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Can Parents Teach Teens "Responsible Drinking"?

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A Myth: Parents Can Teach Teens “Responsible Drinking”

Parents who provide their teens with alcohol and a place to consume it may think they are teaching their children “responsible drinking.” Researchers found parental provision of alcohol is associated with increased teen alcohol use.
In some cases, parental provision of alcohol is also linked with increased heavy episodic drinking and higher rates of alcohol-related problems, the researchers report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

"We suspect there is a surprising amount of ‘social hosting’ going on—parents providing alcohol for their teens and their friends,” said study co-author Ken C. Winters, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “Parents probably aren’t aware that social hosting could have criminal implications in some states if things take a bad turn. I can appreciate that social hosting is often done with good intentions. Parents think they are preventing something worse by having their kids drink at home with their friends. But the risks are great.”

 

 

 

 

 

Problem of Underage Drinking

Rates of underage drinking in the United States are high. See the latest statistics.
Underage drinking has severe consequences, including: 

  •  Injury or death from accidents
  • Unintended, unwanted, or unprotected sexual activity
  • Academic problems
  • Drug Use
  • Can harm the developing brain

Importance of Parents 9 - 15: A Crucial Age

Research shows that parents are the leading influence on their child’s decisions about alcohol. Although it may not seem like it, when parents talk about underage drinking, their children do hear them.

To prevent young people from starting to drink, the campaign focuses on ages 9–15. Around 9, children begin thinking alcohol may not be just for adults. By 15, many young people are drinking. Young people who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol problems as adults than those who begin drinking at 21 or older.

Talking To Kids About Alcohol - 5 Conversation Goals

1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking.
Over 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink. So they really are listening, and it’s important that you send a clear and strong message.

2. Show you care about your child’s happiness and well-being. Young people are more likely to listen when they know you’re on their side. Try to reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink—not just because you say so, but because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re working with, and not against, your child.

3. Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol. You want your child to be making informed decisions about drinking, with reliable information about its dangers. You don’t want your child to be learning about alcohol from friends, the internet, or the media—you want to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information.

4. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll notice if your child drinks. You want to show you’re keeping an eye on your child, because young people are more likely to drink if they think no one will notice. There are many subtle ways to do this without prying.

5. Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking. Even if your child doesn’t want to drink, peer pressure is a powerful thing. It could be tempting to drink just to avoid looking uncool. To prepare your child to resist peer pressure, you’ll need to build skills and practice them.

Family Agreement Form: Avoiding Alcohol

Answering Your Child's Tough Questions About Alcohol

“I got invited to a party. Can I go?” - Ask your child if an adult will be present at the party or if he or she thinks children will be drinking. Remind your child that even being at a party where there is underage drinking can get him or her into trouble. Use this time to establish or reinforce your rules about alcohol and outline the behavior you expect.

“Did you drink when you were a kid?” - Don’t let your past stop you from talking to your child about underage drinking. If you drank as a teenager, be honest. Acknowledge that it was risky. Make sure to emphasize that we now know even more about the risks to children who drink underage. You could even give your child an example of a painful moment that occurred because of your underage drinking.

“What if my friends ask me to drink?” - Helping your child say “no” to peer pressure is one of the most important things you can do to keep him or her alcohol-free. Work with your child to think of a way to handle this situation, whether it is simply saying, “No, I don’t drink,” or saying, “I promised my mom (or dad) that I wouldn’t drink.”

“You drink alcohol, so why can’t I?” Remind your child that underage drinking is against the law, and for good reason. Point out that adults are fully developed mentally and physically so they can handle drinking. Children’s minds and bodies, however, are still growing, so alcohol can have a greater effect on their judgment and health.

“Why is alcohol bad for me?” - Don’t try to scare your child about drinking or tell him or her, “You can’t handle it.” Instead, tell your child that alcohol can be bad for his or her growing brain, interferes with judgment, and can make him or her sick. Once children hear the facts and your opinions about them, it is easier for you to make rules and enforce them.

Keep it low-key. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get everything across in one talk. Many small talks are better.

Information provided by SAMHSA, Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration 

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