Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teens and prescription drug abuse: A stark lesson in "Henry's Story"

One out of five high school students in the U.S. has taken prescription drugs without a doctor's prescrption -- and those are just the ones who were willing to admit it, according to survey of 16,460 teens by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released in June.

Some kids are operating under the misconception that common over-the-counter cough suppressants like dextromethorphan and prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, and Xanax are safer than illegal street drugs. "They are viewed as being FDA-approved and safe. And that is not true," Dr. Lewis Nelson of the NYU Langone Medical Center told "There's a misperception that because it's a prescription drug it's okay."

Misuse of prescription drugs can have serious health consequences. Overdoses of opioids (like OxyContin) can trick the brain into stopping one's lungs from working, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and though one develops a tolerance to the drug, one doesn't develop a tolerance to the respiratory effects it can have. Stimulants like Ritalin can cause a person's blood pressure to spike or can lead to heart problems when mixed with over-the-counter decongestants. And combining prescription or over-the-counter drugs with with depressants, including alcohol, can be lethal. Accidental drug overdose is now the second-leading cause of injury-related death among young people, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

Katie Granju lost her oldest son, Henry, to drugs on May 31. He was just 18, and had been battling his addiction for years; he died as a result of a brutal, drug-related beating. Tonight (Oct. 27) at 7 p.m., WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee, will broadcast “Henry’s Story,” a half-hour long program about his life and death and how the aftermath of his brutal beating and drug addiction has affected his family (you can read the history at Katie's blog, Mamapundit.)

It's easy to assume that kids who are seeking out prescription and OTC drugs for recreational use are just hard-partying teens looking for a little fun. That may be how the addiction starts, but as Katie Granju points out, it's not how it ends. On Mamapundit, she writes:
By the last year or two of his short life – after Henry became involved with the prescription drugs that eventually killed him – Henry was physically and mentally addicted. Every day for him became a painful, depressing, terrible struggle to find a way to procure enough of the chemicals that day that would keep him from becoming very sick with withdrawal. He told me that once he started using the pills, he woke up every morning determined not to use that day, but went to sleep every night feeling like a complete failure.

The commerical-free program will air WBIT Channel 10 in Knoxville and is being livestreamed at 7 p.m. (EST) tonight at

Monday, October 25, 2010

(Re)married with children: What role should your child have in your wedding?

I'm a mom and a stepmom. I married my stepson and stepdaughters when I married their dad, and I really do mean that I married them -- I wore a sari and my stepdaughters wore custom-made lenghas that I'd brought back from India for them, they were waiting at the altar with their dad while I walked down the aisle on my father's arm, I wrote and said vows to all three of them, gave them silver bracelets (instead of rings), and had a family dance at the beginning of the reception.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Magazines for kids (that parents will love, too)

There are some great magazines for kids out there, ones that I'd be happy to let my children read before sneaking off and reading them myself, ones I'd be glad to give as a gift instead of buying yet another plastic toy. I was going to write a roundup of all of the ones I've come across, but then fabulous Mir beat me to it over at Want Not. (Go on, check out her post. I'll wait.)

Like Mir, I'm not a fan of magazines that are heavy on advertising or ones that are very brand-driven. We subscribed to Sparkle World for a while, but even my then-4-year-old got bored after the first few issues. We wanted real stories, word searches, and interesting photographs; what we got were saccharine cartoons and cheap stickers that were little more than ads for My Little Pony and Polly Pocket. The only upside to the subscription was that the money went to charity.

As a kid, I loved reading Ladybug and, later, Cricket (if you click through this referral link right here, you can subscribe to any magazine in the Cricket lineup -- Cricket, Babybug, Ladybug, Click, Ask, or Spider -- for half price). And I have to add National Geographic Kids, Discovery Kids, Muse, and Sports Illustrated Kids to Mir's list.

What magazines did you read as a kid? Are there any that you'd buy for your own kids now?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What is your work worth? Is it ever OK to give it away?

Hard work always pays off, as the saying goes, but sometimes it seems to pay a lot less than it used to. And the more you're willing to do for less, the more you're expected to do for less -- and, as Mir points out in a great post at The Cornered Office recently, that can affect everyone else who works in that field.

So, the question, once again, is: Is it ever OK to work for free, or for much less than your work is worth?

The answer: As usual, it depends. Ask yourself these questions:

Monday, October 18, 2010

"I love my hair": Sesame Street gets it right (but Mattel and Disney aren't there yet)

I spent years hating my hair.

My mother, whose hair was bouncy and thick and beautifully wavy, was able to manage my unruly mane only by cutting it short once the curls started transitioning into kink. It stayed short, a modified afro, until I was old enough to wrestle with it myself, when I was about 14 and started growing it out, shaving it up the back into a classic '80s "muffin cut" until the top grew long enough to reach my neck. I used chemicals to beat it into submission in high school -- they didn't take, leaving my hair brittle and splitting, but just as kinky as ever. I grew it long, but thought it was too wild to wear down, and kept it "leashed back" in a ponytail or bun. My hair wasn't biddable. It was "bad."

In fact, it wasn't until I was in my mid-30s, after my youngest child was born, that I really started to like my hair. Three months postpartum, about a quarter of it fell out and then grew back in, silver and nearly straight. Finally, hormones had achieved what every hair product on the market could not: I loved my hair. And when the curls reasserted themselves again, I realized that my hair had been good all along, kinks and all.

I saw this Sesame Street segment on YouTube the other day, and wished that it had been on in the 1970s, when I watched the show as a child:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hypersexualized kids? Study says don't blame the media

A study published online in Developmental Psychology suggests that, while there is a link between hypersexualized kids and overtly sexual content on TV and in music, magazines, and movies, it isn't necessarily the one you'd expect.

The study, co-authored by Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg and University of Washington psychologist Kathryn Monahan, took another look at data that had been published in the journal Pediatrics in 2006, in which researchers claimed that preteens and teens age 12 to 14 who "consumed a large amount of sexualized media" were more likely to become sexually active by the time they turned 16. But Steinberg says that the 2006 study overlooked the reasons why those adolescents were seeking out sexualized content to begin with: They were already interested in sex. Which means that their interest led to greater consumption, he says -- and not vice versa, as commonly assumed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Books to help young kids handle their problems

Bullying is the big news right now, but kids face a host of other problems that they're not always willing to talk to their parents about -- or that their parents simply don't know how to handle instinctively. These books are geared for younger children, but they're good jumping-off points for conversations with older kids as well.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Teens and vaccines: What's important?

We tend to think about vaccines in terms of how they affect our very young children. But pre-teens and teenagers are supposed to receive a raft of immunizations, too. A vaccine-autism link isn't the issue at this stage, but many questions still remain about which shots are important -- and if some of them are necessary at all.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors recommend that all 11- and 12-year-olds get the single-dose Tdap and meningococcal vaccines, as well as a yearly flu shot. The National Menengitis Association is emphasising the importance of the meningococcal vaccine for children age 11 to 18 -- though their informational site,, and materials for its program are "supported by unrestricted educational grants" from GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co., Inc., and Novartis Vaccines, according to the fine print on the website itself. (My request to their PR person for statistics and information from sources other than vaccine manufacturers got no response, though WebMD reports that, of the 1,000 to 2,600 who get meningococcal disease each year, one-third are teens and young adults, and 10 percent to 15 percent of those who gets sick will die from it, in spite of antibiotics.)

The CDC also recommends a three-shot series to protect girls as young as 9 against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, some forms of which can cause gential warts and cervical cancer. And yes, there's plenty of controversy around the idea of protecting 9-year-olds against a sexually transmitted disease -- especially when the protection hasn't yet been proven to last and, according to some reports, may cause some serious side effects.

Pinkwashing: "Think Pink" has many seeing red

It's called "pinkwashing": Companies claiming to be raising money for breast-cancer research, when what they're really doing is raising their own profit margins.

October is breast cancer awareness month, and pink is everywhere -- on rubber gloves, on yogurt containers, even on the bottoms of cleats worn during NFL football games. It's an effort to raise awareness for something about which most people are all too aware. And though the effort started honestly -- in 1991, the Susan G. Komen foundation handed out pink ribbons to those who ran in their New York City race for breast cancer survivors, and in 1992 Self magazine and Estee Lauder brought the ribbons into department stores -- more and more companies are jumping on a pink bandwagon in order to make a few extra bucks off of breast cancer, encouraging consumers to buy pink items by promising to donate a tiny percentage of the profits to research.

This year, I'm not buying any of it, if I can help it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Are towns obligated to provide public services to those who refuse to pay for them?

This story out of Tennessee is interesting for a number of reasons:
A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay.

The mayor said if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck.

This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn't put it out. It wasn't until that fire spread to a neighbor's property, that anyone would respond.

Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Things I never thought I'd hear myself say (part 2)

As I've mentioned before, I keep running a list of things I never thought I'd say as a parent. Lately, while talking to our kids, my friends and I keep catching ourselves mid-sentence -- another one for the list. Here are some of the things that have had me shaking my head in disbelief even as the words came out of my mouth:

No battleaxes allowed on the trampoline.

The Hulk does not like being in the bathtub.

Don't drink the bathwater.

Don't even lick the bathwater.

Do not lick The Hulk.

If you get hurt while pretend fighting, you'd better only be pretend crying.

You must wear pants if you leave the house. Or at least underwear.

"Bottomless" means that you are showing your bottom, not that your bottom is gone.

Don't lick your sister's foot.

Please don't drink all of my coffee.

You can't have any more broccoli until you finish your pizza.

I also have a list of things I never thought I'd do as a parent, but that's another post. And I should probably start a list of things my kids say to which I don't know how to respond (today's entry: "Mama, where was I before I was in your tummy?"). But for now, let's stick with this: What's on your "I can't believe I just said that" list?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Can you be happy at work and at home?

Like many working moms, public relations and marketing professional Caitlin Friedman is seeking to simplify. "I want to keep working, but I need more flexibility!" she says. She and her business partner, Kimberly Yorio, run TC Media in New York City and are the coauthors of the "Girl's Guide" series of books. Their latest, Happy at Work, Happy at Home: The Girl's Guide to Being a Working Mom, offers hints and advice for making the most of your work-life juggle.

"I have a boy and a girl, who just entered Kindergarten this fall," she said during an email interview (you can read the entire Q&A here). "Which is one of the reasons I need to simplify my life a little and start working from home. It's been hard to do everything, as I am sure all of your readers can relate!" Here's her advice on ways to be happy at work and happy at home, and what inspired her to write about it.