Parents: How to Prepare for Prom

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It’s warming up (unless you’re in Chicago), finals are looming, bank statements are lowering, meaning one thing for high schoolers and their parents: prom.

For many, prom marks the end of high school and a transition into uncharted territory. Students may be leaving home for college, entering the workforce full-time, or struggling to figure out their next step, all of which may increase susceptibility to peer pressure and substance use. Studies show more than 75 percent of underage drinkers reported drinking in a group. And although adolescents and young adults drink less often than adults, they tend to binge drink, leading to consequences like visits to the emergency room or even death.

Gloom and doom aside, prom season can be fun; it can also an opportunity to start a conversation with your teens about substance use. Two of our Gateway experts, Aurora and Joliet’s Jim Scarpace and Lake County’s Karen Wolownik-Albert, share their tips for a safe prom:

Allow them to ask questions and be open to hearing their experiences with peers and even with drinking and using drugs. Help them understand the dangers and risks associated with using drugs and drinking, like the increased likelihood of unsafe sexual behaviors or victimization

  • Prepare them for what they may be exposed to on prom night.

Talk to your teen about the dangers of binge drinking and drunk driving or riding with an intoxicated driver. About a third of alcohol-related traffic deaths involving teens occur between April and June, the most popular months for prom. Try practicing their responses to different scenarios.

  • Establish a back-up plan.

Let your teen know they can call you immediately, regardless of the time or situation, and you will be willing to come get them. Develop a code word. Let them know they can text you instead of calling, if that is easier for them.

  • Figure out a structured and supervised post-prom event.

If this is not possible, be sure to meet or speak to the parents at any home where your teen may be hanging out after prom.

  • Do not provide alcohol to teenagers in your home.

Although it may seem safe, social hosting laws have established significant legal consequences for adults who allow alcohol or drug use in their home.

If your teen is struggling with substance use, be sure to express your support in overcoming the problem with them and reach out to professional resources and treatment.

If you’re a parent and have other questions about your children’s substance use or mental health, please contact us at Marketing@GatewayFoundation.org and we will work with our experts to answer them.

What Is Binge Drinking?

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What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking is the consumption of alcohol that raises a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.8 or above, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. For men, this usually takes five or more drinks in two hours, and for women, it usually takes four or more drinks. In contrast, the recommended amount of alcohol consumption for women is no more than one drink a day and no more than two for men.

Why is binge drinking dangerous?
Most people who binge drink do not have a substance use disorder. However, the consequences of binge drinking are still severe, and extended periods of binge drinking can lead to alcohol dependence.

There are a lot of health risks associated with alcohol consumption, such as an increased likelihood of contracting certain cancers and difficulty with memory and learning. With excessive alcohol consumption, additional risks such as unintentional injury like blackouts, alcoholic coma, and alcohol poisoning are higher than with moderate use.

Rates of violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, also increase when drinking is involved. An estimated 50 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol.

For women, binge drinking additionally increases the likelihood of an unplanned or a difficult pregnancy.

How common is it?
Binge drinking typically evokes images of college students in fraternity houses and, in fact, young drinkers consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.
However, they are not the only ones. One in six adults in the United States engages in binge drinking four times a month. Over 50 percent of those who binge drink are between the ages of 18 to 34. It is also most prevalent among men, as men are twice as likely as women to binge. However, in the past couple of years, studies show women have begun to close the gap in alcohol consumption.

What should I do if I am or someone I know is struggling with binge drinking?
Attempts to quit without professional help are mostly unsuccessful, and they can also be fatal. Seeking professional help is the safest and most reliable way to stop drinking

Mental health and alcohol abuse: Is there a connection?

During the month of May, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers, Mental Health America and countless other organizations across the country are bringing awareness to mental health. Mental Health Awareness Month aims to fight the stigma associated with mental health issues as well as provide support to those who may be struggling.

While we support mental health awareness year round, this May, GatewayiStock_000059997060_Medium Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers would like to highlight the strong correlation between mental health issues and alcohol abuse.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), 80 percent of individuals with addiction issues have a co-occurring mental health issue. These can include depression, mood disorder, ADD, among others.  “In our experience the number of people with a dual diagnosis may be even higher,” says Jim Scarpace, Executive Director, Gateway Aurora.

Alcohol abuse and mental health issues go hand in hand because both are tied to similar centers of the brain. Alcohol temporarily energizes the center of the brain responsible for depression and anxiety, decreasing those symptoms for a person.

The effects of using alcohol to self-medicate are fleeting, leaving a person feeling substantially worse than prior to using. Still, many use this “band aid” approach because it helps them obtain some manner of immediate relief. However, when a person drinks to make them self feel better, they create a cycle that repeats, so both the alcohol abuse and mental health issue worsen.

Caught in the spiral, it is almost impossible to stop the cycle without help and support. To learn more visit RecoverGateway.org/MentalHealth

Super Bowl Parties May Hide the Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

Whether it’s an over-sized plate or an overfilled glass, overindulgence is not unusual on Super Bowl Sunday. For a functioning alcoholic, this can be an excuse to overdo it on the drinks while blaming it on the game.

About half of those with a drinking problem are functioning alcoholics. A functioning alcoholic is someone who can hold down a job, pursue a career or care for children while continuing with his or her alcoholism. Some can do these things successfully, but the question becomes, how well are they handling their role of spouse, parent, driver, financial manager or community volunteer while under the influence?

In identifying a functioning alcoholic, it’s not one single event that people need to watch for, but whether there’s a pattern of behavior, according to Lori Dammermann, Executive Director, Gateway Carbondale.

“One night of over-drinking at a Super Bowl party doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a functioning alcoholic, although if this happens on a regular basis that’s a cause for concern,” Dammermann said.superbowl_alcohol

One misperception about functioning alcoholics is that they drink every day. For some of them binge drinking is more common, especially among women.

Some key signs that someone could be a functioning alcoholic:

  • Hides alcohol use from others
  • Drinks more than they say or admit
  • Drinks to reduce stress or boost self-confidence
  • Drinks far more than others during social drinking
  • Becomes irritable or anxious when refraining from alcohol
  • Becomes defensive or angry if someone comments on their drinking
  • Behavioral changes when drinking: from shy to social, from amiable to aggressive

It’s important for someone who is a functioning alcoholic to understand the health risks for them may be just as serious as they are for someone who has a more obvious addiction to alcohol. Many people do not know what are considered moderate drinking amounts. Learn about USDA moderate guidelines for drinking alcohol.

Are you concerned a loved one may be a functioning alcoholic? Learn more about functioning alcoholics online or call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers for a free consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Emerging Teen Drug Trends and Treatment Options

teen drug trendsKeeping teenagers drug and alcohol free can be an especially difficult challenge parents face. There are many emerging teen drug trends they need to be aware of.

For example, the heroin epidemic sweeping the country is primarily among middle and upper class 18 to 22-year-olds. Coroner officials reported there were 29 heroin-related deaths in Lake County, Illinois alone last year. With many heroin users, their first experience with drugs is a prescription pain reliever provided by their very own doctor.

Teenagers with an opioid-based prescription are three times more likely to wind up misusing these drugs after high school, according to the Michigan study. Many of them turn to heroin when prescription drugs become too expensive or unavailable.

Parents also need to watch out for the use of synthetic marijuana, a dangerous and unpredictable product that many teens believe to be a legal and “natural” alternative to real marijuana.

This includes information on the signs and symptoms of teen drug use, teen drug trends, effects of drug use on developing brains, tips for talking to your teen about drugs and alcohol.

Concerned parents can also visit RecoverGateway.org to access free information on prevention and treatment. To talk to our treatment specialists about teen drug or alcohol treatment options throughout Illinois, including Lake County, call our 24-Hour helpline at 877-505-HOPE (4673). With more than 45 years of experience treating teens and adults, Gateway is here to help.

Alcoholism: Is it in Our DNA?

alcoholism dnaAre our genes responsible for whether or not we develop a problem when it comes to drinking alcohol? The answer is, “Yes and no.”

According to research, about half of the risk for alcohol use disorder, often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol abuse, can be attributed to genetics. This would explain why problem drinking seems to run in families. Further, there is no single “alcoholism gene.” As with most other diseases, multiple genes play a part in whether or not a person will develop an alcohol use disorder such as alcoholism.

Environmental factors, and gene and environmental interactions are responsible for the balance of the risk of developing alcoholism. Of course, if a person who is genetically predisposed to an alcohol abuse disorder never takes a drink, a problem would not develop.

Are you concerned about the amount of alcohol a loved one drinks? Visit RecoverGateway.org/Alcohol to learn more about moderate drinking and the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse.

Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health Issues Are a Common Dual Diagnosis

In recognition of National Mental Health Awareness Month, proclaimed by President Obama in 2013, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers aim to help you better understand mental health issues, how they can relate to alcohol abuse, and the treatment options available.

Author: Jim Scarpace, MS, LCPC,, Executive Director, Gateway Aurora

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Expert Insight:
Jim Scarpace Explains Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health Issues

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), 80 percent of clients with addiction issues have a co-occurring Axis 1 mental health issue. These can include depression, mood disorder, psychosis and attention deficit disorder, among others. In my experience the number of people with a dual diagnosis may be even higher.

Alcohol abuse and many mental health issues go hand in hand because both are tied to similar centers of the brain. Depression and anxiety, for example, deplete certain of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Alcohol temporarily energizes that system, decreasing those symptoms for a person.

The effects of using alcohol to self-medicate are fleeting, leaving a person feeling substantially worse than prior to using. Still, many use this “band aid” approach because it helps them obtain some manner of immediate relief –medications for mental health issues that are prescribed by a medical professional can take three to six weeks to work and finding the right medications can be hit or miss. When a person drinks to make themselves feel better, they create a cycle that repeats, so both the alcohol abuse and mental health issue worsen.

Caught in the spiral, it is almost impossible to stop the cycle without help and support….Read Full Article or Watch Video >

Expert Insights: Alcohol Consumption and its Effects on the Brain

By: Dr. John Larson
Corporate Medical Director
Gateway Treatment Centers

People enjoy drinking alcohol for many reasons, but no matter what the reason, its effects on a person’s brain, both short- and long-term, are profound. As a solvent, alcohol passes to the brain very quickly and can cause acute damage to living cells. Once a long-time drinker becomes sober, it may be years before those changes reverse themselves, if at all.

video-screen-larsonThe chemical and physical changes alcohol makes to the brain make it especially difficult to quit drinking alcohol, from a single drink or continued abuse of alcohol.
Reversing the Damage?

There is some evidence that continued abstinence from alcohol may bring some improvement in brain function. The brain is pretty resilient and is able to form new cells through neurogenesis. We don’t know to what extent the effects of alcohol on the brain can be reversed but what we do know, is that neurogenesis is stimulated by alcohol avoidance, exercise, good dietary habits and by simply using the brain…

Read Full Article or Watch Video

To learn more about treatment options for alcoholism , or our free consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Binge Drinking and the Many Degrees of Alcoholism

In recognition of Alcohol Awareness Month, founded by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in 1987, Gateway aims to increase public awareness and understanding of alcoholism and the alcohol treatment options available for individuals and families who may need help.

Gateway’s substance abuse treatment Experts Patricia Ryding, Psy.D., and Paul Getzendanner explain binge drinking and the varying degrees of alcoholism: 

People tend to think of alcoholism as an all or nothing proposition. The perception is, if you can handle your liquor you are fine, as opposed to the drinker whose life is falling apart. The reality is, alcoholism is a progressive disease with many different degrees.

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Substance abuse expert, Gilbert Lichstein explains binge drinking and the degrees of alcoholism.

Any level of alcohol abuse presents serious dangers. Consider: 60 percent of fatal burns, drownings and homicides involve alcohol; 50 percent of sexual assaults and 40 percent of fatal car crashes involve alcohol.

A prevalent and very deceptive form of alcohol abuse disorder is the functioning alcoholic. A functioning alcoholic can hold a job, take care of the children, and otherwise fulfill his or her roles in life. This ability to manage creates a false sense of security.

The question becomes first, “How well are they really doing these things?” and second, “How long can they keep it up?” It’s safe to say, any form of alcoholism eventually catches up, taking a toll on a person’s body that includes making changes to the brain.

Binge drinking presents another serious aspect of alcohol abuse…Read Full Article> 

To learn more about treatment options for alcoholism , or our free consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673) or visit RecoverGateway.org

Medication Assisted Treatment Can be Key Piece in Treating Alcoholism

In recognition of Alcohol Awareness Month, founded by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in 1987, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers aim to increase public awareness and understanding of alcoholism and the alcohol treatment options available for individuals and families who may need help.

GAteway Treatment Centers, Gateway alcohol and drug treatment

Kerry Henry
Executive Director
Gateway Treatment Centers in Springfield and Pekin

 Kerry Henry, Executive Director, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment in Springfield and Pekin, explains how Medication Assisted Treatment can play a key role in treatment for alcohol use disorders:

Treatment for alcohol use disorder, often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol abuse, calls for a multi-faceted approach that is personalized to the individual. Sometimes this approach includes medication assisted treatment (MAT).

For alcoholics, MAT initially consists of different treatment options that help them through the initial stages of detox withdrawal symptoms. Freedom from these symptoms enables people to participate in therapy sooner than later.

Skeptics of Medicated Assisted Treatment believe that it’s just substituting one drug for another, which is far from the case. The medications Gateway uses are not harmful, are closely monitored, treat symptoms and, the way we use them, are not addictive. We use the minimum effective dose and discontinue their use as soon as possible.

The ability to medically assist people with alcoholism has brought positive changes for those receiving treatment at Gateway. Read Full Article

To learn more about medication assisted treatment for alcoholism, or our free consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 800-971-HOPE (4673).

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