Since we’re at the end of December, it’s almost time for New Year’s Resolutions. Most of those are really hard to keep, right? (like commitments to exercise more or get straight A’s). Well, SBB is prepared to make a New Year’s resolution of another kind: to stay on top of the latest news and information about drug abuse and addiction and share it with all of you. After a great start in 2009, with more than 59 blog posts and nearly 40,000 unique visitors to the site, you probably know by now that you can trust this blog for scientific and accurate information about drugs and related topics.
What can we expect from NIDA scientists in the year 2010? Here are just a few of the questions researchers will be working on in the coming year:
- How can we best use the Internet to help people with drug problems?
- Can we really get a vaccine for people addicted to cigarettes, or to illegal drugs like cocaine, to help them quit and prevent them from starting up again?
- How does smoking affect bone health in teen girls?
- What is the best way to help people addicted to prescription drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin?
- How can we develop pain medications that are as strong as Vicodin but will not get you addicted?
- How can we use the part of marijuana that might work as a medicine and give it to people in a safe way?
So 2010 should be an exciting year! And SBB “resolves” to be right here to tell you about it. Happy New Year everyone—What’s 2010 look like for all of you?
- Get some exercise. Community centers and health clubs may offer a special reduced price or free use of a gym for teens at holiday time.
- Don’t commit to too many parties, events, and get-togethers—everyone needs down time.
- Keep realistic expectations for getting along with family, and understand that it’s not going to be perfect. When things don’t go your way, ask yourself if it’s worth holding on to your anger or if you can just let it go and enjoy the moment.
- Chat with friends—talk on the phone, text, or de-stress on Facebook—and plan stuff to do.
- Volunteer at a community soup kitchen, food bank, or hospital.
- Start a drive to collect food and supplies for a homeless shelter.
- Visit a neighbor who may be elderly or impaired, or who may not have family around to help them celebrate.
- See about helping out families with young children who may need some relief to get dinner cooked or gifts wrapped.
- Start up a holiday dog-walking service for neighbors going out of town.
- Organize a gift exchange or a potluck supper with friends or family.
- Go caroling, then have the group to your house for hot chocolate.
- Make your own holiday baking gift packages—pre-packaged ingredients and recipe—to deliver to friends and family.
- Have a cookie baking contest or crazy cupcake competition.
- Go sledding, try ice skating, or build a snow fort.
- Have a sleepover or invite a friend over.
- Organize a dance-a-thon at your church, school, or rec center. See if the adults want to offer gift certificates or coupons for dance contest winners.
- Check to see if there’s a local First Night celebration. First Night is an organization that throws citywide New Year’s Eve activities.
- Start a tradition in your neighborhood with a flag football holiday bowl league.
St. Patrick’s Day, once a religious holiday that celebrated the patron saint of Ireland, has become a day for revelry and partying. In fact, it has become one of the biggest drinking days of the year.
Binge drinking—sucking down 4 or 5 drinks within about 2 hours—seems to be encouraged, with many bars hosting day-long parties and serving green beer and Irish whiskey.
Binge Drinking: What’s the Harm?
While downing pints of green beer may be a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for some, it’s really not a good one for your brain. Research shows that binge drinking damages the brain, even if you do it only once in a while. Young people are at special risk, since their brains are still developing—growing and making new connections until their mid-20s.
Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning and also affects the frontal cortex, an area involved with judgment, thinking, memory, and feeling.
Drinking and Driving Is Never Okay
Binge drinking also can have serious consequences after the party’s over. If you’re driving under the influence, or riding with someone who’s drunk, you’ll need a ton of “Irish luck” to get home safely.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of the deadliest on the road. More than 1 in 3 drivers involved in fatal crashes have a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit—and of course, no amount of alcohol is legal for those under age 21.
In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started a program with the slogan, “Kiss Me, I’m Sober,” to keep “buzzed” drivers off the road on St. Patrick’s Day. The first and most important step is to choose a designated driver who will not drink alcohol during the festivities.
St. Patrick’s Day is meant for light-hearted fun, and you don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy it. What are some ideas for celebrating the greenest holiday without drinking?
For many Americans, celebrating the Fourth of July includes fireworks, parades, sparklers, and backyard picnics. Alongside the hotdogs and potato salad, though, usually sit bottles of beer.
Alcohol is often a part of our cultural celebrations. When someone gets married, we toast the happy couple with champagne. Many people binge drink on St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. Wherever someone is celebrating, chances are, alcohol is there.
Statistics PDF [138.44 KB] show that the Fourth of July is no exception. Teens and adults alike can end up in unhealthy situations from celebrating with alcohol. During the holiday weekend of July 3–5, 2009, an average of 942 ER visits occurred per day related to alcohol use by people under age 21—two-thirds by young men, which is double the usual number for this group.
When people see others around them drinking alcohol, it can seem like alcohol is harmless. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study shows that in general, most 12th graders don’t see binge drinking on weekends PDF [1.64 MB] as being very risky. The study also shows that such thinking makes drinking alcohol more likely.
In fact, alcohol is illegal for teens and can alter the developing brain. Further, drinking heavily can lower inhibitions and open the door to taking more risks—such as driving or riding with someone when you really shouldn’t be.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Fourth of July holiday period (July 2–6) is particularly deadly. During the 2010 holiday, 392 people were killed in car crashes, 39% involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, which qualifies as a DUI offense.
This Fourth of July, set the example for your friends: Opt for a cold lemonade, and stay safe.
Check out these resources about alcohol and underage drinking: