Wednesday, 9 September 2009


High Stress Teens Twice as Likely to Smoke, Get Drunk, Use Illegal Drugs

WASHINGTON, August 19, 2003 – The risk that teens will smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs increases sharply if they are highly stressed, frequently bored or have substantial amounts of spending money, according to The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VIII: Teens and Parents, an annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. This was the first time in its eight-year history that the survey measured the impact of these characteristics on the likelihood of teen substance abuse.

Among CASA’s survey findings:

· High stress teens are twice as likely as low stress teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs.
· Often bored teens are 50 percent likelier than not often bored teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs.
· Teens with $25 or more a week in spending money are nearly twice as likely as teens with less to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs, and more than twice as likely to get drunk.
· Teens exhibiting two or three of these characteristics are at more than three times the risk of substance abuse as those exhibiting none of these characteristics.
· More than half the nation’s 12-to-17 year olds (52 percent) are at greater risk of substance abuse because of high stress, frequent boredom, too much spending money, or some combination of these characteristics.

“High stress, frequent boredom and too much spending money are a catastrophic combination for many American teens,” said CASA Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. “But it is a catastrophe that can be avoided through parental engagement. Parents must be sensitive to the stress in their children’s lives, understand why they are bored and limit their spending money.”

Other findings of this year’s survey:

· More than 5 million 12-to-17 year olds (20 percent) can buy marijuana in an hour or less; another 5 million (19 percent) can buy marijuana within a day.
· The proportion of teens that consider beer easier to buy than cigarettes or marijuana is up 80 percent from 2000 (18 percent vs. 10 percent).
· For the first time in the survey’s eight-year history, teens are as concerned about social and academic pressures as they are about drugs.
· Teens at schools with more than 1,200 students are twice as likely as teens at schools with less than 800 students to be at high risk of substance abuse (25 percent vs. 12 percent).

“Two of the most common questions regarding teen drug use and addiction are: how can it happen to my child, and how can it happen to young boys or girls who seem to be typical teens?” said Califano. “These questions are often asked where the drug-abusing teen does not exhibit one of the usual warning signs of drug abuse – being physically or sexually abused, having a learning disability or eating disorder, suffering from serious depression or another mental health condition. CASA’s teen survey suggests that for many teens, the answers to these questions can be found in high stress, frequent boredom and too much spending money.”

Drug-Free Schools

The proportion of students who say that drugs are used, kept or sold at their high schools is up 18 percent over 2002 (from 44 to 52 percent). “This is a significant deterioration from last year, when most high school students attended drug free schools,” Califano observed. As in previous years Catholic and other religious middle and high schools are likelier to be drug free than are public schools (78 percent vs. 58 percent). For the first time there was a large enough sample of students from secular private schools to assess their status: 76 percent of such schools are drug free. Girls vs. Boys The incidence of high stress was greater among girls than boys, with nearly one in three girls saying they were highly stressed compared to fewer than one in four boys. And while girls and boys are equally likely to have more than $50 a week in spending money, girls with this much spending money are likelier than boys to smoke, drink, get drunk and use marijuana.

Parental Pessimism

Parents are likelier than teens to view teen drug use as a fait accompli. More than four out of 10 parents said teens are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to try drugs, compared to only one of 10 teens. Teens whose parents believe that future drug use is “very likely” are more than three times likelier to become substance abusers than teens whose parents say future drug use is “not likely at all.” More than half of parents whose children attend schools where drugs are used, kept or sold would not send their teen to a drug-free school if they could. Asked why, these parents answer: no schools are drug free (54 percent), kids should make their own choices (22 percent), drugs are not a problem (11 percent), and the child likes his or her school (seven percent).

“Many parents think they have little power over their teens’ substance use and a disturbing number view drugs in schools as a fact of life they are powerless to stop,” noted Mr. Califano. “How parents act, how much pressure they put on school administrators to get drugs out of their teens’ schools, their attitudes about drugs, and how engaged they are in their children’s lives will have enormous influence over their teens’ substance use. Parent Power is the most underutilized weapon in efforts to curb teen substance abuse.”

Other Key Findings

· Fewer teens are associating with peers who use substances: 56 percent have no friends who regularly drink, up from 52 percent in 2002; 68 percent have no friends who use marijuana, up from 62 percent in 2002; 70 percent have no friends who smoke cigarettes, up from 56 percent in 2002.
· Teens who attend religious services at least once a week are at significantly lower risk of substance abuse.
· The average age of first use is 12 years 2 months for alcohol, 12 ½ for cigarettes and 13 years 11 months for marijuana.
· Between the ages of 12 and 17, the likelihood that a teen will smoke, drink or use illegal drugs increases more than seven times and the percentage of teens with close friends who use marijuana jumps 14 times.

QEV Analytics conducted The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VIII: Teens and Parents for CASA from March 30 to June 14, 2003. The firm interviewed at home by telephone 1,987 teens aged 12 through 17 and 504 parents, 403 of whom were parents of interviewed teens. Sampling error is +/- 2.2 percent for teens and +/- 4.4 percent for parents.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society.

CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.

With a staff of more than 70 professionals, CASA has conducted demonstration projects at 69 sites in 40 cities and 22 states focused on children, families and schools, and has been testing the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, monitoring individuals in numerous programs and drug courts in several states.

Click here to view the survey

# # #

Parent Power: Five Ways Parents Can Reduce Teen Risk

1. Be sensitive to the stress in your children’s lives and help them cope.
2. Understand when and why your children are bored and help relieve their boredom.
3. Limit the amount of money your children have to spend and monitor how that money is spent.
4. Know who your children’s friends are.
5. Be engaged in your children’s lives: help them with their homework, attend their sports events, participate in activities together, and talk to them about drugs.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Note to Roger Ebert

By David B on August 27, 2009 6:37 PM

Thanks for the brave recap of your worst days. I know what the 11th tradition says but if we remain totally inflexible we will go backwards. I laughed and cried as I read your article. You mentioned Grant Hospital, and in the summer of 1982 I was living in the park opposite...Oz Park. Mine was the third bench in on the left hand side. It is still there. I talked to the sister of my drug buddy who had done something strange - she had gotten clean and sober. What that meant I had no idea about but I was interested in moving up in the world - or at least getting a room at the YMCA. She sent a male friend out to see me in the park and he told me his own story of insanity. It was all about drugs and alcohol and sounded strangely like my life. I had no desire to stop those...all I wanted was a better address perhaps even with a front door! When he was done he asked if I would like to go to an AA meeting with him and of course I said I would think about it. He told me that drunks like us cross an invisible line and that we will never be able to drink like "normal" people ever again. I did a little more research that weekend and found out that what he was saying was true.
Side Note: this kind man who spent time with me carrying the message dies in his alcoholism!
On Sunday night at the beginning of August I attended my first AA meeeting at that beloved Cathedral just off Rush Street - the Mustard Seed. It was lead by Alan B and he scared the crap out of me. But I was immediately taken by the atmosphere and the hope and like you I never left and by Gods Grace have not found it necessary to take a drink or a drug since the 1st August 1982. I went back every day sometimes two or three times as I saw that this was the only hope that I had. I met my sponsor there Tom M and we have been fast friends ever since. I ran into Alan B, and St.Jimmie H,(from Yale to jail, from Park Avenue to Park bench) Henry H, Nancy H (with her mink)and Celia and Howard. It was people like these that saved my life period. They taught me how to live, be a man, a husband and a father and I am eternally grateful.
I also ran into you and your newsreading sidekick Ron M and like the guy you talked about would go and watch a late evening lead with you two and would wonder if I was watching TV or was at a meeting. I have shaken your hand and have protected your anonymity because you came across like another scared drunk just like me! I met my wife Lucy B in that room at the Mustard Seed,I served food there on Thanksgiving,and it became the center of my new life.

So Roger dear friend in recovery thanks for the words, thanks for the inspiration, and thanks for the also a movie freak and still always look to see what you say. But all in all nothing you say about movies can ever be as important as what you have shared here. I put it on a par with Rollie Hemsley breaking his anonymity in 1940 and that did not bring our beloved AA down.

Olathe, Kansas 2009

Roger Ebert

My Name is Roger, and I'm an alcoholic
By Roger Ebert on August 25, 2009 7:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (1051)
In August 1979, I took my last drink. It was about four o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, the hot sun streaming through the windows of my little carriage house on Dickens. I put a glass of scotch and soda down on the living room table, went to bed, and pulled the blankets over my head. I couldn't take it any more.

On Monday I went to visit wise old Dr. Jakob Schlichter. I had been seeing him for a year, telling him I thought I might be drinking too much. He agreed, and advised me to go to "A.A.A," which is what he called it. Sounded like a place where they taught you to drink and drive. I said I didn't need to go to any meetings. I would stop drinking on my own. He told me to go ahead and try, and check back with him every month.

The problem with using will power, for me, was that it lasted only until my will persuaded me I could take another drink. At about this time I was reading The Art of Eating, by M. F. K. Fisher, who wrote: "One martini is just right. Two martinis are too many. Three martinis are never enough." The problem with making resolutions is that you're sober when you make the first one, have had a drink when you make the second one, and so on. I've also heard, You take the first drink. The second drink takes itself.That was my problem. I found it difficult, once I started, to stop after one or two. If I could, I would continue until I decided I was finished, which was usually some hours later. The next day I paid the price in hangovers.
I've known two heavy drinkers who claimed they never had hangovers. I didn't believe them. Without hangovers, it is possible that I would still be drinking. Unemployed, unmarried, but still drinking--or, more likely, dead. Most alcoholics continue to drink as long as they can. For many, that means death. Unlike drugs in most cases, alcohol allows you to continue your addiction for what's left of your life, barring an accident. The lucky ones find their bottom, and surrender.
Bill W., co-founder of A.A.

An A.A. meeting usually begins with a recovering alcoholic telling his "drunkalog," the story of his drinking days and how he eventually hit bottom. This blog entry will not be my drunkalog. What's said in the room, stays in the room. You may be wondering, in fact, why I'm violating the A.A. policy of anonymity and outing myself. A.A. is anonymous not because of shame but because of prudence; people who go public with their newly-found sobriety have an alarming tendency to relapse. Case studies: those pathetic celebrities who check into rehab and hold a press conference.

In my case, I haven't taken a drink for 30 years, and this is God's truth: Since the first A.A. meeting I attended, I have never wanted to. Since surgery in July of 2006 I have literally not been able to drink at all. Unless I go insane and start pouring booze into my g-tube, I believe I'm reasonably safe. So consider this blog entry what A.A. calls a "12th step," which means sharing the program with others. There's a chance somebody will read this and take the steps toward sobriety.

Yes, I believe A.A. works. It is free and everywhere and has no hierarchy, and no one in charge. It consists of the people gathered in that room at that time, many perhaps unknown to one another. The rooms are arranged by volunteers. I have attended meetings in church basements, school rooms, a court room, a hospital, a jail, banks, beaches, living rooms, the back rooms of restaurants, and on board the Queen Elizabeth II. There's usually coffee. Sometimes someone brings cookies. We sit around, we hear the speaker, and then those who want to comment do. Nobody has to speak. Rules are, you don't interrupt anyone, and you don't look for arguments. As we say, "don't take someone else's inventory."

I know from the comments on an earlier blog that there are some who have problems with Alcoholics Anonymous. They don't like the spiritual side, or they think it's a "cult," or they'll do fine on their own, thank you very much. The last thing I want to do is start an argument about A.A.. Don't go if you don't want to. It's there if you need it. In most cities, there's a meeting starting in an hour fairly close to you. It works for me. That's all I know. I don't want to argue with you about it.

What a good doctor, and a good man, Jakob Schlichter was. He was in one of those classic office buildings in the Loop, filled with dentists and jewelers. He was a gifted general practitioner. An appointment lasted an hour. The first half hour was devoted to conversation. He had a thick Physician's Drug Reference on his desk, and liked to pat it. "There are 12 drugs in there," he said, "that we know work for sure. The best one is aspirin."

One day, after a month of sobriety, I went to see him because I feared I had grown too elated, even giddy, with the realization that I need not drink again. "Maybe I'm manic-depressive," I told him. "Maybe I need lithium."

"Alcohol is a depressant," he told me. "When you hold the balloon under the water and suddenly release it, it is eager to pop up quickly." I nodded. "Yes," I said, "but I'm too excited. I wake up too early. I'm in constant motion. I'd give anything just to feel a little bored."

"Lois, will you be so kind as to come in here?" he called to his wife. She appeared, an elegant Jewish mother. "Lois, I want you to open a little can of grapefruit segments for Roger. I know you have a bowl and a spoon." His wife came back with the grapefruit. I ate the segments. He watched me closely. "You still have your appetite," he said. "When you feel restless, take a good walk in the park. Call me if it doesn't work." It worked. I knew walking was a treatment for depression, but I didn't know it also worked for the ups.

Anyway, after I pulled the covers over my head, I stayed in bed until the next day, for some reason sleeping 13 hours. On the Sunday I poured out the rest of the drink which, when I poured it, I had no idea would be my last. I sat around the house not making any vows to myself but somehow just waiting. On the Monday, I went to see Dr. Schlichter. He nodded as if he had been expecting this, and said "I want you to talk to a man at Grant Hospital. They have an excellent program." He picked up his phone and an hour later I was in the man's office.

He asked me some questions (the usual list), said the important thing was that I thought I had a problem, and asked me if I had packed and was ready to move into their rehab program. "Hold on a second," I said. "I didn't come here to check into anything. I just came to talk to you." He said they were strictly in-patient. "I have a job," I said. "I can't leave it." He doubted that, but asked me to meet with one of their counselors.

This woman, I will call her Susan, had an office on Lincoln Avenue in a medical building across the street from Somebody Else's Troubles, which was well known to me. She said few people stayed sober for long without A.A.. I said the meetings didn't fit with my schedule and I didn't know where any were. She looked in a booklet. "Here's one at 401 N. Wabash," she said. "Do you know where that is?" I confessed it was the Chicago Sun-Times building. "They have a meeting on the fourth floor auditorium," she said. It was ten steps from my desk. "There's one today, starting in an hour. Can you be there?"

She had me. I was very nervous. I stopped in the men's' room across the hall to splash water on my face, and walked in. Maybe thirty people were seated around a table. I knew one of them. We used to drink together. I sat and listened. The guy next to me got applause when he said he'd been sober for a month. Another guy said five years. I believed the guy next to me.

They gave me the same booklet of meetings Susan had consulted. Two day later I flew to Toronto for the film festival. At least here no one knew me. I looked up A.A. in the phone book and they told me there was an A.A. meeting in a church hall across Bloor Street from my hotel. I went to so many Toronto meetings in the next week that when I returned to Chicago, I considered myself a member.

That was the beginning of a thirty years' adventure. I came to love the program and the friends I was making through meetings, some of whom are close friends to this day. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. What I hadn't expected was that A.A. was virtually theater. As we went around the room with our comments, I was able to see into lives I had never glimpsed before. The Mustard Seed, the lower floor of a two-flat near Rush Street, had meetings from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and all-nighters on Christmas and New Years' eves. There I met people from every walk of life, and we all talked easily with one another because we were all there for the same reason, and that cut through the bullshit. One was Humble Howard, who liked to perform a dramatic reading from his driver's license--name, address, age, color of hair and eyes. He explained: "That's because I didn't have an address for five years."

When I mention Humble Howard, you are possibly thinking you wouldn't be caught dead at a meeting where someone read from his driver's license. He had a lot more to say, too, and was as funny as a stand-up comedian. I began to realize that I had tended to avoid some people because of my instant conclusions about who they were and what they would have to say. I discovered that everyone, speaking honestly and openly, had important things to tell me. The program was bottom-line democracy.

Yes, I heard some amazing drunkalogs. A Native American who crawled out from under an abandoned car one morning after years on the street, and without premeditation walked up to a cop and asked where he could find an A.A. meeting. And the cop said, "You see those people going in over there?" A 1960s hippie whose VW van broke down on a remote road in Alaska. She started walking down a frozen river bed, thought she herd bells ringing, and sat down to freeze to death. The bells were on a sleigh. The couple on the sleigh (so help me God, this is what she said) took her home with them, and then to an A.A. meeting. A priest who eavesdropped on his first meeting by hiding in the janitor's closet of his own church hall. Lots of people who had come to A.A. after rehab. Lots who just walked in through the door. No one who had been "sent by the judge," because in Chicago, A.A. didn't play that game. "If you don't want to be here, don't come."

Sometimes funny things happened. In those days I was on a 10 p.m. newscast on one of the local stations. The anchor was an A.A. member. So was one of the reporters. After we got off work, we went to the 11 p.m. meeting at the Mustard Seed. There were maybe a dozen others. The chairperson asked if anyone was attending their first meeting. A guy said, "I am. But I should be in a psych ward. I was just watching the news, and right now I'm hallucinating that three of those people are in this room."

I've been to meetings in Cape Town, Venice, Paris, Cannes, Edinburgh, Honolulu and London, where an Oscar-winning actor told his story. In Ireland, where a woman remembered, "Often came the nights I would measure my length in the road." I heard many, many stories from "functioning alcoholics." I guess I was one myself. I worked every day while I was drinking, and my reviews weren't half bad. I've improved since then.

There are no dues. You throw in a buck or two if you can spare it, to pay for the rent and the coffee. On the wall there may be posters with the famous 12 Steps and the Promises, of which one has a particular ring for me: "In sobriety, we found we know how to instinctively handle situations that used to baffle us." There were mornings when I was baffled by how I was going to get out of bed and face the day.

I find on YouTube that there are many videos attacking A.A. for being a cult, a religion, or a delusion. There are very few videos promoting A.A., although the program has many. many times more members than critics. A.A. has a saying: "We grow through attraction, not promotion." If you want A.A., it is there. That's how I feel. If you have problems with it, don't come. Is it a "religion?" The first three Steps are,

* Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

* Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

* Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.

The God word. The critics never quote the words "as we understood God." Nobody in A.A. cares how you understand him, and would never tell you how you should understand him. I went to a few meetings of "4A" ("Alcoholics and Agnostics in A.A."), but they spent too much time talking about God. The important thing is not how you define a Higher Power. The important thing is that you don't consider yourself to be your own Higher Power, because your own best thinking found your bottom for you. One sweet lady said her higher power was a radiator in the Mustard Seed, "because when I see it, I know I'm sober."

Sober. A.A. believes there is an enormous difference between bring dry and being sober. It is not enough to simply abstain. You need to heal and repair the damage to yourself and others. We talk about "white-knuckle sobriety," which might mean, "I'm sober as long as I hold onto the arms of this chair." People who are dry but not sober are on a "dry drunk."

A "cult?" How can that be, when it's free, nobody profits and nobody is in charge? A.A. is an oral tradition reaching back to that first meeting between Bill W. and Doctor Bob in the lobby of an Akron hotel. They'd tried psychiatry, the church, the Cure. Maybe, they thought, drunks can help each other, and pass it along. A.A. has spread to every continent and into countless languages, and remains essentially invisible. I was dumbfounded to discover there was a meeting all along right down the hall from my desk.

It prides itself on anonymity. There are "open meetings" to which you can bring friends or relatives, but most meetings are closed: "Who you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here." By closed, I mean closed. I told Eppie Lederer, who wrote as Ann Landers, that I was now in the program. She said, "I haven't been to one of those meetings in a long time. I want you to take me to one." Her limousine picked me up at home, and we were driven to the Old Town meeting, a closed meeting. I went in first, to ask permission to bring in Ann Landers. I was voted down. I went back to the limo and broke the news to her. "Well I've heard everything!" Eppie said. "Ann Landers can't get into an A.A. meeting!" I knew about an open meeting on LaSalle Street, and I took her there.

Eppie asked, "What do you think about my columns where I print the 20-part quiz to see if you have a drinking problem?" I said her quiz was excellent. I didn't tell her, but at a meeting I heard a two-parter: If you drink when you didn't intend to, and more than you intended to, you, my friend, have just failed this test.

"Everybody's story is the same," Humble Howard liked to say. "We drank too much, we came here, we stopped, and here we are to tell the tale." Before I went to my first meeting, I imagined the drunks would sit around telling drinking stories. Or perhaps they would all be depressing and solemn and holier-than-thou. I found out you rarely get to be an alcoholic by being depressing and solemn and holier-than-thou. These were the same people I drank with, although now they were making more sense.