looking for.

“It’s not like anybody ever overdosed on it, right?” - Marijuana

“What is so bad about it? It’s natural so what’s the harm in it?” The discussion about marijuana has gone on for years. For every one in favor of its use and positive effects, there is another warning against its dangers.   More recently, the debate has been revisited with the growing movement for its legalization for medical use.

On the plus side, marijuana can provide euphoric lift to give some relief to those experiencing chronic cancer pain’s emotional toll and side effects of chemotherapy. The drug administers an anti-nausea effect and  can cause an increase in appetite making it an appealing medicine.

For the average person seeking  its recreational use, it can commonly be used as a way of looking for pleasure or attempting to reduce the feelings brought up by emotional or inter-personal issues. One common myth is that it is not addictive. Despite there being no physical withdrawal from the drug, craving for marijuana can develop after an extended period of regular use. An increasing pursuit of chemical highs is part of the risk typically involved.

Growers of marijuana are becoming increasingly focused on maximizing the psychoactive compound in the plant, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC for short). They have adopted advanced cultivation techniques in order to enhance the effects of the drug. The subsequent increase in the THC level in modern marijuana will increase its negative effects as well as the positive.

These magnified influences of increased THC levels in marijuana have raised concerns that it is  no longer the benign substance perhaps that it once was when it first rose to popularity in middle class youth culture in the 1960’s.

For more on Marijuana click here.

I Hope You Have the Time of Your Life!

This past spring I was standing in line at the campus bookstore waiting to buy my cap and gown with my best friend and roommate for 3 years. Right as I was being rung up, Green Day’s Time of Your Life came on the overhead radio speakers and I started to cry. Until then, I had tried to stay strong, mainly by way of denial, but the looming fact of graduating and leaving this amazing world became all too real, and it finally hit me that College was about to be over. Everyone hopes their college experience will be full of the kinds of friendships, memories, and life experiences that mine was. College is what you make of it. You are going to be faced with a lot of decisions and new situations while you’re off on your own and you need to be prepared for that. Hindsight is truly 20/20 so here is a compilation of some lessons I learned along the way.

Stick it out. It truly takes a full year for most people to adjust comfortably into the college lifestyle. If you are not having the time of your life and are begging to come home or transfer closer to home or your high school best friend, don’t give up that easily. Don’t rush out of the situation or go running home because your first 3 months didn’t exceed your expectations. Stick it out. It’s amazing how much difference one semester can make in your overall perspective and experience at college. Stick it out for the second semester. Remember that classes change each semester, so you might find a new group of friends in the spring, who will make you feel comfortable and give you a better home-base feeling. Also, sorority and fraternity rush, which takes place at most schools in the spring, can be a great way for you to make those friendships and feel a part of a group and more comfortable in the larger campus community. And those bonds can last a lifetime. However, if, after your first year, you are still not happy, you can always consider transferring and beginning elsewhere in the fall.

Call your parents. Keep the communication lines open with your parents. They are going to be worried about you, but also curious to hear about all the new friends you are making, fun things you are doing, and interesting information you are learning. Share your stories with them. Whether it’s a short call or text in between classes or as you are getting ready to go out, they’ll be so happy to hear from you and see that you are doing well. They’ll also be less likely to hound you with missed calls and voicemails if you reach out to them, rather than leaving them in the dark. Plus, your parents, as much as you might not like to admit, can really offer some great advice and comfort in times of high stress or confusion.

Facebook. Everyone has one. Sure, you’re going to want to show off all the fun you’re having to your ex, your home friends, and your random Facebook friends or stalkers, but use some discretion with the statuses you post, and the pictures you leave tagged. Even employers these days check applicants’ Facebook pages and if you are looking a mess in all of your pictures, you won’t be getting that great summer internship you were hoping for!

Start Exercising Your Independence Now. Learn how to do laundry. Have your parents show you how to separate and do different loads of laundry at home before you are off on your own. Call and set up your own doctor’s appointments; learn how to deposit and write checks and how to check your account online. If you start learning to manage your own life and absorb some of the responsibilities that you have previously relied on your parents for, you will better adjust to the independence and self-reliance that comes with the beginning of college life.

Be safe, have fun, make friends, have fun, study, have fun. These words of advice are a combination of what my parents told me as they got into the elevator after helping me move into my freshman dorm four years ago. My Mom reminded me that I was here ultimately to learn, study, and graduate with a degree. My Dad continued to interject, “Yes, but have fun.” College is a time like no other. You will meet your best friends for life, you’ll just barely pass a class at least once, and you’ll discover what truly excites and interests you, both in coursework and lecture halls, and out of them. And, yes, while it is important to study hard and be safe throughout the next four years, it’s also important for you to enjoy the ride and make everlasting memories. But while you are out having fun and making these memories, there are some important points to keep in mind so that you wake up every morning safe and without stomach wrenching regrets.

  • Don’t leave your drink unattended. I’m sure you’ve heard this one over and over again, ever since you started going out in high school. However, this is college and you are going to be surrounded by lots more people, some of whom you won’t even know. You can’t trust everyone. There are people out there looking for an easy mark and things like roofies really do exist.
  • Party smart. Just because others are experimenting with drugs and alcohol, doesn’t mean it’s right and that you should, too. Stick to your beliefs and personal rules. Don’t compromise who you are to fit in with new friends. There are temptations everywhere and it can be really easy to get carried away and lose sight of your limit. But in the long run, if you let yourself get wasted, you’ll just end up feeling embarrassed…or worse.
  • “Hooking up.” College is a time to meet new people and form new relationships. But you need to be careful. If you have sex, always use protection, and remember that actions come with consequences. Alcohol can complicate hook ups and other situations, so be cautious with whom and how many people you get involved with, especially while intoxicated. Hangovers eventually go away, but a moral hangover can last much longer and an STD lasts a lifetime.

Smile. The thing that I loved so much about my freshman year was all the people I was constantly meeting! Some of them became my best friends, and some were acquaintances I’d see at parties, in the dining hall, or in classes. Especially during freshman year, everyone is new to the environment and looking to make those unrivaled bonds of friendship that you’ve heard older siblings, parents, and friends talk about. The diversity in a college community helps expose you to all kinds of people from different areas and backgrounds. You can learn so much about yourself just by keeping an open mind and a positive attitude, and getting to know people you had never imagined being close with. This for me is when peer influences took on a positive connotation. I learned and gained so much from my friendships with others, and this helped shape me into the person I am today.

Now it’s your turn. I hope that when you are sitting in your cap and gown, waiting to be called up to receive your diploma, you can look back at your own college experience with pride, smile, and say that you, too, had the time of your life.

Q&A: I’ve been invited to some guys’ house and they do “party drugs”. I am curious and a little bit nervous.

There are lots of things that go for “party drugs” these days, and that’s without even talking about “pharming,” where people mix up some pills and just pick them out of a bowl or glass, not really knowing what it is that they picked. Drugs  such as Ecstasy, various hallucinogenics, and all kinds of prescription drugs that are otherwise used for pain relief or ADHD, often produce extremely intense  mood, sensory and thought altering experiences.  People report increased energy, heightened senses, sensuality, and disinhibition. These drugs tend to evoke sexual feelings and as with alcohol, tend to reduce one’s better judgment about safety if one is hooking up with someone.

DXM (dextromethorphan hydrobromide) is currently highly popular among teens who use something aside from alcohol to get a temporary high. DXM is the most widely available active ingredient in most over-the-counter cough suppressants. These cough suppressing products contain other ingredients that are highly toxic and can be fatal when taken in the large doses needed to get the desired high.  They are sometimes the ‘punch’ in the punch that is served.

Risks of Using Party Drugs:

  • Misjudging obvious dangers
  • Decreased inhibitions and boundaries
  • Increased likelihood of accidents and injuries
  • Engagement in high risk behaviors,  unchecked sexual behavior or temporary immobilization
  • Decreased ability to respond effectively to danger
  • Increase in panic or depressiveness
  • Lapses in memory
  • Rebound exhaustion
  • Overdose can be a medical emergency or fatal.

People with mood, thought or medical issues are at risk for exacerbation of these issues or at risk for them to emerge for the first time.  Some people complain of exhaustion, moodiness, sadness and irritability after they come down from the initial high.

How to cut back?

People who get into the habit of using party drugs seem to use them in association with certain settings. Most often people are tempted to switch what they use to keep up with the raves and all night dancing. Others are able just to enjoy the partying without needing any chemical enhancement.

If you find it hard not to use drugs in these settings, you might do well creating alternative ways to physically challenge yourself and express your enthusiasm for life and people.  If that doesn’t work or you find yourself using some  of these drugs in other settings as well, consult with a counselor familiar with addictive behaviors, who can advise and support you in letting go of these habits and developing healthier ones.

Resources – Get Help

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

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.