In early November, a local television station in Phoenix reported that a school resource officer heard teens talking about how they used vodka-soaked tampons to get drunk. This report re-ignited a rumor that’s been reported by the media since the 1990s, that young women and sometimes young men use tampons to ingest alcohol.
While unsubstantiated accounts have been circulating for years, the question remains, is this “everywhere” as the school officer said, or is it only an urban myth?
The why behind alcohol-soaked tampons
You have to wonder why anyone would want to combine alcohol and tampons. But then you might remember the not-so-smart things you tried as a teen. And also, there are three generally-mentioned reasons why teens try it out:
- So that alcohol cannot be smelled on the breath. In reality, alcohol is partially eliminated from the body through the lungs, when alcohol is in the blood, so it will always be present in expired air.
- To get drunk quicker. This would be true since the substance immediately enters the circulation by fast absorption without passing through the stomach and being diluted with gastric fluids, according to physicians.
- To prevent someone from throwing up from too much alcohol. This might work, but it’s much easier to get alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death.
Getting drunk without being obvious is another reason someone might try it. And then sometimes, there really is no why. You just do it.
But just doing it brings enormous risks, say medical experts. Anyone thinking about trying it should consider the damage it might cause. Dr. Lisa Masterson, co-host of "The Doctors," says this method will "literally destroy the vagina," and the website Teen Alcohol Abuse refers to a number of serious health problems that could be caused by the practice.
Are teens really doing this?
Snopes.com lists the truth status of this tale as "undetermined." When asked, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control said the CDC did not have any information about this topic.
Then again, the CDC hasn't talked to 21-year-old Alden, a college student in Georgia who told JJIE he has used an alcohol-soaked tampon twice in the last few years.
"I was at this party when I was 17," he said. "We were all telling stories and one of my friends said something about tampons soaked in vodka."
Alden, who declined to give his last name, said he immediately got a tampon from a girl at the party, soaked it in Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum and inserted it into his anus.
"It burned a little," said Alden, "but other than that, it didn't cause any pain."
He said he gave it a try again a couple of years later, but he said he couldn't say if the intoxicating effects were stronger or not because he continued to drink after the exercise with the tampons.
Asked whether he felt the practice was widespread or limited to a scattered few, he said, "well I can say that I'm not the only one. Not long after the first time I did it, another guy I know did it."
Twenty-three-year-old Kate Stone of SqueamishBikini.com who lives in the U.K. said over email, “Like most teen crazes, I heard about it in the press first. Even when I was a teen, I never knew about all these crazy things we were apparently getting up to until the news told me so.”
She said she has not done it before but some of her friends from small towns know people who had done it as teens.
“I think when stories like this come around people like to call it a trend and fret over it, instead of seeing it for what it usually is, either a very localized group of friends who experimented or an urban myth,” she said.
Generally teens aren't shy about talking about drug us on such sties as Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, after the news articles and blog posts began to pop up and Stephen Colbert mentioned it on his late night TV show, teens’ reaction on social media seemed to serve as an occasion to make jokes about it. But some have also reacted with shock.
For the most part, however, social media has been pretty quiet on the issue. Only a few examples of people talking about the practice can be found. A YouTube video posted by a user in the United Kingdom on July 2011 shows what looks like a party where several teens appear to test out the alcohol tampon idea (though one cannot be sure as the actual attempt is not shown). Also, a Facebook topic has a comment left over a year ago by a young woman in Canada who says she tried it.
Media reports of alcohol-soaked tampon
The practice is called slimming in the United States, where the trend started, according to a German newspaper report in March of this year. The story mentions an account of a girl who collapsed during a street festival, supposedly intoxicated from a vodka-soaked tampon. The paper also said that youth researchers have since found this form of alcohol abuse to be trendy in the region. Media in other countries have talked about it too, especially in Columbia and in other parts of Europe.
Despite these mentions, no outlet seems to offer any accounts from people who say they have tried it, or who know someone who has.
JJIE Stock Photo: Clay Duda/JJIE Staff.
Crossover youth, as young adults with dual involvement in foster care and juvenile justice systems are called, face a variety of challenges when entering adulthood, and they carry a high public cost. That is according to the first-ever study of youth in foster care and on probation in Los Angeles County.
Although it’s widely known that crossover youth are worse off than other youth, this study — Young Adult Outcomes of Youth Exiting Dependent or Delinquent Care in Los Angeles County, which was funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation — shows that crossover youth experience negative outcomes at twice the rate.
“We didn’t realize crossover youth would have such striking distance,” Dennis Culhane, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s six authors, told Youth Today. “We knew it would find they’d be troubled, but didn't expect this difference of degree to show up.”
Currently, according to examined data from 2002 to 2009, crossover youth cost about three times more public service dollars than youth who are only in foster care. The largest share of this money is criminal justice costs: a quarter of former foster youth and two-thirds of crossover youth have a jail stay in early adulthood.
Poverty is another concern for this population. One-third of former foster youth and one-half of crossover youth experienced a period of extreme poverty during their young adult years with extremely low earnings. Crossover youth were 1.5 times more likely to receive welfare, and 50 percent less likely to be consistently employed.
The study released last week does, however, suggest that if youth are given more opportunities to improve their futures, they will require fewer resources and will cost the public less money.
“This study provides compelling evidence that these young adults, especially the crossover youth, should be targeted with housing support, education, employment services and mentoring, if the county and the state are to avoid a lifetime of public dependence by this highly vulnerable population," Culhane said in a press release. "The good news is that this is a population that can be easily targeted with assistance."
Better education and mental health treatment are two ways evidence suggests that crossover youth can achieve a better overall performance.
The findings of this study will be used to craft a strategy for working with crossover youth and to seek approval for an upcoming project in Los Angeles County. The area an ideal place for pilot strategies because of a recently passed state law extending foster care until 21 and because the county has an integrated data system for all of its departments.
If you deport the parents, let them take their kids with them. This may sound like common sense — and research shows that kids do better with their families than in foster care — but increasingly more children from across the United States are being separated from their families because their parents have been deported.
National research, conducted by the Applied Research Center between August 2010 and August 2011, and published on Colorlines.com (which is run by the Research Center) in November 2011 shows, for the first time, that the problem is happening widely.
At least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States. And, in at least 22 states, children in foster care face boundaries to reunification with their detained or deported mothers and fathers.
In the past few years, a growing number of long-time residents with families are being deported while the kids are almost always placed in foster care. According to previously unreleased federal data obtained by the ARC, between January and June of 2011, the United States carried out more than 46,000 deportations of the parents of U.S.-citizen children, and almost one in four people deported in the last year was the mother or father of an American citizen.
The report discusses two explanations as to why this is happening:
- Local cops in many states that have signed agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are engaging in immigration enforcement;
- A controversial program called Secure Communities allows the ICE access to data on every person booked into a county jail.
The ARC’s research found that children in foster care in areas where officers perform immigration law enforcement functions, were almost 30 percent more likely to have a detained or deported parent than in other counties.
Most countries lack any formal policy for deported parents. In order to tackle this problem, the report says that federal, state and local governments must create explicit policies to protect families from separation.
The Obama administration did say that it plans to overhaul immigration detention practices, but as of August 2011, the ARC found that this promise had not taken effect in any significant way.
The full report lays out policy recommendations at all levels in the United States. The following are its suggestions for state child welfare departments and juvenile dependency courts to follow:
- State child welfare departments should initiate research to explore the extent to which children in foster care have detained or deported parents.
- All caseworkers, supervisors, attorneys and judges who practice in dependency court should be mandated to participate in training on immigration law and immigration enforcement policies.
- All state and/or county child welfare departments should sign agreements with foreign consulates to ensure that as soon as noncitizen parents of foster children are detained, consular
involvement is commenced.
- Adopt clear policies ensuring equal treatment of undocumented parents and families in the child welfare system, including clear guidelines on the rights of undocumented parents and extended families to be treated equitably as viable caregivers for children.
- Create state- or county-level staff positions dedicated to facilitating reunification for families impacted by immigration enforcement.
“At the end of the day, when you have immigration law that’s broken and you have a community of 10 million, 11 million people living and working in the United States illegally, some of these things are going to happen,” Cecilia Munoz, the administration’s top advisor on immigration, said in an interview aired on PBS’ “Frontline” in September.
To complete the study, ARC gathered county-level data from child welfare caseworkers, attorneys and judges in six states, which account for more than half of the non-citizen population in the United States and more than one-third of the children in foster care (Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, New York and Texas.) Then ARC visited detention centers, conducted interviews and projected the prevalence of detained and deported parent cases in 14 other similarly situated states, including Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
The full report is on the ARC website.
They also released a video about their report:
Image courtesy of Applied Research Center
Parents, picture this: your kid is opening a mostly green bag of candy. Nothing unusual, especially for this time of year, so you probably think nothing of it. Then, they take out a lollipop, and you take a second look: It’s shaped like a marijuana leaf. How would you react?
City leaders, anti-drug activists and parents across the country aren’t sweet on this new candy. Instead, they view it as something that trivializes drug use even though the sour-apple flavored treats contain only legal substances.
With product names, such as “Pothead Ring Pots,” “Pothead Sour Gummy Candy,” and “Pothead Lollipops,” the packages contain the word "Legalize" and a joint-smoking, peace sign-waving user on the front, according to a Forbes article.
The president of the Philadelphia supply company that distributes these products told the magazine the candies have been on the market for six to nine months, are in 1,000 stores around the country, and that they promote the legalization of marijuana.
"It's the whole idea that it promotes drugs and the idea that, here, you'll look cool if you use this -- which is what gets these kids in trouble in the very first place,” Jodie Altman, who works for a a treatment center for drug- and alcohol-addicted youth, told Forbes.
In Buffalo, one outraged parent was apparently able to get the product pulled from many local stores.
As a kid, he grew up in the Spanish Harlem where he lived a vicious street life: he robbed people and places, sold and took drugs and was in a gang. But while in prison, he decided to use his experiences and his writing — which he called “the Flow” — to help turn youth away from a life of crime.
Some people say that a person can’t change, that a criminal is always a criminal. He disproved this belief and presents a message of hope for outcasts and at-risk youth. He knew he had not been born a villain, that he could do more with his life. And he did.
Thomas, who died last week at the age of 83, began life as an outsider, someone with the desire to escape. His family refused to acknowledge its African blood, and the neighborhood youth mistreated him for his dark, Afro-Cuban-Puerto Rican background. To survive, he plunged himself into life on the streets where he felt empowered. Eventually, though, he found himself in prison for wounding a police officer during a holdup.
After serving seven years, he published a passionate, graphic memoir in 1967 that addresses issues including poverty, youth, violence, imprisonment and racism. Down These Mean Streets went on to become an influential best seller and a classic.
“God, I wanna get out of this hole,” he said, talking about prison. “Please let me out and I'll push my arm back down there and help the others climb out.”
No longer can he personally spread his message — Unity Among Us — but people continue to read his autobiography. This work and his other writings helped to create an awareness about the plight of minority youth and helped empower many young people in high schools, colleges, prisons, detention centers and communities of color throughout the United States.
Piri Thomas may have penned Down These Mean Streets, but he was anything but. People who knew or saw him post-prison describe him as warm and accessible.
“He was very sweet,” David Inocencio, who met him in San Francisco as part of his prison-writing project for juvenile inmates called The Beat Within, said. “He had a lot of energy. If you see the documentary [about his life,] you’ll see him working with the kids, and the kids are totally buying into his style. […] I think that’s something he really enjoyed doing was working with young people. He was a powerful activist in the community.”
The award-winning documentary, created by Jonathan Robinson, is called Every Child Is Born A Poet.
“I am a child man,” Thomas said in an interview with In Motion Magazine a decade ago. “I still feel child-like, not childishness, which leads to rage without reason, in short, tantrums. But child-like which is the ability to be in awe, and to have hopes and joy. No matter how everybody else sees the horror, you can see one ray of light.”
The youth, whom he spoke to and worked with, connected with the child-like quality Thomas retained as he aged.
“I think there are people that understand how to not treat youth in the juvenile justice system as if they are not part of everything, part of us -- and Piri Thomas did that,” Kim Nelson, the Associate Development Director of The Beat Within who once participated in a reading with Thomas, said. “He valued these youth and treated them as though they have much to offer [...] as opposed to what seems to happen, where people come off like this is the sitcom we all agree on and whatever bad dream you live in isn't really real, or at any rate it's your problem.”
It’s true that Piri Thomas began life in darkness, in the ghetto, yet he rose above that existence and used his struggles to share a unique perspective on peace and justice. During his life, he also influenced the lives of young people, especially those involved with crime.
“You are not numbers,” he told an interviewer, addressing criminals. “You all got names. No one was born a criminal from their mother's womb. We were all born into a society where children are considered as minorities, less than, and the truth is that all children are born of earth and universe. Viva all children.”
The documentary about Piri Thomas, Every Child Is Born A Poet:
Seventy-one percent say they are more likely to use slurs online or in text messages than in person.
Also, most young people don’t worry about whether the words they post on their cellphones and laptops could reach a wider audience or get them in trouble, according to the ABC Action News article.
"People have that false sense of security that they can say whatever they want online," Lori Pletka, 22, told the reporters.
Although most people see slurs as joking — 57 percent say people are "trying to be funny" — a significant number of youth are getting upset, especially when they are in the group being targeted.
Cyberbullying continues to be a problem. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed say they see people being mean to others on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. And 51 percent encounter discriminatory words or images on those sites.
Those who are the most targeted are overweight people, Muslims and gays.
Young people say its OK to use mean language within their own circle of friends because, “I know we don’t mean it.” Yet four out of 10 young people have given little or no thought to how easily their text and online messages could be spread.
Going further, attempts to cut down on offensive language don’t seem to be working.
Despite a public service announcement ad campaign to stamp out anti-gay slang, two-thirds of young people still see “that’s so gay” being used. Similarly, an effort to steer kids away from using the word retard hasn’t worked. Half of those surveyed don’t find the word even moderately bothersome.
Millions of young kids are already on Facebook, even though the site can’t legally allow anyone under 13 to create a profile. And if the previous statement were a status update, Facebook would “like” it.
The popular social networking wants all youngsters to be allowed; this way they can begin sharing early. Consider this: When anyone shares on the site, Facebook benefits by allowing marketers to use the data and it makes money. Giving all kids the right to sign up would insure the site’s continued dominance.
Weeks after Consumer Reports announced in June 2011 that 7.5 million kids age 12 and younger are on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that he wanted to challenge the 1998 act, known as Coppa, which prevents websites from collecting personal data about kids under 13 without permission from their parents.
As a New York Times article discusses, it’s not known how joining Facebook at a young age impacts kids. Some say it's essentially harmless and fun, while others argue it exposes children to bullying and harassment.
Zuckerberg and others in Silicon Valley, believe that nonstop sharing, at every age, is inevitable, so we might as well allow everyone to do it.
One concern is the default privacy settings Facebook uses, especially considering research shows that most people never change their settings. Many people of all ages are sharing things without realizing it. With young people, the situation only worsens.
Facebook is taking action against the dangers of sharing, although none of these addresses privacy concerns. The following are three examples mentioned in the article:
- the site uses a technology to find and remove child pornography;
- it's a partner in law enforcement's Amber alert system for missing children;
- and, in September, the social network started testing a special e-mail address with a small group of principals and guidance counselors that gives schools an inside track for urgent reports on bullying and fighting.
In contrast, the Federal Trade Commission wants to require websites to get parents' permission before they can track the online movements of kids under 13 for marketing purposes. And a bill recently introduced in Congress, called Do Not Track Kids, would bar websites outright from using kids’ data to target ads to them until they are 17.
Every 14 minutes, someone dies from drugs, according to a recent examination of government data by the LA Times. What’s worse is that attempts by experts to reverse this trend don’t seem to be working. Drug deaths, fueled by prescription pain and anxiety drugs, now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States,
This is the first time since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979 that drugs have killed more people than cars. Most cases of preventable death are declining. Drugs, however, are the exception.
While teens and young people often abuse drugs, even, according to the mother one teen who died of an overdose, attending parties where pills are poured into a bowl and taken without knowledge of what they are taking, now people of all ages are suffering from drug-induced deaths.
Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, yet the death toll is highest among people in their 40s, according to data from The Centers for Disease Control.
Another surprising find is that prescription drugs kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. The commonly abused drugs include OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, Soma and Fentanyl, which comes in the form of patches and lollipops. People are taking the drugs from medicine cabinets, and they are buying them from drug dealers.
“People feel they are safer with prescription drugs because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a doctor," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Opferman told the paper. "Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn't have the same stigma as using street narcotics."
Traffic accidents have been the number one killer of teens for awhile, but huge investments in auto safety are working. Traffic fatalities have dropped by more than a third since the early 1970s. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that state-run prescription drug-monitoring programs and other attempts to reduce drug use don’t appear to be having a noticeable effect.
The Times also spoke to Amy S.B. Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School who is studying ways to lower the risk of prescription drugs, about the implications of the widespread drug abuse.
"What's really scary is we don't know a lot about how to reduce prescription deaths," she told them.
JJIE has resources about youth and drugs and alcohol.
Starting September 30, alcohol companies in the United States and Europe now have to consider a set of self-regulatory guidelines designed to prevent marketing their products to kids, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) issued these rules for advertising and marketing on all branded digital marketing communications, including social networking sites, websites, blogs, mobile communications and other applications.
Alcohol marketers already use age gates on their brand websites, requiring people to enter their birth date to prevent minors from accessing the sites. And they are restricted to advertising only to media where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is expected to be old enough to buy alcohol legally. Recent data from Nielson shows that more than 80 percent of people using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are older than 21, so marketing on these sites is allowed.
DISCUS and the European Forum for Responsible Drinking, developed these new guidelines as an attempt to keep up with technological advancements. Monitoring the rules, however, is expected to be a challenge.
A DISCUS spokesperson told the paper that the group will investigate companies that are not reported to be in compliance with the guidelines.
Several other new rules exist to protect people’s privacy and personal information, including the following:
- Brand marketing and product promotions must be clearly identified in media-like blogs.
- Instructions must be included encouraging people to only forward promotions to adults who are older than 21 years old.
For more information about alcohol, see JJIE’s resources about youth and drugs and alcohol.
Photo credit: Clay Duda/JJIE.org.
Children of parents with a drinking problem are more likely to drink in stressful situations, according to a recent Swedish study.
This new research by Anna Söderpalm Gordh furthers the already-supported idea that children of alcoholics drink more. It was published in the most recent issue of the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behaviour.
Her process involved dividing 58 healthy people into two groups based on whether their parents had a drinking problem. The groups were randomly assigned to two situations, one of which was more stressful. Then, they were allowed to drink alcohol or a placebo, depending on which situation they completed.
“The results show that people with parents who have a history of alcohol abuse drink more than others when exposed to stress," Söderpalm Gordh said in an article on ScienceDaily.com.
She also said that people who are calmed by alcohol when stressed should try to find other ways of calming themselves down, such as relaxation.
JJIE also has more information and resources about youth and alcohol.
Photo credit: Clay Duda/JJIE.org.