This January 23th marks the seventh National Drug Facts Week, first launched in 2010 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The purpose of this week is to counteract the myths that youth get from the Internet, television, movies, music, or friends, and replace those myths with scientific facts about drug abuse and addiction. The more informed our youth are about substances and the negative impact those substances can have on their lives, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors. “Shatter the Myths” is a free NIDA publication that parents can use to talk to their kids about substance abuse, and is free to download. Here are seven facts to use each day of this week to help start the conversation with your children about drugs and other substances.
Monday: Young people who drink alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who abstain until age 21. Brains develop until age 24, and young brains become damaged more quickly than adult brains.
Tuesday: Marijuana can speed the heart rate up to 160 beats per minute, dilate the blood vessels so the whites of the eyes turn red, and cause feelings of panic that include sweating, dry mouth, and breathing difficulties.
Wednesday: Inhalants can cause permanent damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and bones. Sudden Sniffing Death is death by suffocation, which occurs when inhaled fumes take the place of oxygen in the lungs and brain.
Thursday: Withdrawal symptoms from prescription opioid abuse include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goosebumps, and involuntary leg movements.
Friday: Anabolic steroids are bad for the heart, cause damage to the liver, and halt bone growth. This means that a teenage steroid user may not grow to his/her full adult height. Aggressive behavior may be triggered by steroid abuse and is known as “roid rage”.
Saturday: Tobacco use and secondhand smoke cause illnesses such as lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and respiratory problems. One of every three cancer deaths is caused by smoking. Average smokers lose more than 10 years of life because they smoke.
Sunday: Vapor products may seem harmless because of their flavors and names, but most of them contain the highly addictive chemical nicotine and contain many of the same dangerous chemicals and carcinogens that are found in regular cigarettes.
NIDA’s “Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse” report highlights five questions relevant to parenting skills that help prevent the initiation and progression of youth drug use. The questions emphasize calm and clear communication about relationship issues, encouraging positive behaviors on a daily basis, negotiating emotional parent/teen conflicts and working toward a solution, ability to set limits when behavior ranges from defiant or disrespectful to more serious problem behavior, and monitoring teens to assure that they are not spending too much time unsupervised. Visit Family Checkup for a copy of these questions and to view video clips that display positive and negative examples of the skills, as well as additional videos to help parents practice positive parenting skills.
We can all do our part by supporting our youth, getting the facts, and remembering that PREVENTION WORKS!
Since 2010, January has been designated as the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Each year the President of the United States makes a public proclamation calling on people everywhere to fight human trafficking wherever and however it exists.
Trafficking is a modern form of slavery. Men, women, and children are recruited, transported, transferred, harbored, and received by means of threat, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, and/or the abuse of power. Individuals are selected for various reasons that include forced labor or services, removal of organs, prostitution or sexual exploitation for commercial gain.
Traffickers can work alone or with a group to gain financial profit from making people work without pay by using physical force, verbal/mental abuse, psychological abuse, and/or sexual abuse. They can be citizens of any country, any nationality, and hold any socio-economic status.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, examples of traffickers may include:
Traffickers use ploys such as job opportunities and false loving relationships before revealing who they truly are. Victims can come from rural or urban areas, wealth or poverty, any race or religion, and any level of education.
With that said, there are some individuals that are more susceptible to being trafficked than others. These include runaway or homeless youth, foreign nationals (legal and illegal), and individuals who have already experience violence and trauma.
Trafficking takes on many forms and looks differently in various situations. Sex trafficking is very prevalent in rural communities due to geographical isolation. With state forests, country roads, farms, and remote truck stops, these are target areas that traffickers will hold their victims hostage. And since rural areas tend to lack economic opportunities, traffickers can lure innocent individuals into their web by promising financial stability.
Poor work and living conditions, poor mental health or abnormal behavior, poor physical health, few or no personal belongings, no ID, no money, lack of control over their lives, unable to give a residential address, lack of knowledge of what town they are in, loss of sense of time, inconsistent stories about their personal lives.
National Sex Trafficking Hotline 1-888-3737-888
Bright Alternatives is a pregnancy resource center that provides a variety of free & confidential services. If you are a victim of sex trafficking and think you’re pregnant, we can provide you with a free medical-grade pregnancy test. You do not have to give us your real name or contact information if you fearful. If your test is positive, we can provide you with resources and referrals, including crisis counseling if this is an unplanned pregnancy. We also have materials services available you can earn through a parenting program with weekly appointments to help offset the financial costs involved with raising a child. Please call us at (585) 593-0300 to schedule a local appointment in Allegany County or (814) 368-3388 if you live closer to McKean County.
Pregnant? Scared? Text “HELPLINE” to 313131 or call the 24-Hour Option Line at 1-800-712-HELP
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are the leading known cause of preventable mental retardation, and create a range of physical, mental, behavioral, and emotional problems. They are 100% preventable, yet approximately 40,000 infants born each year in this nation are affected by prenatal alcohol use, with a cost to society of more than $5.4 billion annually. A woman does not need to be a heavy drinker to have a baby affected by alcohol. Even low levels of alcohol can cause lifelong problems, and, any type of alcohol can cause FASD. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the baby does, too, as the alcohol passes directly from the mother’s bloodstream to the placenta of the developing fetus. Individuals affected by FASD can develop memory and learning problems, can suffer from chronic health issues, mental illness, addiction, and are also at high risk of experiencing unemployment, homelessness, and trouble with the law. FASD lasts a lifetime, and there is no cure. Society needs to be aware of the fact that there is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink during pregnancy, and that drinking alcohol any time during pregnancy can cause FASD.
Tobacco is another substance that can harm an unborn baby. Carbon monoxide, a toxic gas found in cigarette smoke, lowers oxygen levels in the mother’s blood, which means there is also less oxygen for the baby. Nicotine, the addictive drug found in tobacco, reduces blood flow by causing blood vessels to narrow. This means that less oxygen and fewer nutrients can reach the baby. Pregnant women who smoke have more problems with pregnancy and delivery than nonsmokers do. Pregnant women who smoke are much more likely than nonsmokers to experience miscarriage and/or stillbirth, have a baby with low birth weight, experience premature delivery, bleed heavily from the placenta in the final months, and/or have a baby who dies from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), also known as “crib death.”
Let’s support our future generation of babies by encouraging potential mothers to choose a healthy lifestyle free of substances! For more information about FASD, visit the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) website. For assistance with an alcohol problem or tobacco cessation classes, call Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse at 585-593-6738.