Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Problem: Alcoholism

Underage drinking can "program" the brain for alcoholism

Another grave concern is the greatly increased risk of alcoholism for teen drinkers. Research shows kids who begin drinking before age 15 have a 40 percent chance of becoming alcohol-dependent. In contrast, a person who waits until the legal age of 21 to start drinking only has a 7 percent chance of becoming an alcoholic. (Note: Some people are genetically predisposed to alcoholism. Their brains react with greater intensity to the alcohol-produced dopamine rush. If a person has a relative who is an alcoholic, he or she is at much higher risk; and to be safe from alcoholism, should probably not drink at all.)

Here's why: The brain is hard-wired to reward positive actions (those that benefit the human race or contribute to the survival of the species) with feelings of pleasure so we want to repeat them. These can range from an intense emotional "high" to a happy sense of satisfaction from doing something well or performing a kind deed. We remember pleasure from dopamine, a "feel-good" brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, which associates the pleasure to the thing we enjoyed.

Alcohol tricks the brain's pleasure-reward system by stimulating the production of dopamine. It thus creates feelings of pleasure from a harmful chemical instead of a real experience. Because the teen brain produces an abundance of dopamine (compared to an adult brain), it can rapidly go from liking, to wanting, to needing alcohol, thus programming it for alcoholism.

Alcohol can also damage the brain's ability to sense pleasure from normal, healthy things and experiences, leaving a young person feeling "flat" about activities he or she previously enjoyed. For heavy teen drinkers, nothing else seems as fun anymore. Because the pleasure-reward system is becoming damaged by heavy drinking, after a while it takes more and more alcohol to create the same amount of pleasure, resulting in addiction. There are about 16 million alcoholics in the United States and about one-fourth are teens.

Alcoholism is a terrible fate for a young person. They become irritable and moody, as the craving for the next drink is a constant nagging presence. Getting the next drink becomes more important than grades, sports, or other activities they used to enjoy. Often, they fail to realize their full potential, and they feel trapped. It is also a terrible fate for their parents who often end up bailing the kid out of trouble-like paying their rent or tending grandchildren the addicted parent is unable to care for. Society is also burdened as it picks up the social clean-up costs of welfare, drunk driving, child neglect, spouse abuse, etc.

Underage drinking, with its high risk of alcohol addiction, is a lose-lose proposition for everyone concerned-except the alcohol companies who profit at the kids' expense.

In addition to alcoholism, teens who drink are far more likely to try illegal drugs. In fact, research shows that 67 percent of teens who drink before the age of 15 will go on to use illegal drugs. They are 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine. Further, 95 percent of meth users began drinking before the age of 15.

Monday, February 7, 2011

How does Equine Assisted Therapy Work?

It has been proven that horses provide an effective avenue for working with adolescents struggling with emotional, behavioral, and physical issues. "Just being in the vicinity of horses changes our brainwave pattern," according to Franklin Levinson renowned horse trainer. "Horses have a calming effect which helps stop people from becoming fixated on past or negative events - giving them a really positive experience."

In order to properly care for a horse, new skills must be developed. This is an immediate opportunity for increased confidence and self-esteem. Along with learning how to properly care for the horse, each client also experiences the extraordinary relationship that develops between horse and rider. Instruction on proper riding technique should be given, including preparing the horse for the ride as well as caring for the horse after the ride.

Horses are a mirror for human behavior. They respond best to simple, clear commands delivered in a calm and patient manner. Once the relationship with the horse is established, it is easy to help the client to transfer those skills to everyday relationships and communications.

The healing power of horses is truly amazing and difficult to represent on paper.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Teen Help

I must get asked this question at least once a day......

Is this just a “teenage thing” or is there really a problem? Nearly every parent asks themselves this same question, and nearly everyone we talk to wishes they would have recognized that there was a serious problem sooner, before the extreme disruption settled in. Rebellion is normal. Short bouts of depression are normal. Changing friends, hairstyles, clothing style, and trying new things, that’s all normal. Violence is not. Deep depression or despondency is not. Withdrawal is not. Doing drugs and engaging in sexual activity is not. Failing all of your classes is not. Before your child gets too far down the road, you may need to intervene.

Here are some warning signs that your teen maybe in trouble, really asking for help. While these signs or behaviors may vary, historically, they have been a valuable diagnostic tool to help identify when teens may be in trouble, and not just going through normal teenage struggles.

• Poor peer relations
• Strained home relations
• Denies mistakes/blames
• Tells frequent lies
• Engages in self injury
• Sexually promiscuous
• Dangerous/daredevil behavior
• Declined academic performance
• Feels entitled
• Sad or depressed
• Loss of appetite
• Nervous or anxious
• Experimenting with drugs/alcohol

One of the real keys is a significant change in behavior, lasting at least a few weeks. For example, it is not uncommon for teenagers to not get along real well with their parents. On the other hand, if up to this time, they have enjoyed being involved with the family, but now are completely distant, it may indicate a problem.

Talk with your teenager and let them know that you are there for them, that you care for them. Try to open the lines of communication. If the trend continues, consult with your family physician, school counselor, educational consultant, or family therapist. They can provide professional advice and the necessary diagnostic tests for possible academic and treatment plans.

For many families their number one question is… “How do Help my teen.” Well, the teen might have a problem, but the teen is not necessarily THE problem. Blaming the child is really an unfair oversimplification. Sometimes the teen just needs to learn the basic lessons and attitudes necessary for growing up, which they can do, or if they need more help, can be done at a program such as an Therapeutic Boarding School.

Or, perhaps the teen has some kind of pathology that is more appropriately the focus of a Residential Treatment Center. In either case, family relationships are an integral part of both the problem and the solution. Selecting a treatment strategy that is only concerned with what the child is doing while ignoring the family, is not addressing the whole problem and is less likely to provide a satisfying solution.

Avoid the following thoughts, “I can handle this by myself.” We often hear that from people who are concerned with the stigma of getting help. There are many confidential sources of help so you don’t have to go through your challenges alone. Going it alone also often reduces the effectiveness of treatment, since your child may get the feeling that you may be ashamed of them.
Sometimes, this also happens between parents, even if they are living together. A child needs the best possible relationship with both parents, regardless of the relationship choices the parents for more information on this please feel free to call toll free at 866-798-2285 please leave a message if you happen to get the answering machine we will call you back.