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By Valorie Dassel, LCSW – January 7, 2020

Parenting in this era can be overwhelming. There are many opinions and parenting styles that can be argued. 

However, when we are facing drug and alcohol use among our teenagers, there must be an “all hands on deck” approach. It is a community issue that requires parents and adult mentors to communicate clearly with our teens while understanding both sides of the coin.

There are clearly reasons why our teens engage in risky behaviors, and it is important to acknowledge this while at the same time educating them on the severity of the risks. Visit websites such as drugfree.org and youthfirstinc.org to educate yourself on how to talk to your teen about drug and alcohol use. 

The following are some tips to guide substance use conversations with your teen:

  1. Ask your teen open-ended questions about the dangers of vaping, drinking and drug use. Use this conversation to guide discussion around the consequences about the things they care about in the “here and now.” Points to bring up include how substance use may affect their relationships and reputation. These are things they do not feel invincible about. They may do something that is embarrassing and have to deal with the social consequences at school on Monday morning. They may do something that they regret and consequently hurt a relationship or friendship. It is also helpful to aid in connecting their athletics and academics to substance abuse. If they are tired and hungover on the weekends, they will not feel like studying or practicing. 
  2. Be open with them about substance abuse issues in their family. According to the Genetics Science Learning Center of Utah, scientists estimate that a person’s genetics account for 40-60% of their risk of developing an addiction. Sharing family history and stories aids in the development of decision-making based on risks specific to them.
  3. In addition to genetics, individuals who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc. are at a higher risk to abuse substances. The website dualdiagnosis.com is a good resource to help teens connect their emotional struggles to how they may self medicate with substance use.
  4. Clearly share your expectations and the consequences they will receive at home if they are found to be drinking, vaping, smoking or using drugs. It is important to create a relationship that allows the teen to share their struggles or experiences while also being aware of the consequences if caught using. 

Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends. Share with them your values and that you do not approve of them drinking, smoking/vaping or using drugs. There are parents who mistakenly feel they are protecting teens by allowing them to drink or use substances under their supervision, as they feel it is a safer alternative.

Developmentally, teens are beginning to individuate from their parents, which gives them the sense that they can make their own decisions and act independently. Educate yourself and others that this concept inadvertently gives them permission to drink/vape/drug on their own.

Remember that we as parents can educate and guide, but our teens will be the ones who make the decisions. It is our responsibility to keep them as safe and as educated as possible.  Most importantly, be there when they fall and help them back up.

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, March 27, 2018 –

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are turning into a thing of the past.

I would love to tell you it’s because less people are using them and all forms of cigarette use are becoming obsolete, but that is not the case. The growing popularity of e-cigarettes has just taken on a new form called “JUULing,” which is a type of vape made by JUUL Labs.

According to the manufacturer’s website, its mission is to “eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes.”

The company says the product is not intended for minors. However, young people are using it, and medical experts are concerned about the health risks.

JUULing is essentially the same concept as vaping using an e-cigarette, but the device itself is much smaller and more discreet. The size and style can make it especially appealing to kids or others who might want to hide use of this product.

Like an e-cigarette, this device needs to be charged, but the difference is it can be easily plugged into a laptop or charged in a car using a USB port. Small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, the JUUL may easily be passed off as a flash drive and brought into homes and schools without the knowledge of adults.

Vaping flavors like fruit medley and crème brulee may also attract a younger market, though the manufacturer states that its products are not designed for anyone under the age of 21.

Outside of convenience stores, these products can also be purchased online through the manufacturer. There are steps to verify the buyer’s age and help prevent minors from making a purchase, but according to news reports, underage users are still finding ways to buy it online.

Using a JUUL has to be better than smoking traditional cigarettes, right? They are made without tar and some other well-known cancer-causing chemicals used to make cigarettes, but they are not harmless.

The manufacturer says one cartridge used for a JUUL contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of standard cigarettes. The American Academy of Pediatrics says nicotine is both highly addictive and toxic. Nicotine has been linked to nerve damage in developing teens. A newly published New York University School of Medicine study suggests nicotine delivered via e-cigarettes puts users at a higher risk for cancer and heart disease.

JUUL products are also expensive. A “starter pack” purchased online will cost just under $50. Each time you need more cartridges it will cost about $25 for a pack of four. This is not a cheap habit (or addiction).

Parents, it is important to educate yourself on the appearance of a JUUL so you know if your child has one with them.  Also, it is important to have conversations with your children about the dangers of these substances. When something doesn’t look dangerous or is advertised as a safe alternative, it is easy for teens to overlook the dangers that lie beneath the surface.