The Death Toll from Alcohol is on the Rise

The numbers of deaths due to alcohol, drugs, and suicide has continuously been on the rise and in 2017, it was the highest number since records of these numbers began. The percent of deaths related to alcohol, drugs, and suicide rose from 43 up to 46 deaths per 100,000 deaths. Though this rise was slower than in previous years, it is still the highest number that it has been.

It, sadly, is no surprise that these numbers continue to rise, as the country continues to fail at alleviating the issue. The real issue is identifying the underlying causes to drinking, using drugs, and increases thoughts of suicide. Some people feel that the increase in social media and virtual connectivity has led to an increase in loneliness and a lack of compassion for others. Feeling isolated can often lead to an increase in other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Further, as social media use increases, there is a rise in bullying which further isolates people.

Aside from isolation, social media has added a glow to everyone’s life; only posting the best of the best and often times that means being out, socializing or partying. This glow normalizes and endorses drinking and drug use, making feel like that is what they have to do to fit in.

The health and well-being trust has proposed of a few initiatives that would hopefully help to decrease these numbers. The first is to spend more money on programs that increase child resilience and decrease risk factors in order to decrease overall adverse childhood experiences. The more adverse childhood experiences a person has, the more likely they are to have a substance use disorder or mental health disorder. Another suggestion is to increase policies surrounding safe keeping medications and firearms in order to minimize the access to methods used for suicide. The final suggestion is to increase services to raise awareness about addiction and overdose and to ultimately reduce the risk of the two.

At Morris County Prevention is Key and CARES, we work towards these same policy suggestions. Morris County Prevention is Key provides prevention programs to students in Morris County from ages seven (7) to fourteen (14), as well as to older adults in the community and families. These prevention programs work on building coping and communication skills while also, in an age appropriate manner, introducing the concept of addiction and how serious it is. CARES works on raising awareness about addiction through narcan trainings, various support meetings, and working directly with those who struggle with addiction and their families. The non-profit as a whole also works towards enhancing policy throughout the county, such as encouraging each municipality to have a secure medication drop box for all unused or expired medications.

If you are interested in programs offered through Morris County Prevention is Key, call (973)625-1998. For inquiries about CARES, call (973)625-1143.

Parents: Know the Risks but not the Solutions?

Opioids have been a rising issue in the United States, and more recently the opioid overdoses have been acknowledged as an epidemic. Of these people who misuse or abuse opioids, 90% of them have noted that their addiction began in their teen years. As the issue is on the rise, there is a known risk, but what is being done about this risk?

Half of parents who were asked in a recent study stated that they were concerned that their children were at risk for addiction, and yet 66% of parents stated that opioids were the best pain management solution. Unfortunately, a lot of parents and nonparents believe that opioids are the best pain management, probably because of advertisements and the eagerness for doctors to prescribe them. As much as we know that opioids are a problem and create high risk for addiction, one 33% of parents who went to a doctor with their child asked about alternative pain management to opioids. The numbers just do not add up. Further, the major concern is that over the past two decades, opioid related deaths in adolescents has more than tripled.

The Risks:
• Opioids are extremely addictive. Overdose is the leading cause of death in adults under the age of 50 in the United States. More than 2 million Americans abuse or misuse opioids because they are extremely addictive.
• Parents are not monitoring their children. By being aware of how many pills your child has taken and when they are taking them, it allows you to know what the habits of your child are. With helpful monitoring, you are helping to limit the ability to misuse.
• Parents are not talking to their children’s doctors about alternatives. Doctors will prescribe opioids because they are the most commonly known prescription pain management and most commonly accepted. Without starting the conversation, doctors will rarely offer alternatives.
• Utilizing improper disposal or not disposing of medications. By keeping the leftover medications instead of disposing of them, it poses a major risk to misuse.

The Solutions:
• Alternating between over-the-counter medications. This is known to help alleviate pain, in some instances, even better than opiates.
• Utilizing heat and ice. Heat, ice, rest and elevation helps to increase blood flow and decrease inflammation, leading to a decrease in pain.
• Physical therapy and/or acupuncture. Physical therapy will increase range of motion that might be causing the problem, as well as increase strength. Acupuncture has also been a leading pain reliever with minimal side effects.
• Quicker disposal. See if your municipality has a prescription drop box. If they do not, then make sure to crush up leftover medications and mix them with something like used coffee grounds, or cat litter to discourage someone from using the medications or taking them out of the trash.

There are known risks to using opiates. It is important for parents to not only recognize these risks but also to intervene and alleviate the issue before it becomes a real issue. Though it is not always up to the parents, parents can ask their child’s doctors for alternatives to pain medications, whether it be holistic approaches or other non-opiate pain medications. Even by opening the conversation with the doctor, it will show your child that it is a good idea to ask questions and advocate for themselves.

Influence of a Coach on a Student Athlete

Coaches quickly take on a major role in student’s lives. They are the people that push students, encourage students, and generally become the safe haven for a student. Coaches are almost like second parents to athletes, especially because of how close knit teams become. This level of influence is vital when it comes to setting good examples and keeping the students safe.
Recent studies have found that almost half of alcoholics and drug addicts became addicted before the age of 25, in the United States alone. Currently, the age where students begin to try alcohol is only 12 years old and the crucial years for prevention are 14-24, when they are most at risk. Coaches work with students for a lot of this crucial decade. High school sports alone cover the first half of the decade, moving into college sports for the latter half.

The coach-player relationships allows for a level of communication that other prevention methods miss. Due to the closeness and role aforementioned, students are more likely to listen to a coach versus someone else. This gives the coach the opportunity to talk about health and wellness, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and sports injury and recovery.
The more that we are able to talk to students about the dangers of poor health behaviors, including sleep deprivation, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, the better it will stick in a student’s head. Meaning that this will be the most effective “coaching” a student can receive.

Keeping in mind the role that you have as a coach is a key component to building a foundation or a safety net for a student. As a coach, there are some things you could do to provide the best education for your students:
• Have an understanding of general health and wellness. As a coach, this is a given. There is a lot of education that goes into being an effective coach. Staying up to date with research and keeping your students informed on best practices and policy for overall wellness will encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle, ultimately discouraging them from poor health decisions.
• Be a good role model, set the example. Students learn by modeling what is being done. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a practice that leads to mistrust. Being a good example encourages students to put in the work and they are likely to follow in your footprints.
• Have set policies on alcohol, tobacco and drug use. Making students aware of policies from the beginning of the season leaves no room for errors. By being honest about the policy and talking with your student athletes, you not only make students aware, but you open the conversation up about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
• Educate your students. Teach your students the effects of using alcohol, tobacco, and drugs on their overall health, as well as on their performance as an athlete. Understanding the negative effects can result in students not wanting to even start with the risky behavior, especially when they realize how much it can affect their ability to play in the sport. Again, this also opens the door to further discussions between students and coaches.

Ultimately, the coach’s role in a student’s life is extremely important. Being aware of the amount of influence one can have on a student is key to providing effective prevention techniques and opening a clear and safe line of communication. Your role as a coach is crucial to protecting and encouraging our students.

The Risks of Vaping and What you should know before Picking up this Smoking Alternative

Vaping has been around for a while. It started as a method to quit smoking, without cutting out nicotine cold turkey. As time has passed, there have been multiple brands of e-cigarettes and vapes, but Juul has quickly become the most commonly known. Some other popular names for e-cigarettes and vapes include mods, pens, juice, PV, or e-liquid.

Vapes are small and are able to be hidden well, which is part of the draw. They also come in a variety of different flavors, creating a marketing effort directed towards youth. In fact, of users that are age 12-17, 85% are using flavored vapes. The marketing of vapes makes it seem safer than smoking, to the point where 3 out of 5 teens believe that vaping occasionally will do no harm.

While vapes are marketed as being safer, one Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. The pods are small, so it is hard to recognize just how much of one is being smoke at one time, which leads to consuming more nicotine than a person would have otherwise.

As the availability of these e-cigarettes and vapes increases, so does the use. In 2011, only about 2% of boys and girls partook in smoking e-cigarettes or vapes, but comparatively in 2017, this rose to 13% in 8th graders, and up to 28% in 12th graders.

In the state of New Jersey, the legal age to buy tobacco products is 21. Given the sheer number of people under the age of 21 that are obtaining these devices, it is evident that people are illegally purchasing or selling devices to underage persons.

The real risk with electronic cigarettes and vaping is that we do not know the effects that it will have on the body for long term use. According to the American Lung Association, there has been a link between vaping and popcorn lung, especially when it comes to flavored vapes. A 2015 study showed that 39 out of 51 tested brands contained diacetyl, which is the chemical known to cause popcorn lung.

Aside from this known side effect, it is unknown what will happen due to the chemicals and mechanisms of e-cigarettes and vapes. Generally, the oil or liquid is heated up using metal coils, which can then be inhaled along with the nicotine.

Smoking electronic cigarettes is a gateway to other nicotine products and is a health concern that is completely avoidable. Cigarette smoking was almost obsolete but vapes are bringing the nicotine and big tobacco companies back to the top. It is not a healthy alternative to smoking, and it is important to recognize the risks associated with using, especially in those underage.