Stories about: ASAP program at Children’s Hospital Boston

Using Cory Monteith’s tragic death as a teaching moment

It’s a sad time for Glee fans. Cory Monteith, 31, one of the show’s stars, was found dead this week in his hotel room from a combination of heroin and alcohol.

From an early age, Monteith had struggled with addiction and wasn’t shy about discussing it. In a 2011 interview, the actor described how he started drinking and smoking marijuana at 13 years old, often skipping school to do so. By the time he quit school at 16, the actor said he was “out of control” and “had a serious problem.”

But for younger Glee viewers who only knew Monteith as Finn Hudson—the clean-cut star athlete turned glee club member—understanding the difference between the lifestyle of the actor and the character he portrayed on TV may be difficult.

“My 14-year-old daughter is a big Glee fan, and she definitely was shocked by this news,” says Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children’s Hospital Adolescent Substance Abuse Program. “It was a topic of conversation in our house all weekend. As a parent, I really wanted to know what she thought about the circumstances around his passing and gauge her understanding of how serious a problem addiction can be.”

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Could better substance abuse screening during doctor visits reduce underage drinking?

In today’s busy medical environment, doctors are asked to do a lot in a short amount of time. The average well visit clocks in at somewhere around 12 minutes these days, which means pediatricians need to screen children for several potential problems in a very finite amount of time.

Because of these time restrictions there simply isn’t enough time to do all the screenings recommended as part of general health care. One area that often gets overlooked is substance abuse among adolescent patients.

Data suggests that many physicians do not routinely broach the topic of alcohol and drug use with their teen patients because there isn’t enough time to bring the subject up, or they don’t always know what to do when a screen suggests a patient may have a problem.

To make the process easier on time starved doctors, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction (NIAAA) and the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) have both released screening and brief intervention guidelines that will help physicians choose valid screening tools and clearly explain when to suggest appropriate interventions for their patients.

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Boston launches anti-underage drinking campaign. Is it enough?

John Knight, MD

On your way to work this morning you many have noticed a billboard or ad on the T, informing parents about the danger—and prevalence— of underage drinking. The signage is part of the “We Don’t Serve Teens” campaign, a national program urging parents and other adults to be more proactive in stopping underage drinking. Boston is the first to launch the campaign citywide, and with good reason; underage drinking is declining nationally but remains a very persistent problem here, particularly among the large number of college students who call the city home for nine months out of the year.

Educating adults about the dangers of underage drinking is no coincidence either. According to a national government survey 69 percent of underage drinkers get their alcohol from older family or friends. Clearly some of the people providing this alcohol, whether they do it knowingly or not, aren’t aware of how serious a problem underage drinking really is.

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