"The Heart of the Matter"

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Transcripts: 493.1 to 493.4

Week: 493.1 Guest: Mike Gimbel Topic: Kids, Alcohol and Holidays (4 parts) Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is a four part series on children, alcohol and the holidays. My guest is Mike Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse in Baltimore, Maryland.

NEMA: Mr. Gimbel, there are certainly reasons to be concerned about young people drinking at any time of year but it seems that there are certain times a year where there are greater risks based on holidays or some other events that are going on. Have you noticed a pattern like this and do you prepare yourself accordingly?

Gimbel: The whole issue of drinking among students and adults is kind of an interesting phenomenon to begin with. With high school students, high school students tend to drink on the weekends. Monday through Friday they work in school and Friday night they have a saying. It's called "It's party time" on Friday night and they tend to want to go out and get rid of their stress and pressures on Friday and Saturday night. So teenagers drink Fridays and Saturdays which interestingly enough is when a lot of other people are out and who are drunk and therefore teenagers are at the highest risk of being involved in alcohol related traffic accidents because they are out on Friday and Saturday nights and therefore alcohol related traffic accidents is still the number one cause of death of kids so weekends are real big for kids. And then you have the times of the year, the times to celebrate and the interesting thing here is that in our society, we've always taught ourselves that in order to celebrate and have a good time, you have to drink. So when you go down the calendar of the year and you look at the holidays in which it's time to celebrate, that's when we see the increased drinking certainly the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years and we are constantly concerned about drinking, drinking and driving around the holidays so at that time of the year, everyone gears up Students Against Driving Drunk, the police, the schools, Mothers Against Drunk Driving everyone gears up to get the message out about holiday drinking and that has worked and I think we've seen many alternative programs because of that. And then with teenagers, you get into the spring time, or we call "prom season" and that's when everyone gets nervous because again, it's time for the high school seniors to celebrate one of the greatest times of their lives, their graduation from school, and how do we celebrate? Well, we drink. So the prom time is one of our biggest programs and it's grown to be one of the biggest youth programs in the country. They're called "Project Prom Nights," "Graduation Programs," and they are an education campaign aimed at the young people right before the prom and then what we do here in Baltimore County is after the prom, parents will host an all night alcohol free party that goes from midnight to 6:00 in the morning so that the young people will have a place to go after the prom when they're more likely to go out and party. So we call it "Amateur's Night Out." These are the times of the year that a kid who may not drink is likely to drink whether it's New Year's, Christmas, or the prom time.

NEMA: Certainly part of the biggest problem with this whole thing has to be parental communication. You must have many perplexed parents knowing how to talk to their kids about reducing their drinking.

Gimbel: We have been very successful in reducing drunk driving accidents among kids.

NEMA: Join me for part two on children and alcohol with Mike Gimbel.

Week: 493.2 Guest: Mike Gimbel Topic: Kids, Alcohol and Holidays Part Two Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is part two in a four part series on children, alcohol and the holidays. My guest is the most knowledgeable person on the subject that I know. He's Mike Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse in Baltimore, Maryland.

Gimbel: We have been very successful in reducing drunk driving accidents among kids because the students themselves through SADD and programs like SADD have realized that "Hey, our friends are dying. We better take care of ourselves and we better take care of each other." And also the parents began to realize that "Hey, our kids are out on the weekends and I'm nervous as a parent. I worry when my child is out and I don't like that feeling so what can I do about it?" And as a result, parents have started to ban together to put together alternative nights, alcohol free parties, alcohol free dances, alcohol free comedy clubs and provide young people an alternative to teach them that you don't have to drink in order to have fun.

NEMA: Is it a myth that part of the problem with kids drinking and their parents confronting them about it is denial on the part of their parents because their parents very frequently drink quite a bit themselves?

Gimbel: Well, when it comes to alcohol, you are now talking about this nation's drug of choice and there are many many parents who drink alcohol. They're not alcoholics. They're not problem drinkers and they don't drink and drive so they don't really think it's a big deal. They think it's almost a "rites of passage" to adulthood to be able to drink and to have a drink and so they look at the fact that "Oh my son or daughter is 16 or 17, that's old enough to learn how to drink." And what we try to tell parents is that it's against the law and it's not healthy for kids to drink before they're 21 years of age so parents have been a very critical part of the problem and now they're becoming a great part of the solution. We need parents. There's no question about it.

NEMA: That brings up another question. How often in your experience are parents who allow children to drink who are under aged at their houses and then allow them to leave or drive, how often have they ever been prosecuted for that?

Gimbel: It's very rare. Usually the only time we find parents who are prosecuted, and it is against the law and you can be fined and you can actually go to jail if you are prosecuted, you can also be sued civilly by another child's parents if they're at your house drinking and they were to get hurt so there are definite consequences but the fact of the matter is that the times that we've seen adults prosecuted for providing alcohol to a minor is usually when there's been some kind of violent problem someone killed, someone hurt, someone seriously injured and then the police get involved but the police are out there trying to stop these parties and trying to educate parents not to serve their kids but it happens a lot and it's hard to prosecute. It's very very hard to prosecute.

NEMA: Are kids drinking younger now?

Gimbel: The average age for drinking, first drinking use is somewhere around 13 years of age so I would say they're starting to experiment with alcohol and cigarettes which are the two first drugs that kids will run into much younger.

NEMA: Join me for part three on children and alcohol with Mike Gimbel.

Week: 493.3 Guest: Mike Gimbel Topic: Kids, Alcohol and Holidays Part Three Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is part three in a four part series on children, alcohol and the holidays. My guest is Mike Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse in Baltimore, Maryland.

NEMA: Certainly we've talked about the physical damage, we talked about the traffic fatalities but how about another component that seems to be related to alcohol very often, physical violence?

Gimbel: Well there's no question. One of the things and this is part of the education to parents they believe that the only problem with drinking is drunk driving and if you have kids at your house drinking, just take their keys and you'll have no problems when in fact, there's a lot of other problems associated with alcohol and violence is one of them. In a recent college study at universities across the country, almost 80% of the date rapes on the college campuses were when one or both of the individuals were under the influence of alcohol and in that study, over 50% of the cases of HIV infection came when one or both of the individuals were under the influence of alcohol so what you're looking at here is alcohol is a drug that affects the brain and affects your ability to be coordinated, it affects your ability to reason and it allows you to do things that you normally wouldn't do and some of that becomes violent. And it is a very dangerous drug. When you talk to police about spouse abuse and child abuse and domestic situations, they'll tell you that 90% of the time the individual was drunk and we've all seen this. So I think in our heart of hearts we know that alcohol leads to violence. It tends to be this sense of well, it's not going to happen to me so I don't need to worry about it but when it does I can tell you, it is devastating.

NEMA: How common an occurrence is it for you to be confronted by a couple of parents or a parent who are standing there in front of you dazzled that this was going on right under their nose and they didn't even know it?

Gimbel: Well, not very much these days. I think most parents today you've got to remember that parents today were the kids of the '70s and they have grown up in a drug culture and they're very aware of what's happening. They may not be aware that it's 1995 and some things have changed that the kids are "using" younger, that when they drink they tend to drink more at one time than before, the drinking and driving, the date rape situations, the violence, these are things that many of the parents today did not experience back in the '60s and the '70s and they haven't realized that drug and alcohol use in the '90s is much more dangerous than it was when many of us were growing up and that's part of it. I'm actually calling it a re-education for these parents because they know about drugs and they know about alcohol. But they don't know what's happening today and what's different about today than in 1970.

NEMA: Sort of a non scientific question for you but I've asked this of other people in different areas of health and I'd be curious to know your thoughts on this. What effect do you believe that advertising, whether it's tobacco or whether it's alcohol advertising, what effect do you believe that has on the young population?

Gimbel: I think the way advertising is geared, it definitely has an impact.

NEMA: Join me for part four on children and alcohol with Mike Gimbel.

Week: 493.4 Guest: Mike Gimbel Topic: Kids, Alcohol and Holidays Part Four Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is part four in a four part series on children, alcohol and the holidays. My guest is Mike Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse in Baltimore, Maryland. I asked Mr. Gimbel to talk about kids and alcohol advertising.

Gimbel: I think the way advertising is geared, it definitely has an impact because young people pay attention, especially to the sexy, well done commercials that really grab you. When you look at commercials, especially for alcohol, it's good looking men, good looking women, the great outdoors, life is better with a Bud, it's Miller time, everything's wonderful. They never show you the drunk who's got a big pot belly. They never show the car wreck from a drunk driver. They never show the wife being beaten by a drunken husband or a child being beaten by a drunken parent. They never show the dysfunction of a family from an alcoholic in the family. They don't show you the other side, the reality of alcohol abuse and they only make it look like it's great fun and that's not reality and that part has me concerned. Whether or not that's why kids smoke or do drugs. I don't think it's the only reason.

NEMA: How successful historically have advertising campaigns that were to combat use of drugs and alcohol and tobacco, how successful have they been?

Gimbel: I think over the last probably 10 years, the commercials done by the Partnership for a Drug Free America have been great. We all remember the one, you know, "This is your brain on drugs." The fried egg. That's as popular as a Marlboro commercial. People have seen that and remember it. And again, if they're done well, the "Just say no" campaign. That was a slogan but again, it was a powerful slogan. So I think there are some things that can be done on the other side that can be responsible and make a difference. The real reality here is that we need to work with the tobacco industry. We need to work with the alcohol industry, not as enemies but as a coordinated front with the same purpose of trying to protect our young people because I don't believe that teenage drunk driving and teenage alcohol abuse is good for the alcohol industry. And many of the people in the industry agree with that.

NEMA: Okay. This is something you and I have covered when we talked quite a while back but I definitely think it bears as a summary for our discussion today. Talk to parents about the early signs and the intermediate signs that maybe they have a child who's into a drinking problem.

Gimbel: A couple things they want to look for the most dramatic for a drinking problem is literally first of all finding alcohol or smelling it on their breath or having their child come home drunk. If that happens, parents have got to take that seriously. Many parents say "Oh he's drunk. He's a man." And that's okay. That's not okay. That's important for parents to look for. When they're drinking, you're looking for real erratic behavior because they're going to be drunk, when they're outside the house and then when they come back, they're going to have a hang over and they're going to have the opposite side of being drunk. They're going to want to sleep. They're going to want to hide out in their room. Kids become very secretive when they're doing alcohol and other drugs. Normally when they would talk to their friends on the phone in front of you, now they're going to hide out. You'll start having other people who you haven't seen your son hang out with, new friends, one's that he won't introduce you to. The drop in grades in school and a kind of apathy.

 

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Last modified: December 02, 2021