3 things grandparents can do to protect kids growing up in homes with substance abusing parents

Photo: LovelypetalDealing with substance abuse in the home, and worrying about the safety and welfare of grandchildren should never be thrust upon grandparents wanting only to enjoy and spoil their young grandkids. But with so many kids growing up in abusive homes, too many grandparents either assume the role of primary caregiver, or worry constantly about the safety of the kids. There a number of proactive steps grandparents can take to improve the situation.

Grandparents want to play with, enjoy and spoil their young grandkids, and they never want to be concerned about the stability of the home environment or worried about the safety of their young grandchildren. But with so many kids growing up in homes with alcoholic or drug abusing parents, too many kids, and by extension grandparents, have a lot more than normal to worry about.

About a million and a half kids in America are being raised by grandparents…and substance abuse and addiction is a major casual factor for grandparents assuming the role of primary caregiver; and while grandparents surely never wished for the responsibility of parenting again, the stress and concern of leaving kids in questionable or dangerous environments can be even worse.

The pains of addiction resonate through the family, and extend beyond the borders of the immediate family home, and nothing is worse than a feeling of impotence to effect change for the better and constant worry for the welfare of beloved grandchildren.

Getting help

The obvious solution to the problem is to convince abusing parents of the need to change behaviors, and to attend needed drug or alcohol treatments; if only for the good of the children. An organized family intervention with pre arranged and ready treatment can be extremely effective at convincing even unwilling and denying addicts of the need to concede to treatment. Nagging, shaming and lecturing don’t work, and can even exacerbate the level of abuse; and neither does pretending that all is well do anything to improve the situation. Proactive and constructive actions are needed, and an intervention is a great place to start.

If an intervention does not convince of a need for treatment, grandparents need to take other proactive steps to ensure the safety of the children in the home. The behaviors of addiction can be painful to bear, and although taking extreme measures to protect the children is never easy, acting out of concern for the welfare of the children is always appropriate, no matter how emotionally complex and difficult the decision to intervene may be.

According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, there are three concrete things that grandparents need to do when children remain in an abusive household.

1 Get informed

To really affect daily realities, grandparents need to understand the nature of addiction and abuse, and understand the real risks to the children in the home. Information can be sourced from print and web resources, from professional organizations, and through peer support groups such as al anon, or other grandparents groups.

2 Know your options

No grandparent ever wants to call child protection services on their children, but if the situation becomes desperate enough, it may be required. Grandparents need to get educated as to the legal and community organizations offering support, and know what their legal and community options are in case of extreme eventualities.

3 Be a source of stability and comfort

Children of alcoholics or drug abusers crave stability and comfort, and grandparents can offer sanctuary and a needed place of emotional and physical escape to children suffering in abusive homes. Grandparents can be sure that children understand that addiction is a disease, and that the behaviors of addiction are all a part of the disease; and make sure especially that children understand that they are in no way at fault, that they didn’t cause the situation, and they are not responsible to change it.

Kids always want to love their parents, so grandparents should also strive to accentuate anything positive about the parent child relationship, and never to needlessly degrade the abusing parent.

Grandparents can do a lot to help kids in homes with substance abuse

Grandparents should never need to worry about the safety of their grandchildren, but too many kids are growing up in very negative environments and suffering the alcohol or drug abuse of one or both parents. Grandparents can help, and they need to get involved, try to enact change, look out for the safety and well being of their grandkids, and always be ready to offer needed comfort and stability.

Photo: LovelypetalDealing with substance abuse in the home, and worrying about the safety and welfare of grandchildren should never be thrust upon grandparents wanting only to enjoy and spoil their young grandkids. But with so many kids growing up in abusive homes, too many grandparents either assume the role of primary caregiver, or worry constantly about the safety of the kids. There a number of proactive steps grandparents can take to improve the situation.

Grandparents want to play with, enjoy and spoil their young grandkids, and they never want to be concerned about the stability of the home environment or worried about the safety of their young grandchildren. But with so many kids growing up in homes with alcoholic or drug abusing parents, too many kids, and by extension grandparents, have a lot more than normal to worry about.

About a million and a half kids in America are being raised by grandparents…and substance abuse and addiction is a major casual factor for grandparents assuming the role of primary caregiver; and while grandparents surely never wished for the responsibility of parenting again, the stress and concern of leaving kids in questionable or dangerous environments can be even worse.

The pains of addiction resonate through the family, and extend beyond the borders of the immediate family home, and nothing is worse than a feeling of impotence to effect change for the better and constant worry for the welfare of beloved grandchildren.

Getting help

The obvious solution to the problem is to convince abusing parents of the need to change behaviors, and to attend needed drug or alcohol treatments; if only for the good of the children. An organized family intervention with pre arranged and ready treatment can be extremely effective at convincing even unwilling and denying addicts of the need to concede to treatment. Nagging, shaming and lecturing don’t work, and can even exacerbate the level of abuse; and neither does pretending that all is well do anything to improve the situation. Proactive and constructive actions are needed, and an intervention is a great place to start.

If an intervention does not convince of a need for treatment, grandparents need to take other proactive steps to ensure the safety of the children in the home. The behaviors of addiction can be painful to bear, and although taking extreme measures to protect the children is never easy, acting out of concern for the welfare of the children is always appropriate, no matter how emotionally complex and difficult the decision to intervene may be.

According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, there are three concrete things that grandparents need to do when children remain in an abusive household.

1 Get informed

To really affect daily realities, grandparents need to understand the nature of addiction and abuse, and understand the real risks to the children in the home. Information can be sourced from print and web resources, from professional organizations, and through peer support groups such as al anon, or other grandparents groups.

2 Know your options

No grandparent ever wants to call child protection services on their children, but if the situation becomes desperate enough, it may be required. Grandparents need to get educated as to the legal and community organizations offering support, and know what their legal and community options are in case of extreme eventualities.

3 Be a source of stability and comfort

Children of alcoholics or drug abusers crave stability and comfort, and grandparents can offer sanctuary and a needed place of emotional and physical escape to children suffering in abusive homes. Grandparents can be sure that children understand that addiction is a disease, and that the behaviors of addiction are all a part of the disease; and make sure especially that children understand that they are in no way at fault, that they didn’t cause the situation, and they are not responsible to change it.

Kids always want to love their parents, so grandparents should also strive to accentuate anything positive about the parent child relationship, and never to needlessly degrade the abusing parent.

Grandparents can do a lot to help kids in homes with substance abuse

Grandparents should never need to worry about the safety of their grandchildren, but too many kids are growing up in very negative environments and suffering the alcohol or drug abuse of one or both parents. Grandparents can help, and they need to get involved, try to enact change, look out for the safety and well being of their grandkids, and always be ready to offer needed comfort and stability.

Why We Need to Start Drug Education in Grade School

The study authors completed a long term data analysis of almost 5000 youths starting from the early 1990’s, and have examined specifically the age of first experimentation with different substances, and the prevalence of continuing substance use later in life.

The results are unsurprising, and confirm other research done on adolescent drug abuse.

Some of the findings include:

  • Sixty percent of teens who start using marijuana before the age of 15 will still be using the drug 8 years later. Only 20% of teens who start after the age of 19 will continue to use 8 years later.
  • Boys start using drugs earlier, and with more frequency, and are less likely to stop.

The study authors conclude that early in life prevention programs are of paramount importance, and that waiting until kids are in junior high may well be waiting too late. They note that a significant number of kids are trying alcohol at ages of 10 and 11 and that these kids may never, at this age, have been exposed to any drug or alcohol information. They suggest late elementary school grades as a better time to start drug and alcohol educational programming.

The study results also underscore the importance of drug and alcohol education in the family, and starting from a young age. Our kids are starting to experiment earlier than we realize, yet if we can keep them from this early experimentation, they stand a much better chance to avoid the pains of later in life addiction or alcoholism.

The study authors completed a long term data analysis of almost 5000 youths starting from the early 1990’s, and have examined specifically the age of first experimentation with different substances, and the prevalence of continuing substance use later in life.

The results are unsurprising, and confirm other research done on adolescent drug abuse.

Some of the findings include:

  • Sixty percent of teens who start using marijuana before the age of 15 will still be using the drug 8 years later. Only 20% of teens who start after the age of 19 will continue to use 8 years later.
  • Boys start using drugs earlier, and with more frequency, and are less likely to stop.

The study authors conclude that early in life prevention programs are of paramount importance, and that waiting until kids are in junior high may well be waiting too late. They note that a significant number of kids are trying alcohol at ages of 10 and 11 and that these kids may never, at this age, have been exposed to any drug or alcohol information. They suggest late elementary school grades as a better time to start drug and alcohol educational programming.

The study results also underscore the importance of drug and alcohol education in the family, and starting from a young age. Our kids are starting to experiment earlier than we realize, yet if we can keep them from this early experimentation, they stand a much better chance to avoid the pains of later in life addiction or alcoholism.

Eat Together as a Family. Save Your Kids From Drugs?

Photo: SuziJaneResearch by the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse compared the drug and alcohol consumption patterns of teens that ate family dinners 5 or more times per week, with those that ate them 2 or less times per week, and the difference revealed is dramatic. Families that don’t often eat together have teen children that are:

300% more likely to smoke marijuana 250% more likely to smoke cigarettes 150% more likely to drink alcohol

Wow! What an easy way to make a real difference, in your teen’s life, and for the family as a whole. The study authors state that although the simple act of eating together as a family seems most important, the experience can be enhanced with conversation and by ensuring the TV is turned off throughout the meal.

Research continually demonstrates the influence of family and parental involvement on the likelihood of teens avoiding the troubles of drugs and alcohol. And this recent study shows just how easily parents can ensure they exert that influence. Make it fun for all, order a pizza if that’s what it takes, and sit down as a family, at the table. It’s worth it.

Photo: SuziJaneResearch by the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse compared the drug and alcohol consumption patterns of teens that ate family dinners 5 or more times per week, with those that ate them 2 or less times per week, and the difference revealed is dramatic. Families that don’t often eat together have teen children that are:

300% more likely to smoke marijuana 250% more likely to smoke cigarettes 150% more likely to drink alcohol

Wow! What an easy way to make a real difference, in your teen’s life, and for the family as a whole. The study authors state that although the simple act of eating together as a family seems most important, the experience can be enhanced with conversation and by ensuring the TV is turned off throughout the meal.

Research continually demonstrates the influence of family and parental involvement on the likelihood of teens avoiding the troubles of drugs and alcohol. And this recent study shows just how easily parents can ensure they exert that influence. Make it fun for all, order a pizza if that’s what it takes, and sit down as a family, at the table. It’s worth it.

15% of New England Teens Are Substance Abusers…Too Many!

Teens visiting the doctor throughout New England were given a confidential questionnaire to fill out surveying their alcohol and drug use behaviors.

Now, we know that a lot of teens are using drugs and alcohol, and we know that about 80% of teens will have done so by the time they finish senior year in high school, but we didn’t know that so many of these teens that are experimenting with drugs and alcohol are consuming these substances at such a significant rate.

Fifteen percent of teens screened in New England self reported substance use behaviors that met the criteria for substance abuse. Not substance use, substance abuse.

We know that the earlier teens start taking drugs and alcohol in quantity the more likely they are to become addicted and also to experience psychiatric illness. We also know that early intervention and preventative screenings that unearth problematic use behaviors can make a real difference. Sometimes all it takes is a few words from a doctor or a school counselor, in private, about use behaviors and the risks of those behaviors to make a real behavioral difference.

The study leaders call for an increase in substance abuse screenings and preventative interventions nation-wide. Let’s hope they get heard by those that can enact such changes, and let’s hope that we can stop a lot of these preventable tragedies…before abuse becomes addiction and pain.

Teens visiting the doctor throughout New England were given a confidential questionnaire to fill out surveying their alcohol and drug use behaviors.

Now, we know that a lot of teens are using drugs and alcohol, and we know that about 80% of teens will have done so by the time they finish senior year in high school, but we didn’t know that so many of these teens that are experimenting with drugs and alcohol are consuming these substances at such a significant rate.

Fifteen percent of teens screened in New England self reported substance use behaviors that met the criteria for substance abuse. Not substance use, substance abuse.

We know that the earlier teens start taking drugs and alcohol in quantity the more likely they are to become addicted and also to experience psychiatric illness. We also know that early intervention and preventative screenings that unearth problematic use behaviors can make a real difference. Sometimes all it takes is a few words from a doctor or a school counselor, in private, about use behaviors and the risks of those behaviors to make a real behavioral difference.

The study leaders call for an increase in substance abuse screenings and preventative interventions nation-wide. Let’s hope they get heard by those that can enact such changes, and let’s hope that we can stop a lot of these preventable tragedies…before abuse becomes addiction and pain.

Why Do We Lie to Kids About Drugs?

We teach them in drug education classes about the harms of drugs and alcohol, and the pains that these can bring to those that would abuse them. We teach them these things because we love them and we worry for them and we know the perils they face as they proceed through the turbulent years of adolescence.

Our intentions are good, and all we wish to do is to spare them pain; but we almost always take things too far. We scaremonger; we say all drugs are bad…equally bad, and we present worse case scenarios as commonplace occurrences.

And it works fine for a while, and they believe us…for a while. But then they get a little bit older, and they see that some people that smoke marijuana don’t seem to be experiencing all of those drastic consequences that we foretold of. They get a bit older, and they learn a bit more and they start to realize that they were lied to!

They learn that not everyone that smokes a joint becomes a junky; in fact mostly they seem to do just fine. And then we wonder why they don’t believe us when we warn them of the dangers of meth…but why should they, we can’t be trusted. We need to start teaching kids the truth about drugs so that they can be informed about the real risks and consequences of their actions. We need to teach them that marijuana is not as harmful as a lot of other drugs and that most people that use it will not become raving lunatic drug addicts. We need to teach them that there are a lot of legitimate risks associated with today’s marijuana, but we need to stay real about it, and tell them the truth. They’ll learn it for themselves eventually anyways.

And maybe if we tell them the truth about marijuana, maybe they’ll smoke it or maybe they won’t (it’s pretty unlikely that more will smoke it than do know!) but at least they will know that they have been treated with respect, told the truth and educated to make their own decisions; and maybe then they will believe us when we warn them of the real dangers of a lot of other life-destroying drugs floating about out there.

 Kids aren’t dumb, they’ll learn the truth, and they will remember being lied to.

We teach them in drug education classes about the harms of drugs and alcohol, and the pains that these can bring to those that would abuse them. We teach them these things because we love them and we worry for them and we know the perils they face as they proceed through the turbulent years of adolescence.

Our intentions are good, and all we wish to do is to spare them pain; but we almost always take things too far. We scaremonger; we say all drugs are bad…equally bad, and we present worse case scenarios as commonplace occurrences.

And it works fine for a while, and they believe us…for a while. But then they get a little bit older, and they see that some people that smoke marijuana don’t seem to be experiencing all of those drastic consequences that we foretold of. They get a bit older, and they learn a bit more and they start to realize that they were lied to!

They learn that not everyone that smokes a joint becomes a junky; in fact mostly they seem to do just fine. And then we wonder why they don’t believe us when we warn them of the dangers of meth…but why should they, we can’t be trusted. We need to start teaching kids the truth about drugs so that they can be informed about the real risks and consequences of their actions. We need to teach them that marijuana is not as harmful as a lot of other drugs and that most people that use it will not become raving lunatic drug addicts. We need to teach them that there are a lot of legitimate risks associated with today’s marijuana, but we need to stay real about it, and tell them the truth. They’ll learn it for themselves eventually anyways.

And maybe if we tell them the truth about marijuana, maybe they’ll smoke it or maybe they won’t (it’s pretty unlikely that more will smoke it than do know!) but at least they will know that they have been treated with respect, told the truth and educated to make their own decisions; and maybe then they will believe us when we warn them of the real dangers of a lot of other life-destroying drugs floating about out there.

 Kids aren’t dumb, they’ll learn the truth, and they will remember being lied to.

Study on student led drug education gets VERY mixed results!

Billions have been spent educating our kids in schools about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and despite the best of intentions; these programs have failed. Independent evaluations of DARE and other school anti drug message courses show absolutely no difference in drug taking behaviors between teens exposed to school education, and those not. In response, a lot of schools (with justification) have decided that their scant resource dollars would be better spent elsewhere, and the intensity of drug education in our nation’s schools has fallen somewhat.

A better way?

University researchers at USC decided to change the matrix slightly, and see if they couldn’t design a better drug education program. They enlisted the help of approximately 500 alternative school high school students, a traditionally high risk group for substance use and abuse, to participate in the pilot project. These students were randomly assigned to two protocol groups. The first group received drug education within a traditional teacher led classroom program, and the second group participated in a self directed peer based program. The peer based students elected a classroom representative to lead the program, and the students ran a self directed drug education module, where they spent time divided into small groups, discussing issues pertaining to the dangers of substance abuse.

The results were mixed

On average, after evaluating drug taking behaviors for a full year after the completion of the program, students who had participated in the peer led group reported 15% less drug taking behaviors than those who had been randomly assigned to the teacher led group. Which sounds like great news, until researchers reveal that those students who participated in peer led programs amongst other students in favor of drugs…actually increased their drug usage as opposed to the teacher led group.

A bit worrisome to say the least!

It’s encouraging to see continuing research in a needed area, but for now, schools cannot be relied on for effective drug education, and as always, the job must fall to parents. Thankfully, although research has proven school programs a dismal failure, it has also revealed just how effective an open dialogue from parents on the subject of drug and alcohol abuse can be. Kids whose parents talk to them about drugs don’t use drugs as much…period. Kids whose parents let the schools do it…well, that’s a bit of a gamble, and if the above study tells us anything, the kind of drug education peers are getting from peers may not be the sort of thing parents envision when they imagine "school drug education".

Billions have been spent educating our kids in schools about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and despite the best of intentions; these programs have failed. Independent evaluations of DARE and other school anti drug message courses show absolutely no difference in drug taking behaviors between teens exposed to school education, and those not. In response, a lot of schools (with justification) have decided that their scant resource dollars would be better spent elsewhere, and the intensity of drug education in our nation’s schools has fallen somewhat.

A better way?

University researchers at USC decided to change the matrix slightly, and see if they couldn’t design a better drug education program. They enlisted the help of approximately 500 alternative school high school students, a traditionally high risk group for substance use and abuse, to participate in the pilot project. These students were randomly assigned to two protocol groups. The first group received drug education within a traditional teacher led classroom program, and the second group participated in a self directed peer based program. The peer based students elected a classroom representative to lead the program, and the students ran a self directed drug education module, where they spent time divided into small groups, discussing issues pertaining to the dangers of substance abuse.

The results were mixed

On average, after evaluating drug taking behaviors for a full year after the completion of the program, students who had participated in the peer led group reported 15% less drug taking behaviors than those who had been randomly assigned to the teacher led group. Which sounds like great news, until researchers reveal that those students who participated in peer led programs amongst other students in favor of drugs…actually increased their drug usage as opposed to the teacher led group.

A bit worrisome to say the least!

It’s encouraging to see continuing research in a needed area, but for now, schools cannot be relied on for effective drug education, and as always, the job must fall to parents. Thankfully, although research has proven school programs a dismal failure, it has also revealed just how effective an open dialogue from parents on the subject of drug and alcohol abuse can be. Kids whose parents talk to them about drugs don’t use drugs as much…period. Kids whose parents let the schools do it…well, that’s a bit of a gamble, and if the above study tells us anything, the kind of drug education peers are getting from peers may not be the sort of thing parents envision when they imagine "school drug education".

Pharmaceutical companies are making millions on the sale of unapproved drugs

As much as the pharmaceutical companies might argue for greater self regulation as a way to streamline the approvals process and reduce the expense to the consumer (while creating greater profits as well) certain unsettling reports about the industry as a whole should raise serious questions about the industry’s ability to self regulate.

Most notoriously of recent months is the oxycontin settlement, where executives in the company were found guilty of misleading doctors and the general public about the dependency risk of oxycontin, and just last night on CNN was another report about troubling drug company practices.

Apparently, there are massive quantities of medications sold throughout the country everyday that have not yet been approved by the FDA as safe, and some of these drugs have been on the market, consumed and available for some time.

How can this happen?

Through the FDA drug approval process, when drugs apply to begin testing for approval, they are issued a 10 digit tracking number. Problematically, this same 10 digit number is used by pharmacists selling the drug, whether or not they have been approved. What has happened is that doctors and pharmacists mistakenly believe that since the drug has the FDA number and is available for sale, that it has passed FDA testing as safe; when this is too often not the case.

A knowing disregard of the law

But although doctors and pharmacists may claim legitimate ignorance, obviously the manufacturers of the drugs are well aware of the status of each and every drug they market, and well aware that they are selling what is reported to be over 65 million filled prescriptions worth of these illegal drugs each year. Obviously this is not the FDA’s finest moment either, but the fact that pharmaceutical companies are knowingly exploiting a previous lack in enforcement on the sale of unapproved drugs for profit is shameless, and seriously damages their credibility as a self regulating industry.

Prescription drugs currently contribute to a massive abuse and addiction problem, and we may need to tighten regulation and control ever further on the production and sale of drugs, and obviously those in a position to profit from the sale of these drugs cannot be relied on to act ethically, or with the best interests of the public in mind. The money to be made in the pharmaceutical industry is enormous, and while the vast majority in the industry are likely conscientious and moral people, there are obviously enough that will engage in questionable practices–risking the safety of consumers–that the industry as a whole cannot be trusted to act with integrity.

As much as the pharmaceutical companies might argue for greater self regulation as a way to streamline the approvals process and reduce the expense to the consumer (while creating greater profits as well) certain unsettling reports about the industry as a whole should raise serious questions about the industry’s ability to self regulate.

Most notoriously of recent months is the oxycontin settlement, where executives in the company were found guilty of misleading doctors and the general public about the dependency risk of oxycontin, and just last night on CNN was another report about troubling drug company practices.

Apparently, there are massive quantities of medications sold throughout the country everyday that have not yet been approved by the FDA as safe, and some of these drugs have been on the market, consumed and available for some time.

How can this happen?

Through the FDA drug approval process, when drugs apply to begin testing for approval, they are issued a 10 digit tracking number. Problematically, this same 10 digit number is used by pharmacists selling the drug, whether or not they have been approved. What has happened is that doctors and pharmacists mistakenly believe that since the drug has the FDA number and is available for sale, that it has passed FDA testing as safe; when this is too often not the case.

A knowing disregard of the law

But although doctors and pharmacists may claim legitimate ignorance, obviously the manufacturers of the drugs are well aware of the status of each and every drug they market, and well aware that they are selling what is reported to be over 65 million filled prescriptions worth of these illegal drugs each year. Obviously this is not the FDA’s finest moment either, but the fact that pharmaceutical companies are knowingly exploiting a previous lack in enforcement on the sale of unapproved drugs for profit is shameless, and seriously damages their credibility as a self regulating industry.

Prescription drugs currently contribute to a massive abuse and addiction problem, and we may need to tighten regulation and control ever further on the production and sale of drugs, and obviously those in a position to profit from the sale of these drugs cannot be relied on to act ethically, or with the best interests of the public in mind. The money to be made in the pharmaceutical industry is enormous, and while the vast majority in the industry are likely conscientious and moral people, there are obviously enough that will engage in questionable practices–risking the safety of consumers–that the industry as a whole cannot be trusted to act with integrity.