Category Archives: Uncategorized

TOP 3 by Sarah Keir

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.

Big Tobacco in Marijuana


In April of 1970, it became illegal to advertise cigarettes. The marketing that was prior employed showed cigarettes being healthy, helping socially, and being attractive. Upon further restriction in 2010, Big Tobacco was banned from sponsoring cultural events and putting their logos on apparel. These bans seem to have had a positive influence on the decline of smoking, as the number of smokers has dropped 35% since 1965.

As marijuana continues to become legalized across the nation, it is important to recognize the impacts that big tobacco has on the market. Prior to marijuana becoming illegal, tobacco companies recognize that marijuana was either a competitor to their product, or an asset to building the company. Since then, marijuana has remained on the radar for many big tobacco companies.

Recently, it was found that one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, British Imperial Brands, invested in out-of-country “Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies”, which is researching ways that marijuana can be adapted to be used for medicine. These large investments show that Big Tobacco already cannot wait to get their hands on the marijuana industry. Further, Altria, the world’s biggest tobacco marketer, has been rumored to be investing in Canada’s main source of marijuana, Cronos Group.

As Big Tobacco begins to invest in marijuana, it extremely effects data outcomes and studies, as the industry sponsored research tends to be bias in the favor of marketing and sales, over consumer wellbeing. Meaning that data will likely be skewed to only show positive effects of consuming cannabis instead of showing both sides of the story. This skewed data increases sales because it makes consumers aware of only positives, instead of being aware of the overall effects.

This is a concern because it is inviting history to be able to repeat itself. Research will likely be bias, encouraging more people to only see the benefits of marijuana instead of gathering information on both sides of the story and making a fair decision on what is actually good for each individual. Big Tobacco in marijuana can only mean negative consequences for the American people.

Sober Curious, what is it and how does it benefit us?

Being sober curious is when a person decides to stop drinking, either permanently or temporarily. They may even engage in something called “mindful drinking”, where they drink occasionally and only moderately, instead of getting drunk. This movement has taken on waves, especially in January with “dry January”.

Sober curious allows for people to see how their body reacts without alcohol and how their lives differ from when there is alcohol involved. These people generally call themselves sober curious because they do not attend meetings and do not presume that they will abstain from alcohol for their entire lives. In fact, these people often identify as not being addicted to alcohol, but rather choosing to stop for various reasons such as anxiety, cost, or being health conscious.

Numerous people reported really good outcomes from abstaining from alcohol, some of which included:

  • Better sleep. Many research studies show that alcohol negatively effects sleep patterns. It makes it so that we never fully enter deep sleep. Further, with drinking generally comes late nights and getting to sleep much later, resulting in much fewer hours of the needed sleep.
  • Better skin. Without consuming alcohol, we tend to cut out a lot of the sugars that we drink, whether it be from the wine or the mixer we use with hard alcohol. Sugars negatively affect our skin. Alcohol also dehydrates us, which includes drying out of the skin and not getting the important vitamins that we need that keep our skin looking healthy.
  • Better overall health. Often people go out for a night of drinking and not only end up consuming empty carbs through their alcohol, but they end up getting food after the night, usually something greasy and high in fat. By consuming more calories, especially empty calories, we are jeopardizing our health and wellness. If hangover takes place the next day, usually a breakfast sandwich or ‘hair of the dog’ is the “cure”, which further leads to the consumption of empty calories, likely increasing weight if done on a continuous basis.

A common realization is that it is possible to have fun without drinking. It is possible to let go and enjoy a night out, whether it is dancing, or at a wedding, while not having to be consuming alcohol. And the best part about it all – you remember everything that happened.

Ultimately, being sober curious just means that you want to see how alcohol influences you and how it impacts your body. For some people, this turns into abstaining from alcohol indefinitely, but for others this results in mindfulness drinking or drinking only on special occasions. This new movement is great for our overall health and wellness, both physically and mentally, and really changes the conversation from being either a drinker or a non-drinker, to allowing for multiple pathways that best suite each individual.

Drinking Alone: the Predictor to Something Worse

Recent research has found that teens who drink alone are at a higher risk for adverse effects compared to those who drink socially. This research found those teens who drink alone tend to drink higher quantities of alcohol. It seems as though alcohol becomes a negative coping mechanism for these teens. Comparatively, teens who only drink in a social setting tend to have the reasoning of socializing versus coping.

Teens who are drinking as a coping mechanism are in a vulnerable state and will often drink more to cope with these feelings, feelings such as rejection, being lonely, anxiety, or depression. Being in a vulnerable state leads to a decrease in cognitive functioning and ultimately can lead to the increase in drinking.

The study done by  Pittsburgh Adolescent Alcohol Research Center found that students who reported drinking alone between the ages of 12-18 were more likely to be dependent on alcohol when resurveyed at the age of 25. This is indicative that early solitary drinking is a huge link to alcohol dependency.

So, what does this show? Given that the solitary drinking tends to come through as a maladaptive coping skill, it shows that there are most likely co-occurring disorders. By opening up conversation and destigmatizing mental health, it would likely help to decrease this solitary drinking, ultimately decreasing dependence.

Having an open line of communication can help create positive coping skills. Further, by opening the line of communication, it helps teens feel less lonely, as they will have other people to turn to in a time of need. Encouraging positive coping skills such as reading, writing, drawing, talk therapy, and exercise can significantly help the mental health of a teen.

Ultimately, drinking alone from an early age is linked to a dependence on alcohol late in life. Whether this link is due to earlier onset of drinking, higher frequency of drinking, or utilizing alcohol as a coping skill is relatively unknown but providing teens with a way to communicate their underlying reasoning for drinking can reduce the negative effects this drug has on the young brain, by decreasing the amount that a teen drinks.