Friday, December 3, 2010

Raising Drug-Free Kids webinar

The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) is an organization directed at training local anti-drug coalitions on "how to assess their local substance abuse-related problems and develop a comprehensive plan to address them," as mentioned on their website.

Yesterday, the CADCA aired a webinar surrounding the topic of raising drug-free kids. We know that as a parent, it can be hard to know what to say to your children. This hour-long presentation offers helpful tips and resources from researchers and parents just like you. To watch the presentation, click here.

For more tips and suggestions, please visit the parents section of our website,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prevention Event a Community Success

21 Reasons successfully put on our first annual Chalk it Up to Prevention event on October 8, 2010 in Monument Square. We had perfect weather, great company, interested media, and spectacular community involvement.

Thanks to many local artists, city council members, commissioner Shaughnessy, Mayor Mavodones, Day One, the Portland Police Department, and Ethos Marketing, we as a community were able to portray the many ways we can work together to prevent underage drinking.

Click here to see more highlights of the event!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Makes Teens Tick

“Excessive drinking and substance use can temporarily impair mental abilities, but these effects may be longer lasting in adolescents. Teens who use alcohol or drugs heavily show delayed or incomplete development of frontal-brain regions responsible for regulating attention and decision-making; alcohol seems to be particularly detrimental to planning skills while pot affects memory.” TIME, November 1, 2010, p 20.

This statement is based on research due to be released in January, 2011 in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, vol. 35, No 1, 2011: pp 1-8.

For a more in depth review of what modern technology has taught us about the developing brain and how that research impacts our current policies and practices, see, "What Makes Teens Tick," TIME, September 28, 2008.

In a nutshell: Adolescence is a time of rapid maturation for the human brain. This process is influenced in large part by exposure and experience. For parents, this can mean the last bite at the apple to shape your child’s brain development. This is profoundly challenging when a teens’ natural reaction is to push back. One highly recommended course of action is seek out the other adults in your child’s life, form an alliance, and be armed with the facts. One fact is clear, alcohol can have an adverse affect on the developing teen brain.

Learn more, visit: 21 Reasons at:; or Partnership for a Drug Free America at:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Social Networking to Prevent Underage Drinking OK According to Poll

Most folks in a recent survey found using social networking pages in order to reduce underage drinking is OK. This is according to a recent poll by the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free Foundation, consisting of current and former Governor First Ladies, and/or their designees.

What do you think? Public domain or breach of privacy? How far should adults go to reduce underage drinking?

We welcome your comments!

Friday, October 1, 2010


It's not raining now, but the forecast calls for driving rain by lunchtime, so we've decided to postpone Chalk it Up to Prevention until next Friday, October 8.

We're choosing to look at the bright side of this development--we have another whole week to get more participants! Let us know if you're planning to join us next week.  We'll see you there!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday morning links

Our own Jo Morrissey was featured yesterday on Good Day Maine talking about tomorrow's Chalk it Up to Prevention (wish hard with us to keep the rain away--and check our website after 9am on 10/1 if you're uncertain if the event will be held):

And the Brunswick Times-Record featured an excellent opinion piece about the risks of alcohol use by young people--and what we can do to prevent it:
  • Involve all segments of the community — youths, parents, lawmakers, law enforcement, health care, schools and the media.
  • Determine specific community norms that permit or encourage teen drinking and target our efforts toward changing those norms.
  • Provide facts about the potential dangers of drinking — sugar-coating the realities is not effective, any more than over-dramatizing them.
  • Provide youth-driven, safe, healthy and fun alternatives to drinking alcohol.
  • Present clear NO-USE messages regarding underage drinking.
  • Continue talking with (not at) our youth about the pressure to drink, offer skills to resist the pressure and have an open door for dialogue when the issue arises.
  • Educate adults about the warning signs of alcohol use by youth, the effects of their own attitudes about alcohol use and where to go for help if needed. 
  • Support law enforcement officials in enforcing the 21-year-old drinking age, in enforcing the laws that exist to deter adults from purchasing alcohol for minors, in adopting policies for detecting and terminating underage drinking parties and in strengthening compliance check programs in retail outlets.
  • Utilize existing key resources to learn what has and has not worked. The realities of underage drinking have multiple layers and need a multi-layered approach.
Looking for more news? You can find lots more links to local, national, and international news about underage drinking and its prevention and enforcement at our Delicious page.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

21 Reasons Survey

In order to serve you and our community better, we are asking you to provide us some feedback on our performance.

How do you think 21 Reasons is doing? Are there things you think could be improved upon? Are there things we should consider? Or, are there things we are doing very well and should keep up?

This is your chance to let us know your thoughts so that the staff of 21 Reasons may serve you and our community better. Please take a moment (about 10 minutes) to fill out our Annual Coalition Member Survey and let us know what you think.

The survey will be open until Friday, October 8th. We value your opinion

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Family Dinners Can Make a Difference

As the new school year begins, it is important to keep in mind how meaningful and effective talking to your kids really is. Even as schedules become more hectic and conflicting, we want you to remember that even the small stuff can make a difference.

A recent study done by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has found that having regular dinners as a family will in fact put your child at less risk of using alcohol or drugs even as they are confronted with the pressure to do so in and outside of school.

If you haven’t been having family dinners lately, September 27, 2010 would be a great day to start. It’s the annual Family Day created by CASA, and it will be held across the nation. We urge you to participate! Family Day was created in 1992 by Joseph A. Califano Jr. in an effort to prevent the abuse of illegal drinking and drug abuse. Since its instillation CASA has done research that proves having a meal with your kids, listening and being interested in their lives, and informing them about the dangers of alcohol and drugs can have an impact.

Whether it’s a family dinner, a family breakfast, or even a game night, doing family activities is a simple prevention method.

And if you get a chance during dinner, you can talk to your kids about your expectation that they stay drug and alcohol-free.

Also check out The Partnership for a Drug-Free America for a guide to the Teen Brain and tips for parenting a teenager.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chalk It Up to Prevention

Call for Artists, Businesses, Galleries, Youth, Parents, YOU!

Portland, ME- 21 Reasons is hosting our first annual, “Chalk It Up to Prevention.” On Friday, October 1 Portland’s sidewalks will illustrate ways to prevent underage drinking.

Community members will draw on the sidewalk between Monument Square and Congress Square, from 11 -3, illustrating the many ways we all can prevent underage drinking. These chalk artworks will be visible throughout the First Friday Art Walk that evening.

Participants needed! We need artists, business participants, setup and cleanup help.

The rain date is October 8.


Call: 207-773-7737



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Maine colleges taking action to prevent alcohol harm

We applaud the efforts of Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin Colleges to take preventative steps to decrease the negative effects of underage drinking and high risk drinking on their campuses.

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21 was set back in 1984 to reduce the death toll from high risk drinking in youth and young adults. This is now considered one of the most successful public health policies in United States history saving an estimated 900 lives/year. Youth drinking rates have also steadily declined over this period of time as youth’s access to alcohol through only slightly older siblings and friends has been stymied.

The good news for educators is that, if they’re determined to make a difference, they can. A new report out by Children’s Hospital Boston says that when tough campus policies are consistently enforced, they “can reduce underage drinking and heavy episodic drinking on campus - without a ‘compensatory’ rise in marijuana use.”

By creating and enforcing rules against underage drinking, colleges are helping young people develop social skills without drinking, as well as teaching them to respect the law. More importantly, by waiting to consume alcohol until after 21, youth and young adults will be less likely to have negative alcohol outcomes—like injury, dependency, and other physical and mental health consequences.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chem Free Club Parties?

Parents today are facing all kinds of new situations and decisions—things that their own parents wouldn’t have ever heard of, or would have handled quite differently. Now we know a lot more about the way that teen brains develop and what’s safe, and what’s not.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw an advertisement for an all-ages chem free night at a local bar. It’s a tough call for parents. Should you let your teen go to an all-ages events held at a bar?

On the one hand, it’s good to encourage your kid to do alcohol- and drug- free events, right? And Maine Liquor Law requires that alcohol be completely locked up at events like this, so it seems at first glance like it might be a good opportunity for teens to get out and have a little fun.

But we think that letting teens go to events like this isn’t a great idea, and here’s why:

  • Bar staff and security aren’t trained in the particular needs of teens—they’re used to being around adults who are completely responsible for themselves
  • The kids who are going aren’t generally closely monitored by the venue staff—and some will take advantage of this lack of oversight to sneak alcohol or drugs
  • It makes teens feel like going to bars is the best way to have fun
  • Depending on the location of the venue, there might be a lot of bars open nearby that are serving alcohol. Bar patrons and teens are not a good mix!

It’s better and safer to stick with chem-free events that are hosted in a location that never serves alcohol, like a school or teen center.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Princeton Reviews Encourage Illegal and Dangerous Behavior

According to a Portland Press Herald article, the well-known Princeton Review Top Party Schools list for the 2010-2011 academic year has been released-- and this year the University of Georgia ranks in at #1. Despite increasing police force on underage drinkers since 2006, the University of Georgia is up from its #4 spot in last year’s ratings, and school officials are finding it hard to believe that they would acquire this title. The University says they take student alcohol education programs seriously, and they find it very disconcerting and surprising that their efforts aren’t presenting the results they had hoped for.

However, while many are looking at colleges to blame for underage drinking and partying, it’s surprising how little responsibility is being put on the Princeton Review itself for reporting and reinforcing the idea that the purpose of college is heavy drinking.

Why does there need to be a ranking list? Promoting where the best party schools “rage,” and where the “reefer madness” occurs, as described on Princeton’s website, is not only hurtful to the school’s reputation itself, as Georgia feels, but it is also a risky venture. Glorifying and perpetuating the idea of “party schools” as a positive thing only encourages high school kids to look for schools where drinking is heavily prevalent. College drinking puts students at risk of death, injury, assault, academic problems, and more, according to College Drinking Prevention statistics.

So, how are students or colleges truly gaining from the publication of such material? The catchy titles and popularity of the Princeton rankings actually encourage the illegal and dangerous behavior and can attract students to these colleges purely for non-academic reasons.

Creating a sense of shame associated with making it to the top party school position may further help move forward college efforts to reduce and prevent high-risk drinking, and at the same time we should always be pushing for college administrations to curb the drinking activities and tone down the party atmosphere on campuses. But maybe we should also be looking at the instiller of the problem itself—cultural expectations.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Alcohol Metabolism Testing: Harmful or Helpful?

According to a recent New York Times article, the University of California at Berkeley is giving incoming freshmen students a unique way to bond with each other before the first day of school: sending in a DNA sample to be analyzed for an individual’s ability to metabolize alcohol, lactose and folates. The school’s stated intention is to help students think critically about genetic testing, but their choice of alcohol as an “innocuous” gene test topic is questionable.

According to the schools FAQ section for students about the test:

The second gene encodes an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase. This is one of a series of enzymes involved in metabolizing (digesting) alcohol. We will test for a variant of this gene that is associated with flushing (red face) and nausea after drinking alcohol. Since most of you are below the legal age for drinking alcohol, we strongly suggest that you not drink regardless of the results of this gene test.

Despite the school’s disclaimer, giving this kind of test to first-year students, most of whom are 18 or 19 and years away from legally drinking, sends a message that drinking is expected. We’re not the only ones who think so.

There’s also the risk that someone might misunderstand the results, test negative and not think any guidelines pertain to them, therefore assuming they can drink as much as they want.

Other critics say that it is irresponsible to provide any genetic testing outside of a medical setting, because there is no chance for those receiving the results to get feedback or ask questions. Once a student learns whether or not they have a gene that makes their face flush when they have alcohol then what? Who do they go to? Even if there are, as the New York Times article states, follow up “lectures and panels with philosophers, ethicists, biologists and statisticians exploring the benefits and risks of personal genomics,” this does not take the place of individualized counseling.

Alcohol is a critical discussion topic for any freshman orientation. Presenting such a serious topic as a harmless genetics issue, lumped together with lactose and folate, is inappropriate and potentially harmful. What do you think? Should UC Berkeley use genetic testing in this way? Should genetic testing related to alcohol be a part of it?

Monday, July 12, 2010

USDA Guidelines on Alcohol Consumption

via Join Together
A USDA advisory committee has proposed new Dietary Guidelines for Americans including substantial changes about alcohol that concern many public health and addiction experts.

The real-world effect of the proposed new alcohol guidelines would likely be to encourage greater daily drinking, discourage appropriate caution about using alcohol for health benefits, and open the door for the alcohol industry to misrepresent federal alcohol consumption guidelines to consumers. ...The USDA is inviting online public comments about the proposed guidelines, but you must act very soon -- the deadline is Thursday, July 15.

...Read our blog post and Dr. Tim Naimi's excellent commentary, then follow the links to submit your comments to the USDA. We've linked to some helpful talking points from Marin Institute in the blog post.

What do you think about the USDA alcohol consumption guidelines?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

“Magic drink” just an illusion

Fox News reports that a French product, Outox, is claiming to reduce reduce drunkenness and hangovers. It sounds like a miracle for over-imbibers of the legal drinking age. Could this product really work?

A study by the Institute for Legal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria, has found that that it doesn’t. The research shows that Outox might delay absorption of alcohol by the body, but cannot change the rate at which the body processes alcohol.

In other words, any alcohol that you put in your body stays in your body—regardless of any magic drink that you might wish could help.

To safely enjoy alcohol, and prevent over-intoxication and subsequent hangovers, adults over 21 should follow these tips offered by Party Smarter:

Plan - Where are you going? Who are you going with? How are you getting home?

Prepare - Eat, drink water, and make sure you take just enough money to have a good time. Leave the credit cards at home!

Pace – Limit how much you drink in a night.

Monday, June 21, 2010

In the news: "Icing" trend

We’ve seen a few articles recently, from both Time magazine and the New York Times, about a new trend called “icing”. Essentially, it’s a drinking game that involves men (“bros”) surprising other bros by handing them an alcopop – the person then has to go down on one knee and chug the entire drink at once. If the dude already has a bottle with him, the guy originating the “icing” must drink both bottles. As the Time article mentions, if you refuse to play, you’ll lose credibility with your friends. The author of the Time article talks about this ironically, but it’s not hard to see that some people could take it seriously.

There’s been some question as to whether this is a new marketing technique by Diageo (the parent company), although they have denied it. Even if it wasn’t dreamed up by the advertising execs themselves, those who join thinking it’s all in fun end up being used to virally market a product. And there are several other issues - as 21 Reasons staffer Jen says, “…the sexism of humiliating a guy by making him drink a “girly” drink on his knees, the binging-DUI-open container aspect…”

Essentially, although it sounded like a bogus trend to us at first, it appears that the game has gained a following, and parents and those who work with teens should be aware that it promotes unhealthy drinking: the alcopop must be chugged immediately, regardless of the situation that the “ice-ee” finds himself in—and the game could require two or more drinks in a row. For an average-sized male, that could put them dangerously close to exceeding the legal driving BAC.

Not only that, but the game has ties to pop culture icons in addition to the college party scene, making it potentially more appealing to teens.

UPDATE: As of last weekend, Ad Age is reporting that the Bros Icing Bros website has been taken down, mostly likely due to a push by Diageo. Although Diageo’s statement said that the game “does not comply with our marketing code”, they didn’t mention much about the potential that the game has to increase unhealthy drinking. And while it’s great that they’re distancing themselves from this trend, it seems like they might be more concerned with copyright infringement and the fact that the game “disparages” the alcopop rather than the dangerous drinking behavior the game promotes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Teen Party Pitfalls

Two doctors from New Hampshire are facing charges from a party they hosted for their teenage daughter.

They thought they were doing the right thing by being present at the party and making it clear that alcohol and drugs would not be tolerated. They had their daughter say this explicitly in the invitation and claim to have made several announcements during the party—which they chaperoned—that there would be no drinking or drug use.

But later in the evening, while they were playing ping pong in the basement with some of the kids, the police showed up and found a backyard strewn with beer cans.
"It's a really terrible thing. We feel really horrible. Obviously, we're responsible. We're the adults there. But we didn't procure the alcohol. We didn't condone it and we, three different times, said 'Zero tolerance,'" Boyd said.
He said his daughter is "mortified," because she was trying to do something nice for her friends. He said he and his wife have replayed events over and over in their minds and their big mistake was saying yes to the party in the first place.
Weare police said there were so many people under 21 at the party that they had to call in officers from four other towns to help.
This perfectly illustrates the need for strict supervision and adult attention to young peoples’ parties. Because, under Maine law, the parent in question could still be charged—and liable for injuries and damages if anyone gets hurt—even if they weren’t aware that kids were drinking at the party.

We have some suggestions below for hosting safe teen parties. It sounds like the NH parents followed some of these rules, but that they missed some important cues about their guests’ behavior. (More tips here).

Make it a great party by planning for everything…
  • If you are expecting more than 10 teens per adult, ask for volunteer chaperones.
  • Decide on a guest list. Give your teen a maximum number to invite and set an age limit for guests. Make sure to keep a copy of the guest list for your records.
  • Send invitations! Have your teen inform his/her guest that the party is by invitation only.
  • Set a party time, inclusive of a start and end time.
  • Inform parents/guardians about the party and explain your expectations of partygoers. No alcohol!
  • Have parents or responsible adults drop off and pick up teens. If teens drive to the party, plan to hold all keys to eliminate the temptation of leaving and returning to the party.
  • Stay at the party. Your presence is important. Walk through the party area frequently. Have additional adult supervision on-site during the party.
  • Ask all uninvited guests to leave immediately. If necessary, call the police to escort unwanted guests out.
  • If you suspect a teen guest is intoxicated, contact his or her parents/guardians immediately.
  • Have guests remain in the party location; do not allow teens to go back and forth to a parking lot or their car.
  • Hold the party in an area you can monitor party guests from inside and outside.
  • Watch for strange behavior. Pay attention if a guest frequents the bathroom after getting a drink. This could indicate the use of illegal substances or alcohol.

From Parental Guide to Hosting Responsible Teen Parties Virginia Department of ABC Education Section.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Who's saying what: one study, three articles

While a lot of what we do here at 21 Reasons involves sharing prevention resources with parents, businesses, law enforcement, and our other community partners, we also like to link to news articles, especially through our website and our Delicious links.

We’ve noticed that when a major story breaks – for instance, if new research is published – it’s common for multiple news outlets to pick up the story. Whether you’re a fan of Fox, CNN, CBS, ABC, and so on, chances are you’ll hear or read the story eventually.

But what if you’re not getting the whole story? We got a reminder recently that all news is not created equal.

The source article was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, entitled “Relationship between alcohol intake, health and social status and cardiovascular risk factors in the urban Paris-Ile-De-France Cohort: is the cardioprotective action of alcohol a myth?”

At least three major news outlets picked up the story, but they had very different takes on what the results actually meant (click for larger image):

There are more interesting differences in the three articles. First, the Telegraph article begins with a picture, whose caption reads, “Drinking modest amounts of alcohol does not necessarily make you healthier, [researchers] claim.” This is pretty much the exact opposite of what the title suggests. If you dig a little more, you’ll read that both light AND moderate drinkers are healthier – the amount of alcohol consumed in these groups is UP TO ½ a bottle of “weak” wine a day.

Compare that to the Fox News article, which clearly promotes drinking. There is no mention of several quotes by the authors that explain that there is no direct link between alcohol and health in this study. The only part that comes close is this vague sentence: “Importantly, the findings showed moderate alcohol consumption is a powerful general indicator of optimal social status, and this could be a key reason for improved health…”

Finally, we have the MSNBC article. Their subtitle clearly states that drinking doesn’t lead to better health, and the second paragraph explains in depth. This article is also the only one of the three that mentions the negative consequences of drinking.

So what’s the point? We’re not here to slam news agencies for bad reporting – none of them wrote anything that was actually false in the articles mentioned above. What is important is that we recognize that news articles might not be able to explain the whole study in one column. Maybe this means we read all the news coverage we can find about a certain study. Maybe it means we hunt down the original journal article. What we shouldn’t do, though, is start drinking three mixed drinks a day because a news headline mentioned that vodka can get rid of wrinkles … you get the idea.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Portland Police and local bars partner up for prevention

Regarding youth and underage drinking:

As seen recently in the press, there is a new initiative launched by the Portland Police, Portland Downtown District, and the Night Life Oversight Committee. While these plans were hatched many weeks ago, the press conference in Monument Square served as an appropriate backdrop.

All of us at 21 Reasons are saddened by this recent tragedy, which is one more example of the incredible damage that can result when young people are exposed to alcohol.

The vision of 21 Reasons is to build a community where youth are alcohol-free. This is because young people’s brains are still developing; they simply aren’t wired yet with the impulse control or judgment to handle the influence of alcohol.

21 Reasons is proud to partner with the Portland Police Department and the Night Life Oversight Committee to help realize our vision—and theirs—for a safe and legal Old Port.

As part of our partnership, we offer a variety of resources and support for Portland alcohol licensees, including signage, low-cost seller-server training, and a resource guide that explains laws and best practices for liquor licensees. In addition, we host a website,, that aims to reduce high risk (binge) drinking among young adults.

We hope that this tragedy will help raise awareness that the dangers of underage and high risk drinking go far beyond drinking and driving. Two thirds of underage alcohol-related deaths have nothing to do with automobiles. It is more likely that youth who drink will die from unintentional injuries—such as drowning, falls, burns—or death from homicide or suicide.

Beyond the mortality statistics, youth who drink alcohol experience adverse effects in brain development, and are at an increased risk for developing alcohol use disorders as adults. Alcohol also plays a role in youth depression, sexual assaults, vandalism, and other violence.

This tragedy is one more sad illustration of the importance of preventing underage and high risk drinking, and how we all need to do a better job—not just alcohol establishments, but also parents and other adults—in making sure underage youth do not have access to alcohol.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Party Patrol Kits for Cumberland County Cops

The Cumberland County Underage Drinking Enforcement Task Force held a press conference on Wednesday, May 19, 10:00 Portland Police Auditorium to announce the release of their 2010 Party Patrol Kits.

The press conference was to highlight law enforcement efforts in our communities to keep youth drug and alcohol free. The fact that representatives from every law enforcement agency throughout Cumberland County attended demonstrates their commitment to enforcing underage drinking laws.

The intention of these kits is to aid law enforcement response to the scene of an underage drinking party, and help them to investigate the source of the alcohol and who was in control of the property. The real crime is furnishing alcohol to minors or furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol. Yes, we want youth to face age-appropriate consequences for their actions, but adults should know better and therefore are the real targets of criminal investigations.

Our message was to let parents know law enforcement is looking out for their child's best interest. Underage drinking is against the law-and for good reason. Those who begin drinking by the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop some type of alcohol use disorder in their lifetime. Those who begin before the age of 17 are twice as likely.

Furthermore, youth who believe they will not be caught by the police for drinking alcohol are 4 times as likely to drink. This points to the powerful prevention role of law enforcement.

These kits are the result of that collaboration within our own task force as well as the sharing of ideas and resources between the CCUDETF, the Androscoggin County Underage Drinking Enforcement Task Force, and the Maine Office of Substance Abuse. Credit for the investigative checklist goes to the Androscoggin Task Force. Maryann Harakall of the Maine Office of Substance Abuse researched and compiled the list of items for the party patrol kits.

For copies of the investigative booklet, contact Jo Morrissey.

CCUDETF supplied the following items in the kits:
  • PBT's (breathalyzers)
  • White boards & markers
  • Cameras
  • Underage Party Investigation Booklets with investigative questions and techniques to ensure the smooth and safe response at the scene.
  • Flashlights
  • Binoculars
  • Extra batteries for the PBT, camera, and flashlight
Additional recommended items to be supplied by each department include:
  • Drug detection kit
  • Bullhorn
  • Flex cuffs/handcuffs
  • Latex gloves
  • Miranda warning cards
  • Processing forms (juvenile & adult)
  • Citations
  • Evidence forms
  • Clipboards
  • Transparency covers
  • Tape recorder
  • Extra tapes
  • Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Black pens
  • Sharpies
  • Water bottles
  • Energy bars
Present at the conference were:
CCUDETF Chair, Jo Morrissey
Officer Donald McCormick, Bridgton
Chief Neil Williams, Cape Elizabeth
Chief Joseph Charron, & Lieutenant Milton Calder, Cumberland PD
Chief Deputy Kevin Joyce CCSO
Chief Edward Tolan, Falmouth PD
Chief Gerald Schofield & Officer Mike McMannus, Freeport
Chief Ronald Shepard, Gorham
Asst. Chief Michael Sauschuck, Sargent Charles Libby, and Officer
Ray Ruby, Portland
Chief Robert Moulton, Scarborough
Chief Edward Googins, Officers Robert Scarpelli, South Portland
Lieutenant Nugent, Westbrook
Chief Richard Lewsen and Sargent William Andrews, Windham
Lieutenant Dean Perry, Yarmouth

Additional speakers included Asst. Chief Sauschuck, Portland; Chief Googins, South Portland; Lt. Nugent Westbrook; Chief Deputy Kevin Joyce CCSO; Chief Lewsen, Windham.

The CCUDETF is convened by 21 Reasons with funding from the Maine Office of Substance Abuse that is contracted to us by the Healthy Maine Partnerships. The Task Force is made up of every law enforcement agency within Cumberland County in order to help facilitate cooperation around enforcing underage drinking laws.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Prom and Graduation Season Tips for Parents

Time to Talk has some great tips for parents during prom season:

Time for Prom and Graduation? Time To Talk with Your Teens

Prom season is fast approaching, and for many teens, this time of year offers a taste of new freedoms and the temptation to engage in risky behavior. A new study of 11th and 12th grade students from across the country shows that teens don't recognize the dangers of driving on prom and graduation night, even though they recognize their peers may be more likely to drink on these occasions. Nearly all of the students surveyed, 90 percent, reported that their peers are more likely to drink on prom night and 79 percent reported the same for graduation night. Despite believing that their peers are more likely to drink during prom and graduation, only 29 percent reported that they believe driving on prom night is dangerous, while 25 percent said the same for graduation night.

The study surveyed over 2,500 students and was conducted by ORC Guideline for Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

What You Can Do to Help Keep Prom Goers and New Graduates Safe?

To keep celebrations safe and healthy, here are some helpful tips and advice for parents and caregivers:

Know Your Teens' Plans and tell them to update you if the itinerary changes so you're aware of their whereabouts.

Check In With Them Via Text - they are more likely to reply, since it's discreet. You can send messages like "Hope ur having a gr8 time!" or "U OK?" before and after the dance.

Trust Your Teens and resist the urge to hover. You've filled them in on the rules and the risks - chances are they got the message.

For more ideas visit the Time to Talk website, or 21 Reasons' parent page.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Teens Take Risks: Ideas for Keeping Kids Safe

NPR had an excellent story this week on the teenage tendency to take risks. As they point out, teens “engage in risk-taking behaviors to find out who they are, not to rebel or get back at the parent.”

Given this reality, a parent’s job is to help teens take “safe” risks so that they’re not tempted to engage in unhealthy behavior that can have lifelong consequences—like drinking, drugs, or unsafe sexual activity. From the piece:
What are some examples of healthy risk-taking activities?
Sports and developing artistic and creative abilities -- be it through art or theater -- are all activities that involve healthy levels of risk-taking. Teens can engage in volunteer activities, and even Internet activities. It can be as simple -- and as scary -- as getting up on stage, or asking somebody out, says Steinberg. All these behaviors may satisfy a teen's need to push boundaries, but are usually in an environment where there's very little harm that could result.

The article also recognizes that parents—often unintentionally—role model behavior for their kids.
Adults have patterns of risk-taking, too -- think about what they are, and model good behavior. …Steinberg agrees. "Teens who drink a lot often come from households where their parents drink a lot. Teens model their parents. Even though parents think their teens ignore them, they watch them."

What are some other kinds of healthy risk-taking behaviors that we can encourage in teens? What are some ways that you have changed your behavior to model healthy actions for a young person in your life? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fentiman's on the Colbert Report

Maine was back in the national media spotlight last week after the Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report” did a segment on the Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade “incident” in Houlton, ME last November.

What the “Colbert Report” glosses over is what we wrote about when the incident first came to light – it is simply against Maine law to sell imitation liquor to a minor, and according to the law, Fentiman’s qualifies.

As the Bangor Daily News mentions (“'Colbert' nails fermented lemonade”, 4/9/10), though, the satirical show highlights that Attorney General Janet Mills and Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin can both have a good sense of humor--while still sticking to the decision they made. Chief Asselin standing in the middle of the road, glaring at the camera, pouring out a lemonade bottle? Pretty funny. AG Janet Mills staring down a bottle of the lemonade in her office? Comedy gold.

Yes, to those who may not have known about Maine’s laws beforehand, the situation probably seems ludicrous. And did we laugh at the Colbert Report skit? Absolutely.

What bears repeating is that the actual alcohol content alone was never the problem with imitation liquor of any kind – it’s pretty easy to see that getting drunk off something with less than 0.5% ABV is extremely unlikely. But the sale of imitation liquor is illegal for minors in Maine for good reason: imitation liquor can be confusing for law enforcement officials looking for kids drinking, and—more importantly—it teaches youngsters to enjoy the taste and habit of alcohol consumption.

Nailed ‘em, Colbert? Sure, but so did we.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What's a binge?

Binge drinking is the consumption of four or five alcoholic drinks per occasion (depending on the drinker’s gender). The CDC just released a video about binge drinking that describes some myths and realities, and gives community prevention strategies.

CDC Video Player.  Flash Player 9 is required.
CDC Video Player.
Flash Player 9 is required.

In addition to the excellent information shown in the video, I would like to add that excessive consumption sets a bad example for youth and young adults, who are looking to adults to set the standards for behavior.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Infographic of the day

Figure 1. Percentages of Past Month Alcohol Use among Persons Aged 12 to 20, by State: 2006 to 2008

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Alcohol for a cause

Last week’s Portland Phoenix has an article about “drinks for a cause” (Fine Wine, Fine Cause by Leischen Stelter, March 31, 2010)—a way to raise money that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Alcohol and fundraising can seem to go inevitably together.

21 Reasons staffer Jen Hodsdon worked in the development field for many years, and responds to the Phoenix article:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard development people say that they need event attendees to get a few drinks in them before they’ll start bidding in fundraising auctions or donating money. I think it comes from a larger cultural situation in which adults feel like they need to drink to get together. However, I’d like to encourage non-profit organizations, especially ones that serve youth, to consider reducing or eliminating alcohol-based fundraisers.

It’s true that fundraising events can feel awkward, because the people there are getting together for a cause rather than because they necessarily like each other—and alcohol is a shortcut to relaxation.

But youth watch what adults do, and tend to mimic the behavior and beliefs of adults that they admire. They observe how we calm our anxieties and relax, and drinking to do this can send the message that alcohol is a necessary tool for relieving stress—and can encourage teens to self-medicate with alcohol to relieve their own stressors and anxieties.

To avoid sending this message, adults can demonstrate and discuss other ways to get over the anxiety of getting together with strangers, like using icebreaker games or practicing conversation topics before the event.

Event planners might also believe that everybody is serving alcohol at their events—and they fear that people won’t attend if there’s no alcohol or if it’s restricted. However, I did a survey last year of 185 Portland non-profits, and about half of the respondents said that they didn’t hold any events that served alcohol!

And, it turns out, most adults don’t mind: a national survey showed that 80% of adults support restricting alcohol sales at events. In addition, alcohol-free fundraisers would be more appealing to people who prefer events that are free from alcohol-related problems.

21 Reasons has released a guide for non-profits on serving alcohol at community events. It give tips for managing risk if you do decide to serve alcohol, and some things to consider if you’re thinking about going alcohol-free. The guide is available digitally or in hard copy by emailing Jen.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Prom Photo Contest, $500 Grand Prize

21 Reasons, with the help of Tim and Eva in the Morning on Maine’s Coast, 93.1, is announcing a “best” prom photo contest—with a cash prize of $500 to the most awkward, uh, winner!

Wow, Times Have Changed, and for the better. Thank goodness underage drinking is going the way of big hair, ruffled shirts, and bad fashion!

To celebrate the fact that underage drinking rates in Portland have been declining since 1995, 21 Reasons, an underage drinking prevention coalition, is sponsoring a Prom Photo Contest. Why? Since underage drinking can harm the developing brain (which actually stops developing at the ripe old age of 25!), this decline in drinking rates is cause for celebration!

Who can enter? Anyone over 29 can enter, because anyone 29 and older was in high school before 1995.

How do I enter? Go into the attic and find your most awesome prom photo, then go to and follow the simple directions. It’s so easy even a baby boomer can do it.

What can I win? There are two ways to win! The first 21 photo entries will receive a $10 music download card. The photo with the most votes will receive $500!

HOW do I win? When your photo is posted online, 21 Reasons will send you a link to it. You send the link to ALL your friends and family, and then they can vote for your photo as the best! On-line voting opens up April 12th. Photos posted as they come in until then.

Why should I participate? Not only is this a fun contest with amazing prizes, but spreading the word about how “times have changed” will help parents, and everyone else, realize when it comes to underage drinking we’re headed in the right direction. There are more statistics and information below.

• Accepting photos for two weeks between March 29th and April 11th.
• On-line Voting begins April 12th and lasts one week until April 19th.
• Winner Announced Tuesday, April 20th. LIVE Tim and Eva in the Morning on Maine’s Coast, 93.1- WMGX.
• Winning photo to be used in a Prom and Graduation season reminder card to be distributed through area participating tux, florists and limousine companies. The cards will be distributed with each boutonniere, corsage, or limousine contract. Messages on the card will remind parents that most youth don’t drink and that parents can and do have the power to enforce underage drinking rules.

Additional Information:

According the Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey, most youth don’t drink. In fact, only 28% say they have had a drink in the past 30 days. That’s down from almost 40% in 1995. In addition, a recent Parent Phone Survey sponsored by 21 Reasons revealed more Portland parents are concerned about underage drinking and taking concrete steps to prevent it. This includes:
• talking with their teens about alcohol
• asking if alcohol will be at parties
• calling party hosts to make sure alcohol will not be provided

Due to modern brain scanning technology, we know more now than ever before about the harm underage drinking can cause the developing brain.

Together, we are making underage drinking a thing of the past…just like those tacky prom dresses.

For more tips and information, visit:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Canadian drinking

Often in our work to prevent underage drinking, we hear the argument that countries with a lower minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) have fewer problems with alcohol. And since Canada is our nearest neighbor—and the Canadian MLDA is 19 in most provinces (18 in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec)—we thought we’d share recent research results about teen drinking in Canada—and compare them with stats from Portland, Maine.

Manitoba 2009

Portland 2008

% of 9th graders who drank in the past month



% of 12th graders who drank in the past month



% of 9th graders who binge drank recently

19% (within 30 days)

18% (within 2 weeks)

% of 12th graders who binge drank recently

51% (within 30 days)

31% (within 2 weeks)

These statistics demonstrate that a lower drinking age doesn’t improve alcohol-related problems for youth—in fact it increases the likelihood that younger teens will drink and drink more heavily.

The Manitoban government is addressing these issues “by boosting fines, cranking up public-awareness campaigns and convening a summit on the issue. [They] also vowed [March 4] to beef up enforcement of laws preventing the sale of tobacco to minors, while boosting fines for offending clerks and retailers”(source)—exactly the kind of environmental prevention efforts** that can help lower those rates.

**”Prevention aimed at the environment is based on the community systems perspective that views a community as a set of persons engaged in shared social, cultural, political, and economic processes.” [] Environmental prevention basically looks to change the context that youth live in to support their healthy choices.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Superbowl XLIV

Well, Superbowl 44—along with all of its hype and overconsumption—is finally over. What do the numbers bring us on this Tuesday after the Big Game?

325,500,000: Gallons of beer drank by Americans on Superbowl Sunday (source).

100,000,000: The number of estimated viewers of Super Bowl XLIV (source).

80: The percentage of the general public that believes that alcohol advertising influences youth to drink alcoholic beverages (Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Executive Summary of Findings of Research Study of the Public Opinion Concerning Warning Labels on Containers of Alcoholic Beverages (Washington, DC: BATF, 1988))

60: The percentage of US households that tuned into the game (source).

43: The percentage of 18-24 year olds who watch the Super Bowl (source)

10: The number of times an alcohol ad has won the USA Today Superbowl Ad Meter contest. For the past two years, however, the winners have been snack foods instead of alcohol!

10: The number of alcohol commercials that aired during the game (source: staff count)

3: The age of a local dj’s child who announced, after watching a commercial, “I love beer!” (source: 2/8/10 WJBQ97.9 morning show)

2: The number of winners of the 2nd Annual Free the Bowl Contest. See winners here.

1: Anheuser Busch InBev was once again the biggest advertiser during this year’s Superbowl. They purchased five minutes of advertising time (source), at an estimated cost of $27 million (source).

For more information about alcohol marketing and youth, check out CAMY and the Marin Institute.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Prevent Underage Drinking

It’s hard to know just what to do about underage drinking.

The environment around a young person is a powerful influence in whether they choose to drink—or not.

environmental prevention

And youth are less likely to drink if…

· Alcohol is really hard to get.

· They feel like adults in their community would disapprove.

· They believe their parents would disapprove.

· They feel like their friends and peers would think it’s uncool.

· They believe they’d get caught, either by their parents or by the police.

What is Straight Up?

Straight Up is a youth activity guide to prevent underage drinking. The activities in the guide aim to engage youth in creating permanent community change, rather than focusing on youth behavior.

How does it work?

Straight Up is organized like a textbook, with short activities and worksheets.

If you're in Portland, Maine: 21 Reasons staff can come do an activity with your class or youth group. Or you can implement activities on your own and apply for a minigrant from 21 Reasons.

If you're outside of Portland, Maine: Keep checking the 21 Reasons website. Straight Up will likely be available statewide soon.

FMI: Jen Hodsdon or 207-773-7737

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teen Drinking and Brain Damage

If you knew that you could prevent brain damage and school problems for your kid, would you act? A new study out says that there might be something pretty simple you can do: don’t let your underage kids drink.

There’s a common myth among parents that letting your kids drink under your supervision is better than not knowing where they are, if they’ll be driving, and so on. But a new study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found a difference between the brains of teens who drank and those who didn’t.

The study started when none of the teen subjects had ever had alcohol. Over the next few years, however, some of the teens began to drink. Those that did drink were often bingeing (4-5 drinks a night) two or three nights a month.

The binge drinkers did worse on memory tests; binge-drinking boys also did worse on tests of attention, while the binge-drinking girls were worse when their spatial reasoning was tested.

What’s especially surprising is that the damage shows up so quickly. Just two of those “supervised” parties a month – approximately the same rate that the teens in the study were drinking – could potentially lead to brain damage. The study says that the performance of the non-drinkers to the binge drinkers can be compared to a whole grade point: like “the difference between

an A and a B”.

While the study does note that more research needs to be done to find out if the damage is reversible, it’s hard to imagine that it’s a risk a parent would be willing to take. And why make the complicated and difficult teen years harder?

So what can you do? Share this information with other parents. We know that it can be hard to talk about underage drinking with the parents of your child’s friends—but we think that preventing brain damage and school trouble is great motivation. Talk to other parents about the rules you set in your home, and find out their rules as well.

The story was featured on NPR on January 25th.

For more information, visit us at We even have a resource section just for parents.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Positive Messaging for Prevention

How do you get kids to behave in a certain way while keeping them feeling good about themselves? It’s a tricky situation for parents and mentors. Always correcting a child’s behavior by telling them that they’re wrong may not be very helpful. A recent post to the Portland Public Schools’ Listserv reminded us of this excellent advice:

If the coach says "Don't miss," the kicker hears two negatives, "don't" and "miss." Thinking about avoiding the negatives, the kicker sees the goal posts or the edges of failure. Instead, suggests Jimmie, the coach should say, "Make the kick." Now the kicker looks right down the middle and the goal posts seem to get wider. Odds are now better the kicker will indeed make the kick to win the game….Parents to toddlers walking near puddles, instead of "Don't get your feet wet," how about "Keep your feet dry." Source

But research shows that youth are far less likely to drink alcohol if they believe their parents think it would be “very wrong.”

So how can parents get this message across in a positive way?

Maybe the solution is to put the primary emphasis on the things that ARE expected: do your best in school, protect your brain and your body, be kind and considerate of others, be truthful about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, go to parties where parents are present and no alcohol is available to youth, be home by curfew. Then, within that context, list some of the things that would interfere—such as drinking alcohol before age 21.