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Latest News About Teen Substance Abuse  

November 22, 2013  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari

As a pediatrician I am concerned about the health and well-being of our youth. To make sure that I keep on top of the latest news, I subscribe to several newsletters from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Library of Medicine. The following have recently come across my laptop: 

Kids View Too Many TV Ads for Booze

According to researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health too many young Americans are watching television advertisements for beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks with the frequency of alcohol-related ads exceeding the industry's own voluntary guidelines.

Data from the largest TV markets in the country documented that nearly one in four alcohol ads on a sample of programs most popular with viewers aged 12-20 exceeded the alcohol industry's voluntary standard. Under that standard, which was adopted in 2003, alcohol companies agreed not to place any ads on TV programs when more than 30 percent of the audience was likely to be younger than 21.

Exposure to alcohol marketing increases the risk that underage youth will begin drinking, and drink more if they do start drinking. If the excess advertising was eliminated and not replaced, youth exposure to alcohol ads on these programs could drop by as much as one-third,

In a press release, the Director of the CDC noted that: ”Underage drinking harms teens, their families and their communities. Exposing teens to alcohol advertising undermines what parents and other concerned adults are doing to raise healthy kids."

Mixing Caffeine, Alcohol Common for Underage Drinkers

Teens who consume energy drinks mixed with alcohol and those who mix alcohol with soda, coffee or tea are several times more likely to binge drink, get in fights and sustain alcohol-related injuries than teens who do not. 

According to a researcher from the Boston University School of Public Health, the dangers of pre-mixed beverages containing caffeine and alcohol have received widespread media attention, the main source of caffeinated alcoholic beverage use among youth is self-mixing of caffeine and alcohol.

A spokesperson for National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism noted that “Energy drinks are a way to be edgy, literally and culturally edgy, and a way to take some chances. Mixing alcohol and caffeine can mask some of the feelings of intoxication, making teens think they can drink more. Caffeine can make you feel like you're less intoxicated” but it does not reduce a teen’s level of intoxication.

As a parent you should be aware that if your teen is drinking he or she may be adding alcohol to non-alcoholic beverages like soda and energy drinks. Add that concern when you have the underage drinking discussion!

Teens and Steroids: A Dangerous Combo

This information is an excerpt of an article from the FDA Consumer Updates newsletter.

The abuse of anabolic steroids can cause both temporary and permanent injury to anyone using them. Teenagers, whose bodies are still developing, are at increased risk of serious side effects. Many adolescents are trying steroids in hopes of improving their athletic prowess or their appearance. Among high school students national, 4.9% of males and 2.4% of females have used anabolic steroids at least once. That’s 375,000 young men and 175,000 young women.

Anabolic steroids are drugs that mimic the actions of the male sex hormone testosterone. This includes promoting the growth of cells, especially in muscle, and maintaining or increasing male physical characteristics. 

These drugs have a range of serious adverse effects on many parts of the body, and in many cases the damage cannot be reversed. Side effects include fertility problems, erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and heart and liver problems. Boys may experience shrinkage of the testes or the development of breast tissue; girls may experience menstrual irregularities and development of masculine qualities such as facial and body hair. Both may experience acne. Both boys and girls may also experience mood swings and aggressive behavior, which can impact the lives of everyone around them.

Many parents do not believe that their teens would consider taking anabolic steroids, but in reality the frequency of steroid use in this age group significant. During school year, when kids are into their athletic routines,you should watch for potential signs of abuse. Mood swings are among the first side effects to show up, and steroid use may lead to mania or depression. Acne is also an early side effect and can be followed by breast development in boys or increased body hair in girls. An unexpected gain of muscle mass should also raise questions.

As parents, what can you say to your teens about the misuse steroids?  Emphasize both the short and long-term potential for serious harm to their health. An appropriate message might be: “Rather than making you look or perform better, steroids will more likely cause unfavorable results that could affect you for life. There are several ways to increase muscle mass and athletic performance, including a sensible plan of exercise and diet, without resorting dangerous therapies.


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