Alcohol (Informed Parent Series): What's a Parent to Believe?

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As a parent, if you're not sure what you believe about alcohol use, how will you handle the subject with your child? Maybe you experimented with drinking as a teen, or you use alcohol regularly as an adult. Maybe you never tried alcohol, or you have strong feelings against its use. Maybe you're wondering whether teen drinking is a rite of passage, or you're simply confused over conflicting information about alcohol use, abuse, and addiction. The best way for you to help your teen make healthy choices is to be informed. This much-needed book about America's most accessible and socially sanctioned psychoactive drug helps parents sort through the latest facts, the known risks, and the divergent perspectives on alcohol use. The basic message? For teens, drinking alcohol equals risk. Your basic message? That's up to you.
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Editorial Reviews

The author, who has been a counselor and who has worked with addicted teens, promises in the introduction that his purpose is to present facts rather than to be didactic about the use of alcohol. He fulfills his promise and provides detailed, practical information to parents about how to cope with teens who use alcohol. He gives perspectives on alcohol from parent, society, and teens, including a historic account of alcohol use. He explains in great detail what happens to the body when alcohol is consumed and describes why adolescents are attracted to using alcohol. He also explains how parents can make a difference when helping alcoholic teens and covers preventive measures that can be taken to prevent teens from using alcohol. Different types of treatment and recovery are explored, including detoxification, doctor-prescribed medicines, crisis care, outpatient care, day care, psychiatric care, counseling, and more. Although the book is geared for parents, it might be useful to librarians who are working with teens who are involved in alcohol treatment programs. Consumer health librarians will also find the book useful. Although the author's style is to-the-point and factual, he is also empathetic, weaving in stories related to his experiences as a counselor, parent, and Marine. The index was not included in the review galley. Other inserts were not provided-for example, the final chapter is to include an insert relating to treatment synergy-making it rather difficult to judge the book as a whole. 2003, Hazeldon/Health Communications, 271p., Trade pb. Ages 17 to Adult.
—Sheila B. Anderson
Library Journal
These three titles update conventional knowledge about teens and drugs. In Teens Under the Influence, Ketcham, coauthor of Under the Influence, a best seller that exploded myths about alcoholism, and Pace, former chair of the New York State Governor's Advisory Committee on Alcoholism, define the magnitude of the teenage drug problem-which is huge-and offer a wealth of information. After showing us that so many kids are users (with anecdotes from them), the authors dedicate ten chapters to ten drugs, from alcohol and Ecstasy to cocaine and Ritalin, describing who's using them and why, short- and long-term effects, symptoms of use, dependence, and more. The final pages let parents see the problem and get help. As the most current and comprehensive resource on the teen drug problem, this will find an audience with teens, parents, and professionals. Highly recommended. Alcohol and Marijuana, the first two entries in a new series, come from the Hazelden Foundation, a leader in chemical dependency education and treatment. Both bring new findings to traditional ways of understanding these drugs. In Marijuana, Cermak (director, California Soc. of Addiction Medicine Task Force) describes the world of difference between experimenting with marijuana at age 12 and age 20. Rejecting the "just say no" approach, as well as the legalization model, he urges schools to adopt programs that will teach kids social and emotional competence, not just drug education (in most cases, they already know a lot about drugs, yet they're willing to try them). Pot, Cermak says, wreaks havoc on adolescents and their families. Incarceration is not the answer; marijuana dependence is a disease like alcoholism, not a crime like murder. In Alcohol, Biddulph, an adolescent therapist and addiction counselor, rejects the idea that underage drinking is so common that parents should overlook it. There is no such thing as responsible teenage drinking, he states; it is against the law and can lead to alcohol dependence. Like Marijuana, Alcohol provides 21st-century research to help parents define what's permissible and what's not. Though marred by dimestore cover art, the Hazelden titles will make excellent additions to public and school libraries that need brief profiles of certain drugs and their teen users. They are more current and thorough than Enslow's "Drug and Library" series and less sensational than that publisher's "Hot Issues" series.-Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592850402
  • Publisher: Hazelden Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/15/2003
  • Series: Informed Parent Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 244
  • Sales rank: 1,315,916
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.41 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Biddulph is a former family, marriage, and child counselor who also worked as a supervising therapist and director of adolescent substance abuse and addiction treatment at Provo Canyon School in Utah. A national seminar lecturer, he currently serves as dean of students and auxiliary services at Southern Virginia College. He is a retired major from the United States Marine Corps, is married, and is the father of six children.
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Read an Excerpt

from Chapter 3

Adolescence and Alcohol: What's the Attraction?

Any discussion of alcohol abuse and alcoholism is incomplete and almost meaningless without discussing the potential victims: the teens. This section looks at the nature of teens as developing adults and the reasons why some teens are at higher risk for alcohol abuse and addiction.

New Beginnings

Adolescence is a period of powerful transition and change. It is a time of awakening, of new beginnings, of transition, and of unparalleled growth. In fact, no period of time in human development, save the first two years of life,
can compare to adolescence when it comes to development and change.

Out of the generally benign and protected world of childhood emerges the teenager,
faced with the daunting task of becoming an adult in an increasingly demanding world. Our teen is learning who he is, what he values, and what he can become.
His body is evolving into a full adult, with all the powers and appetites and feelings that accompany adulthood. He is discovering similarities in and differences between what he is taught in his family and in larger society.

A teenager is learning how others in this big world will accept and respond to her. She is deciding if she can compete in this world and what makes her unique or special. She is in the process of making the transition from a self-absorbed state of "me" to becoming part of something bigger, but it is still very much about her. She feels that everybody is watching her and judging what she does. Healthy growth is a process of transition from self-absorption and self-justification to becoming more other-focused.

Newly equipped with physical and sexual powers and presented with new and exciting opportunities and interests, teens lack the maturity of years, the wisdom of experience, and the fully developed capacity to reason with logic.
It is an exciting yet challenging time for a teen. He may be fearful or uncertain about himself. He may be running as fast as he can toward adulthood with unbridled gusto and excitement. He may be running away from the pains and discomforts of childhood. He may be caught in difficult transitions by psychological, physical,
and mental challenges that make competing in the adult world difficult and discouraging.

Our child's perception of his potential in the world of adulthood is determined by what he has learned from his role models and what he has experienced thus far in his life. We who were once perfect and superhuman in our child's eyes have become flawed and out of touch with reality. Our teen may begin to question rules, policies, and family traditions as unrealistic, unfair, or undesirable.
He begins to look beyond us and other family members for role models and support.
It is not that he necessarily wants to reject and abandon his home support system,
but he wants to free himself from home base and explore the intriguing and exciting world beyond.

Adolescence is characterized by moodiness and emotional volatility. Not only are the hormones in flux, but teens also have intense concerns about acceptance by others and about competitiveness. Teens are seeking to achieve emotional independence from their parents. They can be grumpy, noncommunicative, sarcastic,
and sullen. I remember as a teen going through entire meals without saying a thing, and when someone spoke to me, they were greeted with a grunt. Yet when my mother caught me at the front door on my way to high school and said, "You're going to be a great man someday," I walked to school a little taller and with more confidence. Of course, I never told her that! Moods and behaviors can sometimes be so volatile and so uncharacteristic of the children we knew that it can seem that they are no longer our children.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism affect our teen's already volatile moods and behaviors. The mood of alcoholic teens can change—rather quickly—to sullenness, volatility, anxiety, and depression. Their lifestyle often changes:
choice of music may evolve toward drug-related lyrics; they may give up old friends for using friends; they can become negligent and defiant about chores and expected roles; their sleeping and eating patterns can change; their behavioral changes might include staying out late, sleeping late, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, unwillingness to participate in family activities, truancy from school, or conflicts with school and community officials.

Of course, some of this type of behavior is also typical of normal adolescent changes, so it can be difficult for parents to tell the difference. However,
there are ways to tell whether the changes are due to hormones or alcohol use.
We should look at our entire teen, not just at one symptom, such as a change in moods. We can look at friends and relationships, school performance, family,
emotions, and work ethic, and make comparisons and draw inferences. Alcohol abuse becomes more visible when we look at the many dimensions of a child's life.

+ + +

Why Do Kids Use Alcohol? A Look at High-Risk Teens

It is unfair and often untrue to paint a high-risk kid as a drug or alcohol abuser or a troubled kid who goes around hating and fighting and causing trouble.
Many high-risk teens—even those who are addicted or involved with serious abuse of alcohol or other drugs—are sensitive, feeling people. It is equally wrong to say that a teen who is addicted to alcohol or another drug is a troublemaker,
dangerous, or criminally minded. I must say that almost every teen I've counseled is—down deep—a good kid. High-risk teens are simply teens who are at higher risk than a normal teen for certain problems—in this case, alcohol abuse and addiction. High-risk teens are kids whose system has failed them or who have somehow failed to adapt in a positive way to their system.

On my desk, I keep three rocks that remind me of the high-risk kids I serve.
Aha! That doesn't mean that I view them as rocks. No. The rocks remind me of a teen's inherent worth and the high risk each one faces in life when moving through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood. Life can be challenging,
and high-risk kids face an especially difficult and dangerous task. As parents and as role models, we can help prevent, divert, and recover our children when we understand the circumstances of high risk.

Hidden Worth

The first rock on my desk is a geode, actually half a geode. This geode is a rough, rather ugly, unattractive, dull, brown rock on the outside. But it's not the outside of the rock that I value, rather the inside. The geode has been cut in half. The inside, which has been polished until it shines and feels smooth as glass, is a surprising swirl of beautiful chocolate, red, and creams. In its center is a cavity filled with miniature, delicate crystals that sparkle and dance with light.

Geodes are like high-risk teens in a way. A teen can appear ugly or unattractive,
even dull on the outside, but inside is where the real unique beauty lies, and until that beauty is realized and exposed, it remains hidden and unexpressed.
The truth is, we don't know exactly how unique and beautiful each soul really is deep inside because a teen will often keep it hidden safely away and the rest of us may not take the time or effort to see deeply.

High-risk kids are those who do not recognize or realize their inherent worth.
They face challenges in their lives that form a crust around their inner beauty and potential. The outer crust of the rock is made by the outside influences of nature and weather. Similarly, the outside crust of a troubled teen is formed by outside influences that cover up his beauty, worth, and potential. Being illiterate; feeling ugly; having poor social skills; or living with chronic illness, troublesome psychological problems, poverty, serious family dysfunction,
neglect, or abuse can prevent the development of a beautiful nature.

Perhaps the single most absent trait noticeable in troubled teens is self-esteem.
They do not perceive themselves as having worth or value, or they hide their talents. Usually, this is caused by failure to find happiness, acceptance, and success in their endeavors. They often do not trust themselves to make decisions or to find success or happiness in life. They are often followers of other dysfunctional children because they distrust "normal" people and the system as a result of rejection or past failures.

The perception of negative self-worth comes in several ways. Some of the more common are (1) inherited disabilities or disorders that prevent thriving and acceptance; this includes physical appearance that places a child at risk of social rejection or stigma; (2) accidents, injury, or other traumatic experiences that inhibit or stunt normal emotional and mental development; this includes all forms of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as neglect; (3)
false beliefs, negative attitudes, and self-defeating behavior learned from and reinforced by parents, family members, or other significant people during early years and childhood; (4) lack of bonding, limit setting, and discipline in early years; (5) learned behaviors from negative role models in society;
and (6) failure to develop psychological autonomy.

One of a few things can happen to such children: they kill themselves; they simply shrink away into oblivion; something happens that awakens them to their worth and they begin to thrive; they abuse drugs to equalize the emotional pain;
or they remain ugly the rest of their lives. They are normally frustrated, discouraged,
unhappy, even angry children and are at high risk for anything with the potential to make them feel alive, worthwhile, or powerful over their environment. Teenage alcohol abuse and the pseudoculture that often surrounds it fill that void and provide an escape from reality.

Alcoholism interferes with the cutting and polishing of the soul, leaving the beautiful luminescent colors of a teen's life secluded under ugly behavior.
The crystals of light that dance and sparkle in her life are often dark and encased with discouragement and disappointment. It is possible for this inner unique beauty to disappear, for the cavity of light crystals to fill up, and for the teen to evolve into something ugly and repulsive throughout. But that usually takes time and pressure. Most troubled teens are yet geodes filled with hidden potential beauty.

Parents and responsible adults have a choice as to how they will see a teen.
They can choose to see the "ugly" residue or the unusual and unique beauty. They can see reality or real potential. Those who look deeply, who are geologists of the soul, will see the beauty that others refuse to see. It is the inside of a teen that matters, not the outside.

Hidden Pain

In the deserts of southern Utah, one can find small, round stones called desert marbles. They are made of desert sand that forms into a ball and develops a hard, metallic-like shell on the outside. The red-colored iron mineral in the desert sand combines with the oxygen in the air and water to form a hard, almost metallic substance known as iron oxide. Inside this hard shell is a ball of compressed sandstone that is still soft enough to be easily scratched out with the fingernail or a stick.

Most high-risk kids are like desert marbles. They have a soft, emotional interior and a hard exterior. Most of the teens I have worked with present a pretty hard,
resistive shell. They are kids who are frequently failing at most of the important things in their lives, such as school, family relations, jobs, friendships,
and self-esteem. They may have begun to have legal problems and other social conflicts. They may be stealing, involved in violence and other crimes, dangerously sexually active, and running away from home. They may be depressed and giving up on life. They may isolate themselves from others and have suicidal thoughts.
A majority of these kids are at high risk for getting involved in drinking alcohol or abusing other drugs, and kids who are alcoholics or seriously abusing alcohol are at high risk for these feelings and behaviors.

The thickness of the shell around high-risk kids depends on the cause and duration of the problems in their lives. There's usually a great deal of emotional pain, including guilt, shame, grief, and self-loathing. When the cause of problems involves deep emotional trauma or long-standing psychological problems, the shell becomes much thicker and the inner emotions more rigid.

Just as the red iron mineral in the soft sand of a desert marble bleeds out and combines with oxygen and water to form a hard, protective shell, painful experiences can cause the typical teenager's need for love, acceptance, guidance,
and achievement to bleed and combine with other things to form dangerous and self-destructive behaviors, appearance, and demeanor. This hard, resistant shell insulates the soft, inner emotions from positive resolution and from outside help and further deepens the pain and hopelessness.

Hardened Life

My third example is petrified wood. Petrification happens when soft cellulose wood becomes covered with hot volcanic ash. For thousands or millions of years this wood is under pressure and heat. During this time, water, carrying various minerals, seeps down through the buried wood and replaces the soft wood molecules with hard mineral molecules from the surrounding ash. The replacement of molecules is so precise that the image of the wood is completely preserved, even down to the growth rings, bark, and wood fiber. In time, what was once soft, pliable,
usable wood becomes stone that resembles wood but is useless, although sometimes beautiful.

Some high-risk kids remind me of petrified wood, especially those whose lives have been traumatic, painful, or troubled for long periods of time or who have suffered seriously debilitating problems for which no one has found satisfactory solutions. Human petrification occurs in far less time than in wood. Children begin like pieces of soft, pliable wood, unique in color, quality, and form.
They can be cut and shaped and molded into all kinds of beautiful and useful people. Circumstances in life can cover them up and put them under significant pressure. Negative experiences in life can begin the process of petrifying their lives. When damaging experiences, feelings, or circumstances are prolonged without relief, teens eventually become discouraged or hopeless. Eventually they may give up, rebel, turn to drinking or drug abuse, or commit suicide. Over time,
they become hardened throughout and practically unrecoverable.

Why Do Some Kids Refrain from Drinking?

Some kids don't use alcohol. If the statistics are correct, about 30 percent of high school seniors don't use alcohol, and an even higher percentage of younger kids are abstinent. Some of the kids in this category may try alcohol, use a few times, then quit. Why do these kids not use? Why did they choose to quit?
There are at least as many reasons kids don't use alcohol as there are for using.
Here are a few.

  • They don't like the taste of alcohol or the way it makes them feel.

  • They are repulsed by the intoxicated behaviors or the sickness and throwing up of family members, friends, and peers.

  • They are determined not to repeat family patterns.

  • They are involved in sports, school clubs, groups, and church groups that require certain standards of conduct to which they are committed.

  • They value academic achievement and have strong life goals.

  • They are attracted to a strong, sober peer group.

  • They are afraid of legal problems or disappointing their parents and family members.

  • They value obedience to social and family rules more than they do perceived fun or excitement with friends.

  • They have internalized a moral code of conduct from their parents, families,
    communities, and churches.

What Helps Promote Abstinence?

Research indicates that kids are less likely to engage in underage drinking when some or several of the following conditions exist (this is not intended to be a complete list):

  1. Bonding: Children who enjoy a strong sense of bonding with parents and siblings will be more inclined to communicate with them and rely upon them for guidance and support and to discuss the topic of peer pressure and their own thoughts, questions, and concerns about alcohol use. They will be more concerned about pleasing their family because of the love that is shared.

  2. Role modeling: Parents and siblings who do not drink or drink very discreetly and modestly are set up to be stronger influences and role models for their teens for abstinence.

  3. Monitoring: Teens who are guided in positive structure of their time and home environment are less likely to be bored and left alone to make their own decisions. High-risk situations are more readily recognized by parents and acted upon before they become problem areas.

  4. Supervision: Parents who stay actively involved with their children, showing interest in their activities and participating when possible, earn the respect and appreciation of their children. They also understand their children better and can identify danger signals more quickly.

  5. Limit setting: Parents who engage in active limit setting and consistently fair discipline give their children a clear signal that they are valuable and that certain things are a high priority.

  6. Establishing values: Parents who transmit to their children—in a consistently loving and respectful way—a sound set of moral values help ground their children against a complex, confusing, and shifting world. Teaching a child a standard of obedience by personal example as well as precept, and by emphasizing it, helps internalize important values.

  7. Communication: Children benefit from healthy, open communication with their parents and other significant adults. Shutdown or failure to communicate leaves children isolated and vulnerable. Parents who listen as well as speak—and when they speak, do so with respect and kindness, instead of preaching and ordering—have a stronger rapport with their children.

  8. Community support: Communities and neighborhoods that actively promote abstinence as a value and require such behavior strengthen teens against outside influences. This is done through laws, rules, limits, guidance, and services.

  9. Activity: Positive extracurricular activities that teach communication and life skills and help teens learn important skills for success make teens less susceptible to drinking.

  10. School support: Failure in school erodes self-esteem and is one of the biggest contributors to child delinquency. When parents, teachers, and administrators administer a program that is child-sensitive, that helps children to be successful in school with a strength-based approach, children have a better chance of maintaining interest and motivation.

  11. Self-esteem: Children who possess high self-esteem and good social and life skills are more likely to thrive in a social setting and are less likely to become involved in delinquent behavior and alcohol abuse. Parents, teachers,
    clergy, and community leaders should teach and provide opportunities for children to develop these important skills.

  12. Skill development: Parents can help their children develop the ability to make healthy decisions and effectively solve problems. Such skills are taught by modeling, guiding, and coaching children. Helping children achieve a sense of psychological autonomy (confidence in their own abilities to make their own decisions with the help of others) gives them the gift of self-discipline and leadership and makes them less likely to be indiscriminate followers.

  13. Work and service: Children who have been actively taught to work and to value service to others develop a self-confidence and sensitivity and work ethic that helps them throughout their lives. Children who are self-absorbed,
    selfish, and ungrateful are children who are lazy and want something for nothing.
    This type of attitude can be conducive to teenage drinking.

  14. Spirituality: Parents who bequeath upon their children a strong spiritual and religious orientation and a belief system that encourages faith and hope and trust in things higher and more powerful than themselves give their children a power that is superior to any other. This faith will strengthen the spiritual resolve that controls physical appetites and helps them overcome serious challenges in their lives.

Obviously, not all of these conditions will exist in a teen’s life, nor need they all be present. Our teen will have strengths and weaknesses. However,
the attributes or conditions listed above, which promote a sense of self-esteem and internal values—which cause him to feel loved and respected and confident—will produce positive results in the other areas of his life. Positive teens usually do positive things.

¬2003. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Alcohol: What's a Parent to Believe? by Stephen G. Biddulph. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Hazelden,
Center City, MN 55012-0176.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
Chapter 1 Perspectives on Alcohol: From Parents, Teens, and Society 5
Chapter 2 Alcohol and the Body: What Happens When We Take a Drink? 21
Chapter 3 Adolescence and Alcohol: What's the Attraction? 43
Chapter 4 Alcohol Addiction: Is There Such a Thing as Responsible Teenage Drinking? 77
Chapter 5 A Model of Adolescent Addiction: What Happens When Kids Cross the Line? 99
Chapter 6 Reasons to Save: Can We Really Make a Difference? 127
Chapter 7 Prevention and Diversion: Can Alcoholism Be Prevented? 135
Chapter 8 Intervention: How Parents Can Help Teens 155
Chapter 9 Treatment: The Next Step 167
Chapter 10 Recovery: Regaining a Healthy Lifestyle 195
Notes 223
Index 229
About the Author 235
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