Education

You Only Live Once (YOLO): Helping Kids Stay Drug-Free

Celebrations with food and drinks will be plentiful as the holiday season looms. In addition to buffets and dessert tables, alcohol is often a mainstay at dinners and parties held this time of year. With family-centered events in full swing, children’s exposure to alcohol also increases, posing curiosity and temptation for many youth.

The median age at which children try or start to drink alcohol is 12, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol, compared to those who wait until the legal age of 21 to have their first drink.

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest alcohol- and drug-prevention program in the nation. The organization dedicates one week each year to call extra attention to the dangers of youth alcohol and drug abuse through its Red Ribbon campaign.

You Only Live Once (YOLO), is the theme for this year’s Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23-31. Led by Informed Families, YOLO messages remind parents and children alike that we only live once, and taking care of mind and body is essential to overall health.

Red Ribbon Week outreach activities help support the efforts of organizations such as Baptist Health South Florida Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center in helping families treat children who have substance abuse problems.

“It’s a difficult issue,” says John Eustace, M.D., medical director of Baptist Health’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center. “Fifteen percent of every 100 kids who experiment with drugs or alcohol will become addicted. The teenage brain is not yet fully developed and is hard-wired to seek excitement. And some brains are just more susceptible to addiction.”

Dr. Eustace urges parents and the children to recognize and understand that addiction is a disease that is progressive and chronic. If left untreated, there can be very serious consequences, he says. Fortunately, substance abuse and addiction can be treated, and the cycle of addictive behavior stopped. As with many kinds of serious illnesses, professional treatment is necessary for those who abuse drugs or alcohol, he adds.

Preventing Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among Kids

Dr. Eustace and the other professionals at Baptist Health’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center say the very best thing parents can do to help keep children free of alcohol and drugs is to talk them – with consistency, compassion and understanding.

The advice they offer includes:

  • Talk to your child a lot. Ask questions about parties and concerts they are attending.
  • Ask about their friends and their feelings.
  • Monitor their use technology. Messages encouraging drug and alcohol use are everywhere.
  • Offer children heartfelt messages of concern about drugs and alcohol with equal doses of love and attention.
  • Provide consistent messages delivered through words and actions and
  • Tell your children you love them – every day – and that they are the most precious part of your life.

“Those words, followed by actions, are the most powerful ‘preventive’ force against alcohol and drug misuse,” said Gary Silverman, clinical supervisor at Baptist Health’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center. “Making time to check in with each other regularly and connect on a close, personal level goes a long way in creating a trusting relationship and opening up healthy lines of communication.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.