The beginning of a new year often brings intentions of making positive changes. Regardless of one’s views on substances, here are a few things to consider.
A study conducted by John Hopkins University revealed that the alcohol sales from retail locations the week of 3/21/20 was 54% higher than the same week in 2019. Online sales increased 234% in 2020 during the first 6 weeks of COVID, compared to 2019. Just last month, Buffalo News reported that alcohol consumption has increased. Due to easy access to online ordering, lack of monitoring for proper identification of legal purchasing age, and the idea that it’s safe to drink at home as driving is unnecessary can lead to higher risk drinking. Those 21 and older may be self-medicating in isolation, “passing out” from drinking too much, and experiencing health issues of which others may not be aware. For those under the age of 21, accessibility and availability are both risk factors for experimentation and possible addiction. Parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives and need to set the example for a substance-free lifestyle. Sixty one-minute conversations on the importance of not using substances tend to be more effective than a one sixty-minute conversation, including key points that alcohol can damage the brain and body, which continue to develop into the mid-20’s, and family history of addiction.
The results of another recent study showed that women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41%. Possible reasons may include attempting to “keep up with men” and pressure to handle stress, which may be connected to drinking in secret. In addition, alcohol packaging/marketing and drinks that appeal to women, such as seltzers, carbonated beverages, fruity flavors, and those claiming lower calories may lead some to mistakenly believe that those drinks are less harmful and/or intoxicating.
Quitting tobacco is rarely successful on the first attempt, due to the addictive nature of nicotine. However, effective supports do exist, including the New York State Quitline at 1-866-697-8487, or online at http://www.nysmokefree.com. Allegany County residents are encouraged to call Allegany Council at 585-593-1920, ext. 713, for free classes.
Tips for quitting include “S.T.A.R.”:
Set a date.
Tell people about the quit attempt.
Applying the “5 D’s” is also important:
Delay the urge for a craving.
Do something else.
Discuss feelings with someone.
Cinnamon-flavored gum, candy, or tea may also help to fight cravings to use tobacco.
The legalization of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older has provided opportunities for further education in the community. Depending on the individual, it is possible to become psychologically addicted, while others do experience physical withdrawal symptoms when cutting back or attempting to abstain. When speaking to those under 21 who may be tempted to use illegally, due to the same reasons of availability and accessibility that accompany underage drinking, remember the “4 M’s”: memory, motivation, maturity, and motor skills. The hippocampus is the part of the brain connected to learning and memory, and is directly affected by marijuana use. As mentioned earlier, protection of the brain and body until fully developed is crucial, as studies have shown that delaying the onset of substance use is directly related to the decreased probability of lifelong harmful effects and addiction.
If you as reader are wondering how you can make a difference, be the responsible adult who does not enable underage substance use. Use teachable moments to talk to youth about positive alternatives to substance use, such as exercise, connecting to positive people, playing games, painting, reading, etc.
Resources pertaining to the topics above include Talk2Prevent, for marijuana facts through Smart Approaches to Marijuana, PPAC Central, and the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc. (ACASA). Call the Allegany Council’s Clinic to schedule an evaluation if you are struggling with substance use at 585-593-6738. Counselors are there to help!
Don’t give up your resolutions!
Make a plan, get back on track, and remember: Prevention Works!