Monday, November 28, 2011

Free webinar: social marketing, social norms, social media and substance abuse prevention

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is offering a free webinar as part of their series on environmental strategies for substance abuse prevention:

Social Marketing, Social Norms, Social Media, Social What?
December 13, 2011
3:30-5:00 p.m.

The strategies and evidence that support different prevention practices often get confused, severely limiting the effective implementation of these approaches. Learn about the differences between some of the more common and evidence-based prevention strategies, including social marketing and social norms, as well as how new tools like social media fit in to the mix. This webinar will leave you with new tools, a better understanding of your prevention arsenal and the energy to make positive behavior change a reality.

Key topics will include:
-Social Marketing, including branding strategies
-Social Norms
-How to select the right approach
-Differentiating between a tool and an approach
-How to select the right tools for your approach
-How Social Media fits in most effectively

To register, click here

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

911 Good Samaritan Law: making a difference?

From UW's ADAI:

Drug users and bystanders who witness a drug overdose are often reluctant to call 911 out of fear that they might be arrested for drug possession. Initial results from an evaluation of Washington State's 911 Good Samaritan Law show that 88% of opiate users are now likely to call 911 to get emergency help for drug overdose victims, knowing that they are protected by the state’s Good Samaritan laws.

The study's early findings also indicated that 62% of police surveyed said the law would not change their behavior during a future overdose because they would not have made an arrest for possession anyway, 20% were unsure what they would do, and 14% said they would be less likely to make such an arrest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Providing parents with tips on how to support healthy decision-making among teens

One of the Prevention WINS coalition's strategies to prevent youth substance abuse in NE Seattle is outreach and education among parents.  The coalition's campaign to help parents support healthy decision-making among their children includes postcards containing parenting tips.  These tips echo what parents learn through tested and effective prevention programs like Guiding Good Choices and Strengthening Families, which is offered to Eckstein Middle School families twice a year.

The first round of postcards are in the mail and will go to all families of students attending Eckstein Middle School, Nathan Hale High School and Roosevelt High School. 

The coalition's Social Marketing Workgroup, which is developing the campaign, will meet again on Tuesday, December 6 at 6:30 p.m.  Contact the Prevention WINS coordinator for more information.

Hospital visits involving energy drinks increased tenfold in four years

Nationwide, the number of hospital emergency department (ED) visits involving energy drinks increased tenfold between 2005 and 2009, according to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

Forty-five percent of energy drink related ED visits were made by young adults aged 18 to 25 and 11% were made by adolescents aged 12 to 17. 

Most teenagers who visited the ED suffered adverse effects from the energy drink alone.  The rest suffered adverse effects from combining the energy drinks with alcohol (5%) or pharmaceuticals (20%) such as Ritalin.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Funding available for local underage drinking prevention activities

The Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking (RUaD) is offering stipends for community organizations that want to conduct a Let's Draw the Line Between Youth & Alcohol campaign and/or a town hall meeting about underage drinking. 

RUaD has been asked by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to submit the names of 100 Washington communities that would like to host town hall meetings.  Participants will receive a $500 stipend to underwrite costs of the meetings.  Contact RUaD by December 2 if your organization is interested. 

Groups can receive a $1000 stipend for conducting a Let's Draw the Line campaign.  Groups may sign up on December 1 by visiting

Changing attitudes about substance abuse takes time

In an interview, the author of a book about the history of drunk driving makes some interesting comments about attitudes concerning alcohol use in the United States. 

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

When Barron Lerner was writing his book on the history of drunk driving in America — and efforts to control it — he carried out an experiment at home that involved a bottle of vodka, a shot glass and a Breathalyzer. He was the guinea pig.

"I was trying to figure out just how drunk you had to be in order to not drive safely," says Lerner, a professor of medicine and public health at Columbia University, who wrote One for the Road. He decided to drink and test his levels — but he didn't actually get into a car.

"And, as I suspected after doing my research, one can drink an awful lot and be pretty buzzed and still legally drive in the United States."

He goes on to talk about how attitudes about drunk driving have changed significantly in the last sixty years.

One of the things Lerner writes about is the history of public attitudes toward drunk driving. He uses the example of Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone with the Wind, who was crossing the street with her husband in Atlanta in 1949 when she was hit by a drunk driver and died.

According to Lerner, people initially reacted with horror, but then attitudes shifted and there started to be more sympathy for the driver — who had had 22 previous arrests for driving violations, including speeding and drunk driving — than for Mitchell.

"This is such an instructive case about drunk driving in this country," Lerner says. "For years and years, back in that era, people who were killed or victimized by a drunk driver were seen as being in the wrong place at the wrong time — that these things happen. And that was very much the case with Margaret Mitchell. After the initial outrage, people started to say, 'Well, it was her time to go.' I read so many stories like that, and every one was almost more shocking than the next — that we could have had a society that was so passive to a crime that was killing 25,000 people a year for so long."

This is a good lesson for those of us working to prevent youth substance abuse to remember.  It may take a long time, but if we are vigilant, attitudes can change.  Drunk driving attitudes are a good example.  So are attitudes around smoking.  Even if people now say "kids will be kids" and that there is nothing we can do to prevent youth substance abuse, those attitudes can change.

Attorneys general urge FTC to limit alcohol content in Four Loko

Yesterday, 34 state attorneys general, including Washington's, and the San Francisco city attorney, filed comments responding to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)'s proposed settlement with the makers of Four Loko regarding deceptive marketing of the flavored malt beverage.

The FTC was commended for recognizing that the marketing of these super-sized drinks as single servings is misleading because one can contains the alcohol equivalent of almost five beers. The FTC was also called on to adopt additional measures to address the safety risks presented by Four Loko, such as limiting its alcohol content to no more than two servings of alcohol per can.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mercer Island considering social host ordinance

Thanks to Mercer Island's Communities That Care Coalition, the Mercer Island City Council is considering an ordinance that would fine adults who host underage drinking parties in their homes.  These types of laws, called social host ordinances, are an effective method for preventing underage drinking in communities where house parties are a problem.  As with most youth substance abuse prevention-related policies, they are especially effective in communities where multiple prevention activities are happening. 

For those of you who would like to be present for the second reading and vote on the proposed ordinance, the Mercer Island City Council will take up the matter again during its December 5, 2011 meeting.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

City of Seattle proposal to keep bars open past 2 a.m.

In October, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) agreed to the City of Seattle's request to open rule-making regarding the hours of alcohol service.  The City of Seattle is asking the LCB to consider changing its policy that states that alcohol cannot be served between the hours of 2-6:00 a.m. 

To be clear, the petition submitted by Seattle Mayor McGinn asks the LCB to allow "for on-premises liquor service after 2 a.m." in "extended service hours service areas".  The proposed rule change would permit certain establishments within those areas to serve alcohol "between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.".  This means that some bars could be open 24 hours per day.  The City's petition and supporting documentation may be accessed online.

The Citywide Police Advisory Committee is speaking out against increasing hours of alcohol sales.  In a recent message from the group, they say, ". . . three of us from the Citywide PAC had an informal coffee with two (of the three) members of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  The perception of the Board was that the City Council's support of this petition was reflective of the community's position.  This perception is completely incorrect, for the vast majority of Seattle citizens are against the proposal . . . We do know that the Mayor's Office has not publicized anything about the (LCB) community input process/opportunity."

The LCB is accepting initial comments about the potential rule change until December 1.  To do so, contact them at:
Rules Coordinator
Liquor Control Board
P.O. Box 43080
Olympia, WA  98504-3080

After the December 1 deadline, community members can still make comments until January 18, when a public hearing will be held. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Small grocery stores want in on the liquor business

And so it starts . . . just days after I-1183, the initiative to privatize liquor sales in our state, passed, Publicola reports that small grocers are preparing to ask legislators to reduce the required size of stores selling hard alcohol. 

People can call me and other pro-regulation advocates a nanny or a liar all that they want, but the research is clear: increased access to alcohol increases consumption, including consumption among minors.  I blogged about it on October 24 and August 18.  The coalition website contains links to lessons learned about private liquor sales and public health consequences in the UK. is one of many great online resources about how public policy can be used to prevent underage drinking. 

People can also say that "kids will be kids" and that there is nothing we can do to stop them from drinking but, again, we have research that shows otherwise.  Not to mention that our northeast Seattle community has worked together to reduce underage drinking rates over the past five years

Will strong regulations and policy limiting alcohol marketing and availability alone prevent underage drinking?  No.  However, it is one tool for communities to use to prevent underage drinking.  When one part of an already beleaguered substance abuse prevention system is eliminated, it makes a significant difference in a community's ability to keep kids safe and healthy. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Easing regulations to raise money

Earlier today, I went through my "to read" folder and posted a bunch of drug and alcohol-related links in the blog entry below.  I was going to include one from the New York Times entitled "States Putting Hopes in ‘Bottoms Up’ to Help the Bottom Line" but I thought it deserved its own entry considering all of our local/state initiatives that would ease regulations on alcohol.

Here's an excerpt:

With cities across the country facing their fifth straight year of declining revenues and states cutting services and laying off workers, raising money from people who enjoy a cocktail is becoming an increasingly attractive option.

Since the recession started in earnest in 2008, dozens of states and cities have tinkered with laws that regulate alcohol sales as a way to build up their budgets.

Although some drinkers and government budget writers might like the changes, not everyone is happy.

“Lawmakers are taking a very short-sided view,” said David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “What they gain in short-term tax revenue they are losing in long-term police costs, emergency room costs and work-force readiness costs in terms of the Monday morning effect.”

Like many public health officials, Mr. Jernigan does not support government efforts that increase the availability of alcohol, but he does support raising sales tax as a way to make people drink less.

As I have noted in previous blog entries, stringent alcohol regulations are one tool communities rely upon to prevent underage drinking.  So, as our local and state governments propose increasing access to alcohol as a way to raise tax revenue, communities should consider the costs associated with increased access .  At the same time, communities may want to consider advocating for an increase in taxes on alcohol -- a policy that has proven to prevent underage drinking. 

In the news . . .

Community effort brings lasting drop in smoking, delinquency, drug use  (Science Daily)

Are today's parents going too soft on kids' using marijuana?  (USA Today)

A chance to safely clean out medicine cabinets (Seattle Times)

Teens hear 34 references to brand-name liquor a day in rap and hip-hop (ABC News)

Prohibition's real lessons for drug policy (LA Times)

Councilman: Why so many drug dealers in the morning (Seattle PI)

Friends of teen’s romantic partner can influence drinking habits (American Sociological Association)

Insufficient sleep among high school students associated with drinking, smoking and smoking marijuana (Preventive Medicine)
Liquor store density linked to youth homicides, U.S. studies find (Science Daily)
Alcohol isn’t worth the trouble for some chain restaurants (New York Times)
Teens who eat at family dinners less likely to drink, smoke and use marijuana (CASA Columbia)
NIH study finds hospitalization increase for alcohol and drug overdoses (NIH News)

NIH release clinicians guide to screen for underage drinking

From a recent NIH news release:

Based on just two questions from a newly released guide, health care professionals could spot children and teenagers at risk for alcohol-related problems.  Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner's Guide is now available from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health. 

We know that alcohol is by far the drug of choice among youth,” says NIAAA acting director Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D. “Underage drinking is also a marker for other unhealthy behaviors and it often goes undetected. This new tool was designed to allow busy practitioners who manage the health and well-being of children and adolescents to conduct fast, effective alcohol screens and brief interventions.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says doctors should routinely screen their teenage patients for drug and alcohol use at every visit, and look for signs of dependence or addiction.  In a new policy statement, the group provides a guide to help doctors ask adolescents about substance abuse issues.

CDC: drug overdoses may soon overtake car crashes as leading cause of fatal injury

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels in the past decade. The number of overdose deaths is now greater than those of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. A big part of the problem is nonmedical use of prescription painkillers—using drugs without a prescription, or using drugs just for the "high" they cause.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 17: annual King County legislative forum on substance abuse and mental health

Everyone is welcome to attend . . .

15th Annual King County Community Legislative Forum: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery and Preparing for Health Care Reform

Thursday, November 17, 2011
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
St. Mark’s Cathedral, Bloedel Hall
1245 10th Avenue East, Seattle

Learn about local successes and hear from legislators about priorities and perspectives on the upcoming legislative session. 

Learn about the relationship between alcohol and crime from the comfort of your own desk

Alcohol and Crime: FREE National Electronic Seminar
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Noon - 1:15 p.m.
Visit to register.

How many crimes are committed in this country where alcohol is a causal factor? If you are a cop on the street you don’t have to be a scientist to figure that out. Cops know the answer based on experience -- it’s a huge percentage. How do we really prove it?

In the spring of 2005, the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police received grant funding from the Wyoming Department of Transportation – Highway Safety Program to collect and evaluate alcohol-related arrest data in ten counties in Wyoming.  During this free electronic presentation, a researcher in the field of criminal justice will discuss his conclusions of the study and what can be done to reduce alcohol related crime.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Strong alcohol regulations save us money

While researchers continue to find that substance abuse prevention saves money (see yesterday's post), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study adds to what we know about the high cost of excessive alcohol consumption. 

Underage drinking is included in the definition of excessive alcohol consumption.  According to the study, 12% of the economic costs of excessive consumption were related to underage drinking.  The largest share of underage drinking costs were related to "lost productivity" due to premature death. 

Here is part of CADCA's summary of the findings:

Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for an average of 79,000 deaths and 2.3 million years of potential life lost in the United States each year, said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a press conference held Monday.

Researchers found the costs largely resulted from losses in workplace productivity (72 percent of the total cost), health care expenses for problems caused by excessive drinking (11 percent of the total cost), law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses related to excessive alcohol consumption (9 percent of the total cost), and motor vehicle crash costs from impaired driving (6 percent of the total cost). The study did not consider a number of other costs such as those due to pain and suffering by the excessive drinker or others who were affected by the drinking, and thus may be an underestimate. Researchers estimated that excessive drinking cost $746 per person in the United States in 2006.

“This research captures the reality that binge drinking means binge spending, not just for the person who drinks but for families, communities, and society,” Dr. Frieden said. “There are substantial costs to all of us in health care, the workplace, and criminal justice systems. Responsible individual behavior combined with the effective policies can decrease unhealthy drinking, reduce health care and other costs, and increase productivity.”

The authors of the study (published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, November 2011) conclude by saying, ". . . this study shows that the economic impact of excessive alcohol consumption is quite comparable to the economic impact of other leading health-risk behaviors, such as smoking and physical inactivity."  Among the policies they cite as being effective in preventing excessive consumption are increasing the price of alcohol, limiting alcohol outlet density, and keeping the legal drinking age of 21.  In other words, strong alcohol regulations can save us money.