Monday, December 14, 2009

New Study Shows a Link Bewteen Early Onset of Drinking and Drug-Related Car Accidents

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol & Drugs, the earlier a young person begins drinking, the greater risk of drug-related car accidents. The researchers surveyed over 40,000 over 18 year old drivers and found that 22% also used drugs, 10% drove under the influence of drugs and 1% had been in drug-related car accidents. Extrapolation of these proportions to the national population would mean 1 million people had been in drug-related crashes.

The research also looked at early age of drinking. They found the the greatest predictor of a drug-related car crash is early onset of drinking. Their conclusion is that the best method for prevention of drug-related car accidents is to increase alcohol abuse prevention in young people.

Age of Drinking Onset, alcohol Depemndemnce and their Relation to Drug Use and Dependence, Driving Under the Influence of drugs, and Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement Because of Drugs. Volume 69, Issue 2 March 2008

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And the Survey Says.......

It is Survey Time in Burlington!

The BDATF is surveying the parents of adolescents and students of the Marshall Simonds Middle School and Burlington High School to find out what the current perceptions are on underage drinking. Students are being given the survey through their health classes to allow discussion about the questions. Parents will be asked to complete the survey at parent-teacher conferences on the evenings of November 18 (MSMS), November 19 (BHS) and the day of November 20 (both MSMS & BHS).

The multiple choice questionnaire will include questions about where teens get alcohol, do parents host underage drinking parties and who should be held liable for such parties.

The data will be tabulated and presented to the entire community at a forum in February. The "Not in Our House" event will include potential plans to prevent underage drinking in our town. Strategies from other local communities will be discussed and explained. Parents and students will have an opportunity ask questions and voice their opinions about these ideas.

The task force is committed to keeping our young people healthy and safe. We want the community to understand what we do and to take an active role in shaping our efforts.

Please complete your surveys and play a part in shaping a healthy community!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

MA Among 16 States with Higher Drug Deaths Than Car Accident Deaths

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that in more than 16 states, more people were killed by drugs than by auto accidents. The study, which was reported by the Associated Press, found that the majority of drug-related deaths were caused by the abuse of painkillers.

The report, which analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System Mortality File, found that in 2006, more than 90 percent of poisoning deaths involved drugs. In fact, from 1999 to 2006 drug-related poisonings accounted for the largest portion of poisoning deaths overall.

Opioid analgesics, which are usually prescribed to treat pain, were involved in almost 40 percent of all poisoning deaths in 2006, up from about 20 percent in 1999. According to the AP story, for decades traffic accidents have been the biggest cause of injury-related death in the U.S. While they are still number one nationally, drug overdoses are pulling ahead in one state after another.

The number of states in which drug-related deaths have overtaken traffic fatalities has gone from eight in 2003 to 12 in 2005, and 16 in 2006. They are: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

CDC’s data also show that among opioid analgesic-related deaths, those involving methadone increased the most during the period 1999-2006. Methadone is a long-acting opioid used to help people addicted to painkillers and other opioid-based drugs, and in some cases as a painkiller.

"People see a car accident as something that might happen to them," said Margaret Warner, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the AP article. But as for death from a drug overdose, "maybe they see it as something that's not going happen to them."

CDC researchers counted more than 45,000 U.S. deaths nationwide from traffic accidents in 2006, and about 39,000 from drug-induced causes. Nationally, the death rate from traffic accidents fell by about 6.5 percent from 1999 through 2006 - from 15.3 deaths per 100,000 people to 14.3 per 100,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Press Release from National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University


WASHINGTON, D.C., August 26, 2009 – Compared to teens who have not seen their parent(s) drunk, those who have are more than twice as likely to get drunk in a typical month, and three times likelier to use marijuana and smoke cigarettes, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIV: Teens and Parents, the 14th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

The CASA survey found that 51 percent of 17-year olds have seen one or both of their parents drunk and 34 percent of 12- to 17-year olds have seen one or both of their parents drunk.

Teen drinking behavior is strongly associated with how teens believe their fathers feel about their drinking. Compared to teens who believe their father is against their drinking, teens who believe their father is okay with their drinking are two and a half times likelier to get drunk in a typical month.

The survey found that five percent of 12- to 15-year old girls and nine percent of 12- to 15-year old boys say their fathers are okay with their drinking. Thirteen percent of 16- and 17-year old girls and 20 percent of 16- and 17-year old boys say their fathers are okay with their drinking.

“Some Moms’ and Dads’ behavior and attitudes make them parent enablers—parents who send their 12- to 17-year olds a message that it’s okay to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs like marijuana,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s chairman and founder and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “Teens’ behavior is strongly associated with their parents’ behavior and expectations, so parents who expect their children to drink and use drugs will have children who drink and use drugs.”

Compared to teens who have never tried alcohol, teens who get drunk monthly are:
• 18 times likelier to have tried marijuana;• Four times likelier to be able to get marijuana in an hour;
• Almost four times likelier to know someone their age who abuses prescription drugs;
• More than three times likelier to have friends who use marijuana; and
• More than twice as likely to know someone their age who uses meth, ecstasy, or other drugs such as cocaine, heroin or LSD.

Compared to teens who have never tried alcohol, those who get drunk at least once a month are:
• Twice as likely to know a girl who was forced to do something sexual she didn’t want to do; and
• Nearly four times likelier to know a guy who uses drugs or alcohol to hook up.

“The message for parents is loud and clear. If your teen is drinking, the odds are your teen is getting drunk. And teens who get drunk are much likelier to try marijuana and hang out with friends who are abusing prescription drugs and illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin,” said Elizabeth Planet, CASA’s Vice President and Director of Special Projects. “Parents who think their kids are just having an occasional drink each month need to wake up and smell the beer and pot.”

Teens whose parents believe the decision to use marijuana is not a big deal are almost twice as likely to use the drug, compared to teens whose parents say this decision is a big deal.

Most teens who smoke cigarettes (56 percent) say the decision to use marijuana is not a big deal.

“Parents are the key to raising drug-free kids and they have the power to do it if they send their children the clear message to choose not to use and demand that the schools their children attend be drug free,” noted Califano whose book How to Raise a Drug Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents, was published this month by Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone/Fireside Division.

For more information visit

Monday, May 4, 2009

Watch Video!

Alcohol-Free Weekend...Burlington Pride....Raising Healthy Children

Alcohol-Free Weekend

The 6th annual Alcohol-Free Weekend was a big success! Despite threatening clouds, approximately 150-175 people came out to the kickoff event on the common. Thank you for your continued support!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Celebrate Healthy Teens!

Please join us in celebrating the 6th Annual ALCOHOL-FREE WEEKEND on May 1 through 3 by pledging to stay alcohol free for one weekend, just before prom and graduation.
The mission of this weekend is to demonstrate to our young people that adults do not always choose to drink alcohol each weekend and that we can have fun without alcohol! It also reminds parents each spring to talk to their teens about the risks of underage drinking.

The Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force is holding a kickoff celebration on the Burlington Common on Friday May 1, 5-7pm. Free pizza and sodas will be served while families enjoy music performed by Burlington youth!

Burlington has taken a stand to teach young people to make healthy choices. Each spring, communities brace for the inevitible loss of a young life. Burlington takes this pro-active stand to reduce the risk of tragedy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Parent-Teen Marijuana Forum

Pictures from "MARIJUANA: WEEDING OUT THE TRUTH" March 11 at MSMS. Courtesy of Chief Fran Hart

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ban of Public Pot Smoking

Towns try to punish public marijuana use
Officials want children shielded

Excerpt from Boston Globe
March 25, 2009

Dozens of Massachusetts cities and towns are taking steps to impose stiff new fines for smoking marijuana in public and even to charge some violators with misdemeanors, a trend that critics say subverts the state ballot question passed overwhelmingly last fall to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In recent weeks, at least seven communities - Duxbury, Lynn, Methuen, Medway, Milford, Salem, and Springfield - have passed bylaws that target people who light up in public. And two dozen cities and towns expect to vote this spring on similar measures, which proponents liken to local open container laws that ban drinking alcohol in public.

Police officials say they want to discourage flagrant marijuana smoking, particularly in public parks, schoolyards, and on beaches where young children gather. While last year's ballot initiative reduced possession of an ounce or less from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction carrying a $100 fine, police say that some marijuana smokers mistakenly believe that the voters legalized the drug entirely.

"If you're smoking marijuana in front of schoolchildren, to me that's a little bit more serious than smoking a joint by yourself out in the middle of the woods," said Salem police Captain Brian Gilligan. His city recently authorized officers to fine public smokers $300 in addition to the $100 fine for possession. The Salem bylaw also lets officers give them a misdemeanor summons, although Gilligan predicted that few will get them.

Question 2 passed by a vote of 65 to 35 percent, making Massachusetts one of a dozen states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, Bernath said. Proponents of the change, including billionaire financier George Soros, who spent more than $400,000 in favor of decriminalization, said that it would ensure that those caught with small quantities would avoid the taint of a criminal record.

A statewide referendum specifically said each city and town could pass bylaws banning public use of marijuana, and communities across the state have started doing that. They are relying on a sample bylaw provided by Coakley's office, which says fines can be imposed, a criminal penalty, or both, in addition to the $100 possession fine.

Coakley's office reviews bylaws enacted to make sure they pass constitutional muster, but takes no position on penalizing people who smoke in public, said spokeswoman Emily LaGrassa.

In recent weeks, Duxbury's Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved imposing a $300 fine on people who smoke marijuana in public. Methuen's City Council passed a bylaw to impose a $100 fine on people who light up at parks, playgrounds, on school grounds, or a public beach.
Mayor William M. Manzi III of Methuen said he sponsored the measure because he wants to keep those areas free of marijuana and alcohol. "You can already be fined under a local ordinance for having an open container of Budweiser," he said.

To show that Methuen was being even-handed, he added, the council increased the fine for drinking alcohol in public from $50 to $100, the same as the fine for public marijuana smoking.
Some communities, however, are also authorizing officers to give people who smoke in public a misdemeanor summons.

Residents attending Milford's Town Meeting, for example, recently approved such a bylaw. The measure also imposes a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for subsequent offenses.

Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin of Milford said he favored decriminalization last fall. But he supported the local bylaw because police need a tool to contend with young people who flout state law by smoking in public, sometimes in groups that make it difficult to determine who owns the marijuana.

"In the circumstances where you have a dozen young people or two dozen young people out in a park at night, OK, who possesses what?" he said.

But critics of the bylaws are skeptical.

Steven Epstein, a Georgetown lawyer and founder of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, said he believes the efforts amount to recriminalization and are "all motivated by police chiefs who lost their power when they no longer had the arbitrary power to arrest people for possessing or using marijuana."

Friday, March 20, 2009

School Required Prevention Education for Parents

Spring is here. And this is the best time to hold a substance abuse prevention workshop for parents because of proms, graduations and general nice-weather partying.

But I have found in my travels around the state that most schools are reluctant to sponsor parent education events due to low turnouts. No one has the funds right now to burn for audiences of only a few dozen.

Even coalitions have a tough time getting the school department to cooperate with a parent program right now.

Yet, I believe schools need to take the bull by the horns and place the responsibility for underage and drug abuse back into the hands of parents.

How can you guarantee good turnouts?

Good turnouts for are guaranteed by two things:
a recent teen fatality or
a parent-required program.

Administrators can take a firm stand to be proactive and require that parents attend a "wellness night".

Many schools require parents to attend an athletics night each year. If a parent wants their teen to patricipate in sports, they must attend a meeting. So include a brief presentation as part of that meeting.

Many schools now require parents to attend a prevention program so their teen can attend a prom! (becoming very popular right now due to liabilities involved with proms.)

Some schools include a brief presentation at Open House Night or Orientation Night when parents will be coming to the school anyway.

If you can convince your school district to take this kind of stand and fill their auditorium, your prevention dollars will be stretched. It is the only way to be proactive...... because if and when a student dies, the parents (that do not attend presentations voluntarily) will be screaming that the community did not do enough to prevent the tragedy.

Yes, some parents will complain at first about a mandatory wellness night. But once it becomes an annual event, parents come to expect it. I've seen it work. I've presented to packed auditoriums. Those administrators tell me that parents are not a problem because it has been annual practice for years.

What do you think? Sound off! I want feedback.....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Confused About Marijuana?

Marshall Simonds Middle School PTO presents a PARENT/TEEN Forum…

Presentation by Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force
Followed by a panel discussion with members of the
Burlington Schools and Police Department

7 - 9pm

· Do you know why Marijuana brings more people into emergency rooms than OxyContin, LSD or Meth?
· Do you know why Marijuana causes more car accidents than any other drug?
· Do you know how the new Marijuana law affects school drug policy?
· Do you know how Marijuana affects grades, SAT’s and college admission?

Parents, please accompany and sit with your adolescent.
Parents may attend alone but no teens are allowed admittance without a parent.


For more information, contact MSMS president, Mary Fitzgerald at

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Schools Stay Strict on Pot

Despite decriminalization, schools keep strict drug possession policies
January 29, 2009
Connie Paige, Boston Globe

Area school superintendents surveyed recently said they have no plans to reverse their zero-tolerance policies concerning students found with drugs.

While school rules put students in a different category than other users in the wake of a new state law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, the superintendents maintain that the rules are for the students' own good.

Nashoba Valley Technical High School Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz pointed out the rules help protect students' health and safety - especially in a school like hers where students often wield heavy and sharp-edged equipment and work with toxic and heated substances.

"The issue of drugs for a student who is high behind a desk in a math class is brutally different than for a student behind a lathe saw," she said. "That presents a clear and obvious danger."

Klimkiewicz said she is taking a lead from Mitchell D. Chester, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education. Chester issued an advisory that the new law does not alter the authority of school officials to impose discipline, including suspension or expulsion, on students who possess 1 ounce of marijuana or less on school property or at school-sponsored or school-related functions. Under the law, the advisory noted, possession is defined as not only holding marijuana but also having it inside one's body.

Tewksbury Superintendent Christine L. McGrath said officials at that town's schools all agreed on maintaining existing rules. She said they are listening to advice from Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone.

Leone is among many law enforcement officials - notably Attorney General Martha Coakley, other district attorneys, and police around the state - who have lobbied against the new law.

"We remain focused on continuing to send a clear message to our children that marijuana remains unhealthy, dangerous, and illegal in Massachusetts," Leone said in a statement about the new law, passed by voters at the ballot box in November.

Despite health and safety aims, the school rules can wreak havoc on students' lives, as Groton-Dunstable high schooler Cody Manley recently discovered the hard way. The 16-year-old was suspended for four months and barred from playing interscholastic football after he was caught on school grounds last October with three friends possessing a small amount of pot.

"I think it's unfair," said Manley, whose parents have taken the issue before the Groton-Dunstable School Committee for redress.

Manley was scheduled to return to school on Monday. Now he must receive counseling with a drug and alcohol specialist, submit to monthly drug testing, remain on probation for the rest of the school year, and cannot leave the building while school is in session.

After hearing Manley's case, Groton-Dunstable School Committee chairman Paul G. Funch said he believes that penalties under the marijuana rules can sometimes be too harsh. For example, he said he believes there should be reconsideration of the rule allowing a report of first-time marijuana possession to remain permanently on a student's transcript.

"I think that's really beyond the pale," Funch said. "You should get their attention, but I don't think their lives should be so severely impacted."

But Groton-Dunstable Principal Shelley Marcus Cohen said the policy must be maintained for the students' protection.

"Drugs are not going to be allowed on this campus," she said.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Flask for Teen Girls

Advocates Call on 'Tween Stores to Stop Selling Flasks

January 27, 2009

Underage drinking advocates are calling on the teen accessory store chain, Icing by Claire's, to stop selling girl-friendly flasks.Flasks decorated with charms and designed to hold 5 ounces of liquor are available for $12.50, and one-shot keychain flasks with room for the individual's initials are available for $8.50 each.The flasks show disclaimers that the product is not meant for minors, and warns that the flasks are designed to carry alcoholic beverages and should not be used for beverages with acidic contents like fruit juices.

Advocates are concerned that Icing by Claire's is encouraging underage drinking by selling flasks, while targeting its products to girls as young as 17. Icing by Claire's is a subsidiary of Claire's, Inc., which operates approximately 3,000 stores throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Recent studies show that girls are drinking earlier and increasing their alcohol intake. For example, the rate of 14-year-old girls using alcohol escalated from one in ten to almost one-third over the last 40 years. "In many cases, the girls are outdrinking the boys, putting themselves at greater risks," said Janet Williams, co-chairman of the Illinois Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, which wrote a letter to parent-company Claire's.

It appears that youth are gravitating towards hard liquor like rum and tequila in an effort to get drunk faster, according to Elizabeth Nelson, a community health specialist at the Lake County Health Department."Anything that promotes the perception that alcohol use is acceptable with young people is really disturbing," Nelson said.

Oregon Partnership announced that Icing by Claire's said it will continue selling the flasks at its 3,000 stores, but will post signs at store counters supporting "responsible" alcohol consumption. -->

Monday, January 26, 2009

Next Meeting

Task Force Meeting February 10 at 12 noon
Burlington's Drug and Alcohol Task Force will hold it's bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday, February 10, 2009, from 12 noon to 1:30pm at the Burlington High School guidance department conference room. We are expecting to be visited by Vincent Piro, Chief of Probation for Woburn District Court and by Jeanine Flaherty, Tobacco-Free Kids. We will be planning for our March parent education collaboration with the Marshall Simonds MIddle School PTO as well as this year's 6th Annual Alcohol-Free Weekend in May. Please join us for a lively discussion--and if you come, we will feed you!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Social Host Liability

Mother sent to prison for hosting son's underage drinking party

By Jill Harmacinski, Eagle Tribune (abridged)
January 08, 2009

LAWRENCE — Modesta Brito knew her teenage son was having a party on the night of Nov. 24, 2007. She was aware he and his friends were drinking beer in her home. And she knew they were playing the drinking game quarters, even giving them a plastic cup to bounce the coins into, a prosecutor said.

Allowing the underage drinking party in her Hampshire Street apartment was a risk Brito took. That risk became harsh reality when Ryan Bourque, 17, left the party and was killed in a car crash, prosecutor Jennifer Kunsch said.Brito, a 42-year-old mother of three, will spend the next three months in prison after yesterday admitting to violating the state's Social Host Liability Law and allowing the party in her home.

After Bourque's death, both Brito and her son Edrian Brito Mendez, were charged with violating the state's Social Host Liability Law. It was the first time ever, in Essex County,such alcohol charges were filed against both parent and child.

"You were the responsible adult. You were the one who should have been looking out for your son and the other kids," Judge Thomas Brennan said. "In this case, the consequences were tragic and for that, you bear some responsibility."

Mendez, 18, now a student at Northern Essex Community College, also was charged with two counts of providing alcohol to minors. All of his charges were continued without a finding for a year in a plea agreement reached and approved by Brennan earlier yesterday.Brennan noted that the primary responsibility for supervising the household rested with Modesta Brito as her son was then 17. However, the teen is still "responsible for his actions."

A police investigation revealed that Mendez charged friends $5 to drink beer from a 30-pack he had in a refrigerator in the apartment.Brito was formally sentenced to one year in jail with 90 days to be served and the balance suspended for two years. She also will have to serve 200 hours of community service and pay fines.Mendez must undergo alcohol evaluation and treatment, attend alcohol education programs and perform 100 hours of community service. He also must speak to youth groups about the dangers of alcohol and pay fines.

Speaking generally about underage drinking, Blodgett said he hopes parents understand "there's no gray area. It's a black and white law."