Have Your Teens Been Looking For Molly?

PinkPillWhen I am doing presentations on drugs to high school teenagers, one of the many questions I get asked is “What is a Molly?” Many teens have heard of the drug Molly, some have even tried it while many more are simply curious about the drug they are hearing so much about through the music that they are listening to.

If you have never heard of the drug Molly, chances are that the teen in your life has. Molly is an innocent sounding name for a form of ecstasy that usually comes in colorful pills, powder or crystals. Some people mix it in their drinks to mask the taste and because it often gives drinks a different color or flavor.

Many teens think that it is harmless, mostly because so many of their favorite entertainers celebrate using it regularly, but it is not harmless. Part of the lure of the drug Molly is that there are few negative side effects, few verified long term effects (although depression may be one of them), and not a high risk of dependence. The real danger of using a drug like Molly, is not knowing what is really in it or how much.

When Molly is mixed with alcohol, as it often is, the risk for negative side effects increase from dehydration and exhaustion, to more severe side effects including hyperthermia, seizures, electrolyte abnormalities, cardiac episodes and even comas.

The name Molly is a play on the word molecule and it’s supposed to be a pure form of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine), but often isn’t. Some labs that  have been busted by law enforcement had the ingredients for chemicals such as bath salts mixed in.

MDMA can come from as far away as Canada, Asia and the Netherlands and can be created in labs with unknown health and safety dangers.

The scary part about Molly is that it is the latest club drug that rappers and other musicians are singing about as if it’s cool and fun to use.

Because popular rappers like Trinidad James, Future and Soulja Boy are practically promoting the drug, teens who may have not ever heard of or been interested in using drugs are becoming more and more curious about what a Molly is and what exactly does it do.

Here are some lines from some popular rap songs that mention Molly:

  • “pop a Molly I’m sweatin.”-Trinidad James
  • “”MDMA got you feeling like a champion/the city never sleeps better slip you an ambien.”- Jay Z.
  • “Something about Mary, she gone off that Molly/Now the whole party is melted like Dali”- Kanye West
  • “Talkin four door Bugatti/ I’m the life of the party/Let’s get these hoes on the Molly”- Rick Ross
  • “Take the blunt, dip it in the lean, then light it/Pop a Molly, drink some orange juice, get higher”- Juicy J.
  • “Pop a molly smoke a blunt/That mean I’m a high roller”- Lil Wayne
  • “Every Molly got my body feelin’ like I’m outer body/I’ll be high and above the rim, Amare Stoudemire”- Gun Play

A lot of these rappers and songs you may have never heard of, but many of your kids have or at least have heard other songs mentioning taking Molly as if it were as harmless as taking a sip of water. Even Madonna yelled out to a crowd during Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?”.

One of the side effects of taking MDMA is sweating profusely (“pop a Molly I’m sweating”), because people may not realize how hot they get and start sweating. Using Molly just like regular ecstasy can make you feel happy, sexy and less inhibited which could lead to unintended sexual encounters, but some experts report that just one hit of Molly can damage your brain forever.

Rapper Joe Budden told Fox News in New York that after a summer of using Molly, he started hallucinating and not sleeping for days. He reports it took people around him that cared about him to save his life.

Teens are young and impressionable. It’s easy for the music and entertainers they listen to to influence not only how they talk, and dress, but also what they do.

When their favorite entertainers are making casual drug use seem fun, exciting and happening, then it’s only natural that they become curious about and even become tempted to experiment with the things they reference.

Entertainers are always quick to remind us that they are not role models. They think this frees them for being responsible for their actions and words. Well they are Role models, good or bad, but it is our responsibility as responsible adults to be the good role models and to help our kids stay away from bad influences by educating them on drugs and other references made in the movies and music they watch and listen to while answering any questions they have.

Keeping Teens Safe During Prom Night

bc-web-liquor0107It’s Prom season again and teenagers across the country are getting ready for the big night, spending lots of money on dresses, hair, make up and alcohol.

Yes, alcohol.

The other day I happened to glimpse at one of my 17 year old client’s cell phone screen and saw that she was in the middle of texting someone about Prom. The last message read, “Are you sure your cousin is going to be able to get us the alcohol?”

I wasn’t shocked, but disappointed. After all, this client is one of my “good” kids who generally doesn’t give me any trouble at all, but I was disappointed that she was planning on drinking on Prom night, just as thousands of other students will be doing.

Teens and alcohol simply don’t mix, they never have, and Prom and alcohol definitely don’t mix.

Teens want to party and celebrate, to be “grown” for a night which includes partying and celebrating the way they see or think grown people do, with alcohol which is why Prom and Graduation season are so deadly for teens when it comes to alcohol related accidents and deaths.

For example, in 2005 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 676 high school students were killed in alcohol related traffic accidents.  One third of all alcohol related traffic accidents involving students happen between the months of April, May and June.

Drinking alcohol can cause adults to make poor decisions, imagine the poor decisions involved with underage drinking.

Young drivers are less likely to wear their seat belts when they have been drinking.  In 2005, 64% of young drivers involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking were not wearing a seat belt (NHTSA).

Teens who have been drinking or aren’t thinking about possible consequences, are also more likely to get into a car with someone who has been drinking, which of course puts their lives at risk even if they avoided alcohol themselves.

According to a 2005 report by the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, in the last 30 days, nearly 30 percent of high school students reported getting in a car driven by someone they knew had been drinking alcohol.

Other than drinking and driving, there are the other issues that come along with being intoxicated, such as leaving oneself vulnerable to sexual assaults, theft, violence and a host of other reckless, stupid behaviors and decisions.

One statistic I saw estimated that 90 percent of all crimes on college campuses including rape and murder involved alcohol.

Ask your teen how much would it suck on Prom night to end up:

  • on their knees somewhere throwing up or passed out
  • embarrassing themselves, their friends or their date
  • on a Youtube video doing something they wish they could take back
  • not remembering much of this supposedly unforgettable night
  • suspended from school or worse, arrested

Some people will say that teens will be teens, they will party and drink, but so what? Well if the statistics about alcohol related traffic accidents above doesn’t cause you to pause, think about these numbers from about.com:

  • 3 million children ages 14 through 17 are regular drinkers who already have a confirmed alcohol problem
  • Ninth graders who drink are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who don’t
  • 40 percent of children who begin drinking before the age of 15 will become alcoholics at some point in their lives

We can’t ignore the problem of teenage drinking. I am almost positive that the client I spoke about above, parents have not talked to her at all about drinking on Prom night, because she is an excellent student who never has behavioral problems. They would be shocked to know about her intentions, which is why I let her know I saw her text and spoke at length with her about underage drinking.

Parents, talk to your teens about staying safe and away from alcohol and drugs during Prom. Not only should you talk to your teen, you should also speak with their dates and even friends to try to make sure everyone is on the same page. You can even have your teen, their date and friends sign a sobriety or Prom promise, that says something as simple as:

I,__(name)_________ hereby commit to having a safe Prom by not using alcohol, tobacco, or any other drugs. I will also encourage those with me to remain alcohol and drug free and I will not get into a vehicle driven by someone who is not sober.

Have your teen sign and date it. Sounds simple, but this little method has proven to be powerful on high school campuses across the country each Prom and graduation season.

Lastly, parents:

  • Let your teen know that they can call you or someone else you both trust and agree upon, to come and get them anytime from anywhere
  • Know your teen’s plans for before, during and after Prom
  • Know who they are with
  • Come to a fair and agreed upon curfew
  • Let them know your expectations for an alcohol and drug free night
  • Check in with them during and after the Prom, or have to check in. A simple text, “I’m okay” may suffice

Prom is an exciting, memorable time that unfortunately ends in tragedy for far too many young people. Let’s try to keep them safe while allowing them to prove that they are ready for the responsibilities that come along with being young adults.

Why Are Teens Inhaling Condoms and Cinnamon?

istock_000014270011xsmallTeens are great with coming up with pointless and sometimes dangerous fads that prove to us adults that their brains still aren’t fully developed.

Thanks to the internet, those fads spread like wild fire, putting more and more teens in danger.

Remember The Cinnamon Challenge? If you have no idea what I am talking about, it’s a “game” where you are supposed to put a spoon full of ground cinnamon in your mouth and attempt to swallow it without anything else to help wash it down.

The challenge is pretty much impossible.

There are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating the challenge with the results usually ending with someone gagging, vomiting, coughing and/or choking.

Why this may sound stupid to us with fully developed brains, thousands of teens have taken this challenge with some ending up in the hospital.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 222 cases of abuse or misuse of cinnamon last year with the numbers steadily increasing.

Trying the cinnamon challenge can be damaging to the lungs with at least one teen being hospitalized with a collapsed lung when she attempted the challenge.

A newer, potentially even more dangerous fad is the The Condom Challenge. 

In The Condom Challenge teens open up a condom, snort it through their nostrils, and then attempt to pull it out of their mouths.

You can see the health hazards in this.

Condoms can easily get lodged in the windpipe, causing a person to have trouble breathing or not be able to get any oxygen at all. I haven’t heard of any deaths yet, but as this fad spreads, it’s most likely only a matter of time.

Teens do a lot of stupid things when they get bored and are around or influenced by other teens, including doing drugs,  drinking alcohol, and now apparently trying to swallow ground cinnamon and inhaling condoms.

Teens who have better things to do, like go to parks, participate in recreational activities, school sports and/or clubs are less likely to find themselves bored enough or interested enough to try the new fads.

Teens think that they are invincible and nothing will go wrong, but they do go wrong, often very quickly and un-expectantly.

It’s important that teens realize that they are their own person and they don’t have to follow other people in their real lives or in their online lives to be popular or cool.

As parents, caregivers and adults, we have to be aware of the fads our teens are facing and the hazards that go along with them.  What may sound stupid, idiotic and dangerous to us most likely sounds harmless, challenging and fun to them.

Teens will be teens and they will be reckless and risk takers. It’s all a part of their developmental stage. Still, our jobs are to educate them and keep them safe the best we can so they can live long enough to become adults and reflect back on how stupid they were when they were teens, just as most of us do.

Day of Silence

Boy-with-duct-tape-over-his-mouth-MG-9920Did you know that today is the Day of Silence? If you didn’t know, don’t feel bad because I was just educated about this last year by some of my students.

What is the Day of Silence? The Day of Silence is a nation wide, student led movement to bring attention to anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bullying, harassment and name calling in schools.

Students across the nation from middle schools to colleges take a vow of silence to represent the silencing effect bullying and harassment has on LGBT students and those believed to be LGBT.

The event is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Student use their vow of silence to speak up against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

I spoke with some of the LGBT students in my school who are planning on participating in the Day of Silence and they are all extremely passionate about it. All of them have been bullied, harassed, felt ostracized or misunderstood in someway and all want to stand up to against those who choose to treat them different from other people just because of their sexual orientation.

Many of them have gotten their straight friends to also participate in the Day of Silence by wearing duck tape (they chose red) around their mouths and not speaking all day. That’s a powerful statement and one I support wholeheartedly.

Often LGBT teens and  young adults feel so alone. This show of solidarity and support is extremely positive.

While students are encouraged to remain silent throughout the day, GLSEN doesn’t encourage classroom disruptions and makes amends for students to talk in class if a teacher insist that they answer a question. However, they also encourage students to talk to their teachers ahead of time for more positive and understanding results.

The day is supposed to be a positive educational experience, not a day of interruption. It’s a silent protest against the harassment and bullying that causes way too many LGBT students to miss school, have poor self-esteem and substance abuse problems, and even attempt and complete suicide each year.

I wrote a previous post about how young is too young to discuss sexual orientation which talks about the importance of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and other support groups on campuses for LGBT students and those who support them. The Day of Silence is a powerful way to help other students and school administrations recognize the needs of LGBT students.

The Day of Silence doesn’t stop at the end of the day. GLSEN hopes that those who participate in it will continue to draw attention to the plight of the LGBT student body and community in positive ways and encourages schools to implement solutions that address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

GLSEN recommends schools:

  • Adopt and implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates categories such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression/identity.
  • Provide staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.
  • Support student efforts to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment on campus, such as the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance.
  • Institute age-appropriate, factually accurate and inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.

I know first hand from working with many LGBT students the painful affects that bullying, harassment and name calling can have, especially when they feel like they can’t voice their concerns to other heterosexual students, adults, teachers and their parents.

I encourage all of us, even if we can’t participate in the Day of Silence, to find one way we can stand up against bullying and harassment in any form, against any person, even if it’s as simple as intervening when we see it happening instead of  watching in silence.

My Journey To Becoming A Therapist

couch_wide-eb7410d70ac8d556c8331f723e49c918ec26f2dd-s6-c10“What made you want to become a therapist?” That’s one of the most frequent questions I get asked by adults, many who marvel at me as if the ability to sit with, empathize, listen to and accept someone just as they are is some mystical superpower bestowed upon a select few.

Many follow that question by saying that they wouldn’t be able to deal with talking with “crazy people” or emotionally disturbed children all day without going crazy themselves, even saying that they can’t  deal with their own children, friends or family members when they are angry, sad or being irrational.

There was a time when I thought that counseling was something any and everyone could do, but now I know that not everyone can or should be a therapist. I’ve met some very bad therapists, people who may have had the education and credentials to counsel people, but definitely didn’t have the heart, patience or personality that is just as important if not more so.

Thankfully, most of these counselors learned pretty quickly that sitting down and helping someone unravel the complexities of their lives weren’t for them and ended up either getting out of the helping profession all together or moved to a part of the field that was less people oriented, such as working for insurance companies or becoming program directors.

I’ve witnessed teachers, administrators and other professional adults with good intentions do some very bad counseling. Some even made me cringe at either their bad advice, judgmental attitudes or total lack of empathy and I honestly was very thankful and relieved that these individuals weren’t officially counselors.

Being a therapist pretty much comes natural to me. Growing up I was always a very intuitive, carrying and empathetic person. I was always in touch with my feelings and would spend ours alone just trying to figure out why I felt a certain way. That curiosity soon lead to wandering why other people felt certain ways and why they did or didn’t do certain things. People watching became one of my favorite past-times.

In high school I was the person that girls would call and talk to about their problems with their parents, friends or boyfriends. I enjoyed helping them figure out and solve their problems  just as I enjoyed sitting in deep reflection about my own. I was probably one of the only boys in my high school that keep a journal and read self-help books.

Still, at that time I wasn’t even thinking about becoming a counselor. At that time I was interested in becoming a writer, an artist, a dentist or a meteorologist.

In college I decided I wanted to lean towards becoming a writer or an English teacher. I enjoyed writing just as I do today and it was writing that lead me to psychology. I was always interested in making my characters real and multi-dimensional which lead me to reading books on character development and eventually personalities and personality disorders.

There I found my love for psychology.

Soon I started taking every psychology course I could because I found it interested, but even more so because it helped with my writing. This is where I came in contact with Dr. Skinner who was not only my favorite psychology professor, but also became one of my first and most important mentor. He was always encouraging me to further my education in psychology which is one of the main reasons I decided to go on to graduate school.

In graduate school I initially was going to become a guidance counselor because I wanted to work with teenagers, but after taking all the courses required for guidance counseling, I still felt a hunger to learn more about psychology and counseling in general and so I transferred to the counseling and psychology track which was a lot of hard work when it came to reading, writing papers and giving presentations almost constantly.

It was learning the stuff I loved which is why I maintained a 4.0 throughout graduate school while working as a substitute teacher.

It was in graduate school that I started doing official counseling, and I was terrified!  To graduate from the program you had to do a 1,000 hour internship, not with friends or people I already knew, but complete strangers. To make it worst, I knew that I never wanted to be a substance abuse counselor and yet, my internship was at an inpatient substance abuse facility. I was determined to hate it.

I grew up in an inner-city neighborhood. I grew up around drug addicts. I already had my prejudices about people who used drugs and didn’t want to have to deal with them more than I already had growing up.

My dad also had struggled with substance addiction pretty much my whole life. He had been in and out of numerous treatment facilities and I had decided that substance abuse counseling just didn’t work. I tried my hardest to get my internship site changed, but couldn’t.

By the end of my 1,000 hour internship filled with individual, group and family counseling, I had a new respect for those who struggle with addictions and their families. I met people who had been trying to get sober since the 1970s! I met a popular high school football coach who gave up everything, his wife, kids and his prized job for alcohol.

I met women, mothers and daughters, so addicted to drugs and alcohol that their families had them committed to treatment and they were some of the sweetest women you could ever meet, who struggled everyday to control their cravings and stay clean.

Sure it was hard work, sometimes frustrating, disappointing and hard breaking (relapse is a b*tch), but it helped me deal with one of my own demons… it helped me understand my father and his battle with addiction so much better. It allowed me to forgive him.

After graduating I moved on from addiction counseling, perhaps it was still too close to home, and went to work in a psychiatric hospital. I always wanted to work with the severely mentally ill. dsmiv-c317a8bc457aaab1c0fb6b1a1de2b813d655dd09-s6-c10

In the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) taught to us in school, I had learned so much about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other conditions that are rarely seen, yet I wanted to experience them face to face.

I spent three years working overnight in the psychiatric hospital giving psychological evaluations and crisis counseling to some of the most fascinating people ever.

I’ll never forget talking to a rather lucid schizophrenic woman who was having visual hallucinations. She gave me the best explanation of visual hallucinations ever, better than any professor or textbook I had ever read.

I remember trying to calm down a paranoid schizophrenic woman who was shaking like a leaf because she believed a killer was locked in the hospital with us and was specifically trying to kill her.

And I remember giving an evaluation to a tomato red faced woman (all the blood vessels in her face had broken) who had just been released from the hospital after trying to hang herself after finding out her husband was cheating on her.

So many experiences came from my time there, but I knew I was missing out on truly developing my counseling skills. One of my goals was to become a licensed mental health counselor, which is a whole lot of extra work after graduate school and I believed to be a great therapist, I had to know how to not only assess, diagnose and do crisis counseling, but also how to do more traditional counseling with clients who had more everyday type problem.

I still longed to work with children as well so I left the hospital and started working at an inner city high school, focusing mainly on anger management and substance abuse, but soon my job description expanded to include pretty much any and everything that stood in a child’s way of being able to concentrate and focus on their school work.

This is where I learned to work with defiant teens, broken families, damaged teens and teens who just needed someone to guide, care for and encourage them. This is where I saw our future, both promising and disheartening.

While here I also attained my goal of becoming a licensed mental health counselor and continue to learn every single day.

One of the most important things I learned is self-care and to take breaks for myself. Carrying the weight of so many other peoples problems can sneak up on you and break you down before you know it. Sometimes when people know you are a counselor, they will purposely or inadvertently dump their problems on you and that includes family and friends. It becomes important to take the counseling hat off sometimes and if that means going and sitting some place alone, then that’s what I will do.

Being a counselor/therapist is a very rewarding career, but it is probably one of the most mentally and emotionally draining careers I can think of. I enjoy the skills I have developed to analyze people, to read body languages and to be able to already have some ideal what’s going on with a person before he or she even says a word, but sometimes it’s hard to turn that off which sometimes impact my personal life.

One minute a friend will be asking me for advice or wanting to talk to me about a problem, but they don’t want me to “counsel” them. Then the next minute when I make a statement, they will stay “get out of my head” or “stop analyzing me”.

Sometimes I am more comfortable when I am in the counseling role and I will find myself retreating to that mode whenever I am uncomfortable or meeting someone new… not always a good thing. I realize it’s a defense mechanism I use where I limit the amount of information a person knows about me while I gain tons of information about them. That isn’t really fair, but I do it all the time and most people are so happy to talk about themselves that they never call me out on or even notice it.

Lastly, another thing I’ve learned is that being authentic with someone… being present with them and actively listening does miracles. There’s been times when I listened to someone and was present with them, but had no real ideal what to do or say, and after our session they were so grateful to me for listening to and helping them. It’s amazing. Sometimes I didn’t even say a word and yet they would be so grateful. That’s why I stress so much on listening, rather than talking in this blog. I believe that listening sometimes solves more problems than talking, lecturing or berating someone.

Parents Who Use Psychological Aggression May End Up With Troubled Children

Father Telling Off Daughter At Home

A University of Minnesota study suggests that mom’s who yell at their babies put them at a much greater risk for conduct problems later in life.

In the study, scientist followed 260 mother’s and their children from birth until first grade and found that roughly handling and harsh speaking lead to more aggression among those kids entering kindergarten.

The study also suggested that spankings and conflict between moms and toddlers lead to more defiance, aggression and other conduct disorders later in life (Child Development, Oct. 26).

While this study focused on the relationship between mother and child, I don’t think it changes much if the dad is present and is the one having negative interactions with the child on a regular basis.

I’ve seen many children who were negatively affected by the way their father’s interacted with them, especially if they were scared of their father or living in domestic violent homes.

Raising children can be very stressful and at times, parents may lose their temper and yell at their child.

Research shows that nearly all parents yell at their children, but it’s the harsh words that come with the yelling that appear to do the most damage.

Many times in public or even in sessions I hear parents call their child stupid, lazy or threaten to hit them. Lot’s of times this happens when parents think their child has the problem, but it becomes immediate to me when I hear the parent talk to their kids in disparaging ways, that the problem started at home.

If you hear yourself in this don’t feel bad, many parents use what is called psychological aggression  as a form of discipline by the time their child is 5 years old. This includes things such as yelling, cursing, screaming, name calling, threats, threatening to hit them or threatening to send them away.

Also, parents who spank their young children tend to continue spanking them, even into their early teens. While there is a lot of controversy about spanking, children who were spanked tend to be more aggressive later in life. Boys who were spanked tend to be more physically aggressive, while girls who were spanked appear to be more willing to put up with abuse from a partner.

Psychological aggression in the form of yelling at their children is the most common form of discipline parents use, which includes shouting and screaming, but many parents also resort to name calling and threats, especially when it comes to teenagers who also are sometimes threatened to be kicked out or sent away.

When a child is treated too harshly, they can become destructive, deviant, angry, withdrawn or insecure. They can end up in troubled relationships later in life or develop risky behaviors such as substance abuse, eating disorders and a host of other mental problems.

Many of the teens I work with who describe to me what I would consider harsh psychological aggression end up with low-self esteem, depression, anxiety, body image issues and self-injurious behaviors. Many of them become scared of and un-trusting of their parents, which means that they end up hiding critical information from them on a regular basis.

The parents may think that they have perfect kids because their kids aren’t given them problems, but some of these same kids are constantly in trouble at school or are having many inter and intrapersonal problems that they keep from their parents.

Does this mean that yelling is a bad thing? Many of us grew up with parents who yelled at us and we turned out okay, but it seems like the harshness and the frequency of the yelling is what makes the difference, combined with how sensitive the child is. Each one is different. You may be able to yell and curse at your first born child and he/she turns out perfectly fine, while your second born child ends up a juvenile delinquent.

It may be unrealistic to think that a parent will never yell at their child, but they can be more conscious of how often and the language they use when they do feel the need to raise their voices. One thing parents can do is learn to condemn the undesired act the child is doing, not the child him or herself.

I’ve written a previous post about setting rules and expectations for your teen that you may find helpful for children of all ages.

Remember that the word discipline means to teach, not to belittle, threaten or abuse physically or psychologically.