Friday, March 18, 2011

“Today Show” and WSJ discuss: Should parents teach responsible drinking?

Could there be benefits to allowing teens to drink in moderation at home? A recent segment on "The Today Show" asked this question of college students and others, mimicking a conversation common among parents.

Here at 21 Reasons, however, we see holes in "Today"'s conclusions, as well as a misrepresentation of current research: 
  • The experts on “Today” cite many European countries where drinking at meals is common as models for teaching responsible drinking at home. However, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal cites a study examining binge drinking among teens which found France, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and the U.K. to have higher rates than here in the States.
  • "Today"'s focus group of college students presented the "forbidden fruit" argument, which says that outlawing or disallowing a behavior will make it more attractive to boundary-pushing teens. However, research shows that kids are less likely to drink if they think their parents strongly disapprove or if they think they'll be caught.
  • "Today" also ignores research which tells us that teen brains are still developing -- and, in fact, they'll doing so well into the mid-20s. Drinking alcohol damages young brains, which means there is no such thing as "safe" underage drinking.
Parents should take away from this conversation the knowledge that you matter -- you, more than anyone else, can affect the choices your teen will make. For great resources on how to prevent your teen from drinking, visit

Want to watch the clip described above? Just hit play:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Afternoon Links

  • We at 21 Reasons were happy to hear about this study, which evaluated the impact "Above the Influence," a National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). A compelling quote from ONDCP's press release: "This study confirms that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign is effective, relevant to youth, and a vital tool in supporting drug prevention efforts of communities across the country. With youth drug use on the rise, it is imperative that a campaign like Above the Influence – one that is effectively reaching and resonating with youth in communities – receive the funding it needs to keep our young people safe, healthy, and drug-free." We could not agree more. Follow this link to check out Above the Influence on the web.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers another great resource for resisting peer pressure: This page is full of tips for adults -- parents, teachers, coaches, and others -- who want to help kids and teens resist social pressure to use alcohol and drugs.
  • In policy news, the Drug Enforcement Agency has placed an emergency ban on so-called "synthetic marijuana." The drugs have been sold legally as herbal incense for the past few years.  However, as one quoted DEA administrator notes, "legal" does not always mean "safe". Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) writes: "Since 2009, the DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products. Emergency room physicians report that people who use synthetic marijuana experience serious side effects which include convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting, and disorientation." The active ingredients in these products have been listed as Schedule I substances (the most restricted category), and will be further studied. To read more, check out the DEA website.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Glee – "Blame It On The Alcohol"?

Any “Gleeks” in the audience? Fans or regular viewers of “Glee”, the popular show on FOX, know that the show doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matter.  

Last week’s episode was no exception. Underage drinking is on the rise among McKinley High students, and the Glee Club is asked to highlight the dangers of drinking by performing at a school assembly. In the week leading up the assembly, however, it’s the Glee kids who are experimenting with alcohol, at home and even in school. Characters talk about drinking as a way to have fun, let loose and be cool. 

The feedback they get from adults is mixed. Mr. Schuester, their mentor and Glee director, takes this opportunity to condemn teen drinking and, especially, drunk driving, but isn’t sure how to respond when the kids challenge his opinions. He goes out drinking “to relax and blow off steam” with other faculty members, and comes to school with a strong hangover the next morning. As for the kids, they face few serious consequences for their actions.  

What messages will kids and teens glean from this episode of “Glee”? That depends on the way adults around them react. If parents don’t speak to teens about alcohol and drugs, they will learn about it elsewhere, and what they learn may not be accurate; “Glee” is only one example, of many. As character Mercedes notes, much popular media these days glorifies alcohol, and there are very few songs out there that send the message that drinking is not okay.  By engaging kids in a conversation that encourages critical viewing and listening, we can use this as a teaching opportunity to help our kids resist these messages in the future.

To get the conversation started, Drug Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County offers a list of questions for parents whose kids watch Glee: 

  • Do you think that the episode of Glee realistically portrayed high school drinking?
  • How do you think it could have been different?
  • Do you think there was anything that the producers left out that would have made the awareness message stronger?
  • Do you agree with Coach Bieste’s statement – “We can’t stop them from drinking. It’s inevitable but we need to make sure they are educated on the dangers and hope that they are smart enough to make good decisions on their own”?
  • We've seen the Glee kids having tons of fun before this episode without the use of alcohol. What were some of those things? Did they seem to have any more or less fun with the addition of alcohol? 
For a summary of the episode and an excellent analysis of the show’s messaging, check out this blog post from the Drug Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County:  

If you’d like to watch the episode for yourself, it’s available for free at for the next few weeks. Bear in mind that you may not consider the subject matter or how it’s presented appropriate for your kid or teen.