Monday, April 30, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog: 4-30-12 Situations involving alcohol that youth may face during spring and summer

Tonight my daughter Grace is heading to the prom, and within the next few weeks she will be attending graduation and assorted parties and celebrations. This has me thinking about the many situations involving alcohol that youth may face during spring and summer.

When your teen is going to a party, there are several steps that you can take to increase the likelihood that they will return to you safety.

Keep in mind that the average age of first use of alcohol for Ulster County youth surveyed in 2010 was 12. Don’t wait until your child is a teen to implement these strategies!

First of all, make sure that there will be adult supervision and that no alcohol will be served.  A tactful call to the host will suffice to clarify these details.

Second, make sure that you know where your child is going and with whom. When taking your teen to a party, go to the door and introduce yourself. If you already know the family, at least wait until your child is inside the house.

Third, make it easy for your teen to leave a party.  Agree that they can call you (or another adult) to come for them if there is any reason why staying is uncomfortable.

Fourth, urge your teen never to ride home with a driver who has been drinking.

Fifth, be awake to greet your teen when they come home.

These are not “cool parent” rules. Your child may protest that you are embarrassing or even humiliating him/her.  However, it is imperative to put them in place for his/her safety.

The Ulster Prevention Council has available a brochure from the New York State STOP-DWI Foundation entitled Teens and Alcohol: What Parents Need to Know.  This excellent publication reviews the Social Host law and the 21 legal purchase age, and contains the information discussed above. Call or email me if you would like an electronic copy or some paper copies.



Friday, April 13, 2012

4/13/12: Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies

I’ve spent the last few days with six wonderful teaching assistants from the Kingston City School District. I am so impressed by their professionalism and passion for what they do! We spent our time together discussing Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS®), an elementary school curriculum that has been shown to significantly improve children's social and emotional skills
Schools are charged with helping students to master academic content and become able to succeed in an increasingly complex world. Yet, many students lack the social and emotional skills they need to learn and grow, or they possess them but require ongoing reinforcement to reach their full potential.
Teaching students effectively is difficult when pupils are unable to properly engage in the learning process. Some students have difficulty managing emotions, act out in unhealthy and potentially harmful ways, detract from the healthy functioning of the school environment and/or create conflict in the classroom, playground, cafeteria or school bus.

The PATHS® program teaches skills that allow children to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices. Social and emotional competence underlies both effective behavior and academic success.

PATHS® supports federal requirements that mandate schools to provide safe and effective learning environments, helping to reinforce a bully-free climate. The program can also help students meet Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and can support goals for reading, writing, listening and speaking. The PATHS® program was one of only 12 SAMHSA Model Programs that had documented academic achievement outcomes - and one of only two programs designed for children ages 5-12.
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, classroom and school interventions that make the learning environment safer, more caring, more participatory, and that enhance students’ social competence have been shown to increase student attachment to school. In turn, students who are more engaged and attached to school have better attendance, higher graduation rates, higher grades and standardized tests scores and decreased rates of high-risk behaviors including alcohol and drug use, violence, truancy, and bullying.
In rigorous clinical studies, the PATHS® program has been shown to:
         reduce teachers' reports of students exhibiting aggressive behavior by 32%
         increase teachers' reports of students exhibiting self-control by 36%
         increase students' vocabulary for emotions by 68%
         increase students' scores on cognitive skills tests by 20%
         significantly improve students' ability to tolerate frustration plus their ability -- and willingness -- to use effective conflict-resolution strategies
         reduce depression and sadness among special-needs students

For more information regarding PATHS®, please contact me.


Friday, April 6, 2012

4/6/12: Local Doctor Arrested for Prescribing Large Quantities of Painkillers

Last week the Woodstock Times and Daily Freeman both reported that a Woodstock doctor was arrested by federal agents on a charge of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. He is accused of prescribing large quantities of the powerful painkiller hydrocodone (Vicodin®), among other drugs, without a legitimate medical purpose.

The doctor only accepts cash payments and was among the top five prescribers of hydrocodone in the area covered by the FBI’s Albany division.  The doctor wrote 9,940 hydrocodone prescriptions between December 15, 2010 and January 17, 2012 accounting for nearly 85 percent of all of the prescriptions that he wrote during that period. The complaint states that approximately 4,520 of these prescriptions were for patients under 35 years old.

Many residents have rushed to his defense, and the doctor has stated that he is innocent of the charges and believes that he will be exonerated. We can’t and shouldn’t rush to judgment and will wait to see how this case plays out in the legal system.

However, this event provides an opportunity to talk about the role of physicians in preventing prescription drug abuse. The Centers for Disease Control declared in 2011 that prescription painkiller overdoses are a public health epidemic.  Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed during the past decade.

Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone (Vicodin®). The CDC states that this parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of strong opioid pain relievers.

Almost all prescription drugs involved in overdoses come from prescriptions originally; very few come from pharmacy theft. However, once they are prescribed and dispensed, prescription drugs are frequently diverted to people using them without prescriptions.

Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around the clock for one month.  Most prescription painkillers are prescribed by primary care and internal medicine doctors and dentists, not specialists. Roughly 20% of prescribers prescribe 80% of all prescription painkillers.

Clearly prescribers are the first line of defense in preventing prescription drug abuse.

The CDC recommends that health care providers follow guidelines for responsible prescribing, including:

·        Screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems.
·        Prescribing painkillers only when other treatments have not been effective for pain.
·        Prescribing only the quantity of painkillers needed based on the expected length of pain.
·        Using patient-provider agreements combined with urine drug tests for people using prescription painkillers long term.
·        Talking with patients about safely using, storing and disposing of prescription painkillers.
·        Use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs to identify patients who are improperly using prescription painkillers.

Effective prevention strategies must include engaging all key community members such as doctors, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, counselors, first responders, hospital personnel, teachers, counselors, school nurses, coaches, administrators, parents, youth, youth activity leaders and faith communities in the dialog to educate all sectors of the community and address local prescription drug misuse conditions.

Cheryl DePaolo
Director, Ulster Prevention Council