What are Raves? My daughter says they are alcohol-free parties, but I’ve been reading a lot about Ecstasy being available at these events. Should I be concerned?

Raves are all night dance parties with loud "techno" music set up in warehouses, fields, or stadiums and are frequently advertised as alcohol-free, giving parents a false sense of security. "Club drugs", such as Ecstasy, are often readily available.

Here are some examples of physical signs that someone may have taken Ecstasy: rapid eye movement, dehydration, chills or sweating, severe anxiety and/or paranoia, trance-like state, clenching of the jaw and/or grinding of teeth.

There is certain paraphernalia associated with Ecstasy use that you can watch for. These items include candy necklaces, pacifiers, lollipops, glow sticks and/or glowing necklaces, child-like backpacks, mentholated vapor rub and surgical masks.

The first use of Ecstasy can cause seizures, brain injury or death. Ecstasy’s stimulant effects enable users to dance for long periods thereby increasing the body’s core temperature. This can lead to seizures, dehydration, heart or kidney failure, and brain damage may occur through a variety of mechanisms.

The best medical research is showing that Ecstasy is a neurotoxin and repeated use can kill the parts of the nerve cells that release the mood regulating chemical serotonin. It is not known when or if recovery occurs.

Beth Kane Davidson, M.Ed., CAC, Director, Addiction Treatment Center, Suburban Hospital (MD)

My oldest child will enter middle school next fall. I’m anxious about a lot of things- including alcohol, tobacco or other drug use. Can you help?

The transition from elementary to middle school can be challenging for both children and their parents. As the age of first use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs declines, the likelihood that kids will try drugs increases dramatically during this year. Parent’s roles are extremely important at this time, as peers begin to matter more and kids don’t welcome their parent’s presence like they did when they were younger.

Kids not only need, but expect guidance. Research shows that kids interpret limits as love. To help kids make good decisions, it is important that parents:

  • take a firm stand against any form of alcohol, tobacco or other drug use
  • make sure that kids understand the legal consequences of using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
  • continue to talk with them about the reasons they should not smoke, drink or use other drugs, highlighting for them the new scientific information
  • get to know their friends AND their friends’ parents
  • encourage children to get involved in adult-supervised after school activities and sports
  • take advantage of parent volunteer opportunities at school
  • know where they are-always call host parents to confirm activities your child plans to attend
  • practice refusal skills
  • set curfews, consequences and enforce them
  • know what to do if you suspect a problem

Beth Kane Davidson, M.Ed., CAC, Director, Substance Abuse Treatment Center, Suburban Hospital (MD)

The information on this Web site is excellent and I am a full supporter of helping my kids stay alcohol free. What can I do if I know some of my daughter’s friend’s parents still think that drinking is not such a big deal?

First, you are doing the right thing by staying involved with your daughter and helping her avoid alcohol and other drug use. The best approaches in helping other parents understand the dangers of use are through education.

We are fortunate to have science on our side when we talk about underage drinking. You can check with the school and encourage them to sponsor Parent Education evenings to talk about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.

You can share this web site with a friend, making an opening remark about the fun, interesting, new e-learning course. Your enthusiasm may encourage other parents to try the course and educate themselves.

Changing the culture on underage alcohol use takes time.. Simply discussing the topic and setting firm guidelines for your own daughter will help others.

I know how important it is for me to be involved in helping my teen resist alcohol and other drugs. How can I tell if my son’s school is involved in prevention efforts?

Schools play an important role in the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among students. Here are some questions you can ask your son’s school. These questions were put together by the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

From the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA, 2002)

Parent Power: Ten Questions Every Parent Should Ask Their Child’s School

1.What does the school do to keep tobacco, alcohol and other drugs off school premises?

2. What education and prevention programs are offered children in what grades- is it enough to make a difference?

3. Are teachers and other staff trained to spot signs of drug abuse and know how to respond?

4. Are teachers and other staff aware of circumstances that place children at higher risk of substance abuse, such as learning disabilities, discipline problems, eating disorders, depression and anxiety, and frequent mobility from school to school? If so, does the school intervene early?

5. What does the school do if it suspects a child may be smoking, drinking, or using other drugs? Does the school tell the child’s parents?

6. Does the school screen or test for substance use? If so, under what circumstances?

7. If a substance abuse problem is identified in a child, what help does the school provide- either directly or by referral?

8. What action does the school take if a child is caught possessing or using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs- or selling drugs?

9. Does the school engage parents, students and community organizations in substance abuse prevention?

10. What are the substance use policies for teachers and other school staff? (more…)