Alcohol Research Roundtable at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Dr. Susan Rich, President and Founder of 7th Generation Foundation, Inc. – BSTS’s parent organization, was one of three guest speakers on friday december 5th at a roundtable discussion at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (http://www.pcrm.org/about/about/about-pcrm) in Washington, DC. 
To view the roundtable agenda see PCRM Agenda
PCRM is dedicated to “dramatically changing the way doctors treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. By putting prevention over pills, doctors are empowering their patients to take control of their own health.”  The nonprofit has recently redirected its efforts toward research funding and policy related to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. PCRM has partnered with Dr. Rich to help highlight solutions to prevent the epidemic caused by our social drug of choice: alcohol.
 
More than 40 years of animal and human research since Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was characterized in 1973 by Drs. Ken Jones and David Smith has shown that alcohol is a neurotoxin and teratogen (cause of birth defects).  In 1981, Dr. Kathleen Sulik of the University of North Carolina showed that these problems occur as early as the late 3rd to early 4th week after conception – long before most women know they are pregnant.  It is not enough to focus prevention of FASD/ND-PAE on pregnant women and put a tiny label on alcohol.  Over 50% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned and few Americans understand that this condition happens as early as the first few weeks.
Each year, the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funds $30 million toward FASD research – $17 million devoted to animal research, rather than evaluating effective ways to prevent and treat FASD/ND-PAE in people.  Montgomery County, MD where NIAAA is located earns $30 million in profit from the sales of alcohol – equivalent to the entire national budget of NIAAA FASD research. Yet not one warning sign is posted by the local liquor control board or anywhere else in Maryland to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy or prior to pregnancy recognition (41 other states have adopted such point of purchase signage).
Dr. Rich shared her insights and highlighted the Better Safe than Sorry Project at the roundtable to promote more effective FASD/ND-PAE prevention research.

The Importance of Self-defense in Prevention of Sexual Assault

This summer, before going off to college, the BSTS interns had the opportunity to train with black belt instructors at Kicks Karate in Potomac (http://kickskarate.com). Dr. Rich feels strongly that young women and men need to understand basic self-defense strategies to avoid situations in which they may be harmed. With the epidemic of binge drinking on college campuses, she encourages all of her patients to be trained in self-defense before leaving high school.

In this BSTS session, Black Belt Master Chris and Lead Instructor Master Nick shared insights on how to be safe and make smart decisions when going out socially and taught the interns several key self-defense body moves for getting out of unavoidable danger.

Watch the video on our YouTube channel and learn those key self-defense body moves alongside us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ovbkc1faC-A

The most important things to keep in mind:
  • Watch your body language; predators are looking for an easy target
    • Maintain eye contact
    • Represent confidence in your posture
    • Maintain a safety distance to strangers
  • Make smart choices
    • Stay in groups
    • Park and stay in well-lit areas
    • Use your intuition, be comfortable with where you are and the people you are with
    • Be aware of your surroundings (e.g., don’t run with earbuds, you might not hear someone approach you)
  • DON’T BE A VICTIM!
    • Alcohol and other drugs impairs our mental ability to make safe choices.  Substances influence our judgment, making unsafe people or situations seem okay.
    • Alcohol impairs our physical ability to defend ourselves. Chris admitted: “If I have alcohol in my system, I can’t trust my techniques, although I have over twenty years of experience.”
    • If you drink alcohol to the point that you “black out” à ask yourself: “is this really happening?”
    • Usually we don’t expect anything “bad” happening since we live in an area protected by the law.
    • Don’t wait to second guess an assailant’s motives à Act fast!
    • If you are uneasy or comfortable with something say “NO!” loudly in a very clear voice with a different tone (high or low pitch) and intensity.
  • DON’T BE A BY-STANDER!
    • have the moral courage to stop dangerous things from happening (e.g., obviously drunk young women being taken advantage of; someone who overdoses on alcohol that is unconscious needs medical attention not hazing or pictures taken of him/her)
    • take care of your friends have the courage to stop something wrong (i.e., friends drinking too much or going home with strangers)
    • despite the feeling of “group okay,” have the strength to step out and to intervene (unfortunately people tend to watch and become numb if they witness something wrong happening).
Self-defense is nasty, but it’s to protect you from becoming a victim!

The self-defense stance:

  • one leg is back for stability and balance, you can get in to action mode way faster
  • elbows are bent, your hits become more effective
  • your fingers are spread symbolizing STOP

When someone approaches you:

  • keep him 2 “actions” away from you (i.e., 2 steps or leg lengths)
  • use your voice in different levels (our voice range can vary in between 10 different pitches)

If you have to defend yourself:

  • position your hips behind shoulders
  • target a palm strike under the chin or
  • aim straight in and out in the eyes
  • for the kick strike, lift up your knee first and then kick (that way your kick becomes more powerful)

We hope this video encourages you to take a self-defense class, and most importantly to have the moral courage to stop something wrong from happening to yourself or someone else.

 

We thank Masters Chris and Nick with Kicks Karate for talking to us about the importance of self-defense, for raising our awareness about dangerous situations, and for teaching us some basic strategies.

FASD Awareness Day 2014 “Bring on the Beer and Pass Out the Condoms”

Our Better Safe than Sorry Project effort with Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington in recognition of FASD Awareness Day was a success.  Six volunteers distributed condoms at a booth outside The Barking Dog bar in Bethesda, Maryland on Saturday evening (before the party crowd).  Our aim was to test the idea as a pilot project, to gather reactions from pedestrians and patrons, and to learn more for future campaign events.

Booth

Our display booth with free condoms was visited by a number of pedestrians and bar patrons.

Table with condoms

Informational condom cards made a nice display with the U.S. Surgeon General’s warning cards by the bathroom door.

 Bathroom stalls

We posted posters behind the bathroom stalls where customers could read over the information in privacy.

Top 10 BSTS Lessons Learned about Condom Distribution:

  1.  Female bartenders felt passing a condom with the first drink of the evening would seem like a proposition. Duh! Why didn’t we think of that???

  1.  50 and 60-somethings agreed to share the informational condom pocket cards with their 20 and 30-somethings (who were partying elsewhere) – men seemed more open than women.

  1.  A scientist from the Environmental Protection Agency now knows that prenatal alcohol exposure affects 2-6% of American children – a bigger problem than environmental chemicals!

  1.  Most people thought that the CDC rate of 1 in 8 (13%) underestimated true numbers of college women binge drinking and were shocked that 50% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned.

  2.  When passing a condom to a pedestrian, do so discretely (i.e., whisper, don’t shout – “Use a condom if you drink alcohol!”).

Pass it on –  Contracept if you drink alcohol to prevent FASD!!!!

Free Condoms at the Barking Dog Bar and Grill for FASD Awareness Day

In recognition of FASD Awareness Day, on September 6th, the Better Safe than Sorry Project Team will be at the Barking Dog pub in Bethesda, MD distributing 999 condoms and informational materials about FASD.

The condoms were donated by the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.  For each first drink of the evening purchased, patrons of the bar will receive a condom with a bookmark cover to promote contraception for alcohol consumers.  BSTS project volunteers will provide information and a brief discussion about FASD for those who express interest in learning more.

 front of condom cover  inside of condom cover Back of condom cover

Our project concept was developed by our interns after the idea was suggested during one of our summer talk show segments.  From a primary prevention perspective, It’s a little further “upstream” approach than the pregnancy test kits in bars – another extraordinarily innovative project implemented in Minnesota and Alaska.

STOP our social drug of choice from affecting 2-6% of school aged children with preventable brain damage.  Just like HIV/AIDS & STD prevention, help spread the word to “contracept if you use alcohol!” 

Special thanks to BSTS volunteers Melissa Blair and Nick Muzic, BSTS interns Sydnie Butin, Juliana Pietri, Carlye Hillman, Kaitlyn Gularson, and Nathalie Pollack, and our fabulous BSTS Blog Master, Daniela Mielke for creating and implementing the innovative FASD Awareness Day prevention project. We are also thankful to the Barking Dog bar and grill for letting us promote our project there and to Robert Ridley of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington for donating the condoms.

FASD Prevention = [Preconception Health] OR [Alcohol + Contraception]

BSTS Blog Series: “Protecting unborn babies from alcohol-related harm”

Written by Nathalie P

The author of this series of blog posts has been an intern with the Better Safe than Sorry Project this summer since graduating from high school in Montgomery County, Maryland. She is an incoming freshman at Syracuse University with plans to study journalism and possibly psychology. Over the summer, she has attended a number of the training sessions for the “BSTS Change Agents” and participated in a few BSTS talk show sessions as well as attending an all day workshop by the “Families Affected by FASD.”

My Perspectives about Dr. Rich

As a Better Safe than Sorry intern, I’ve had the chance to get to know Dr. Susan Rich personally and professionally. What I’ve learned about her is that a 21 year passion for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) prevention and treatment has led to her recent decision to leave her successful private practice in child/adolescent and adult psychiatry to focus on diagnosing and treating kids with FASD. In 1993 after reading the Broken Cord, by Michael Dorris, Dr. Rich transformed her career – leaving pharmaceutical research to attend public health school then medical school and psychiatry training. Over the past 8 years, she has run a home-based clinical practice, providing hands-on work with general psychiatric patients as well as those affected by FASD – many of whom are adopted from Russia or former Eastern Bloc countries.

Though our community will miss Dr. Rich providing care to a wide range of psychiatric patients, it is great to see her taking on her passion for FASD full time. In many ways, she will inspire future generations of young adults like me to better understand and prevent this tragic condition.

Read Dr. Rich’s full statement in the CAPSGW newsletter Spring Summer 2014

FASD Prevention = [Preconception Health] OR [Alcohol + Contraception]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports FASD is more prevalent than combined rates of autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and Down’s Syndrome. The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure can cause seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, cleft lip/palate, as well as a various other “neurodevelopmental” disabilities. Due to these ailments, people with FASD are often unable to maintain gainful employment, are influenced by negative peer pressure, and socially alienated.  In other words, FASD is an epidemic, causing social problems, learning issues, intellectual disability, and other preventable disorders.  Many of these problems occur even before you know you are pregnant.

For this reason, the CDC has begun a national campaign on Preconception Health and Health Care in order to educate people on the importance of pregnancy planning and healthy lifestyles during “preconceptional” stages (http://www.cdc.gov/preconception/planning.html ).

The Better Safe than Sorry Project has a simple solution to FASD:

If you use alcohol – avoid pregnancy (CONTRACEPT), and if you are pregnant or possibly might be (i.e., not using contraception and sexually active) – avoid alcohol entirely.

See the following websites for more information:

Zero for Nine: http://www.healthvermont.gov/adap/049/

NOFAS: http://www.nofas.org/

BSTS Talk Show Episode 4: Ideas for Raising Awareness About the Dangers of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure”

Our fourth episode of “Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix!” sheds light on the recent Alaska initiative to prevent FASD by placing pregnancy test dispensers in the women’s bathrooms of bars. This campaign is designed to help women know whether they are pregnant to avoid prenatal exposure from that point on.  While it is a novel approach to FASD prevention, what happens when the woman finds out she’s already pregnant and she had already been drinking?

[For more information on Alaska’s recent campaign, read the article Alaska to offer free pregnancy tests in bars to curb fetal alcohol syndrome on foxnews.http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/06/16/alaska-to-offer-free-pregnancy-tests-in-bars-to-curb-fetal-alcohol-syndrome/?intcmp=obnetwork]

In our show, we discuss the idea of passing out a condom to customers at bars along with their first alcoholic beverage purchased for the night. If a person is drinking alcohol, they will hopefully stop and think about preventing pregnancy when they see the condom and read the large print warning message placed strategically on the wrapper.

Our motto is: “If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, avoid alcohol. If you’re using alcohol, avoid pregnancy.” Use contraceptives!

There are plenty of methods that we discussed such as condoms, the spermicide sponge, birth control pills, implanted contraception, etc.  Sadly, since just after the development of oral contraceptives in the 1970s, the rates of unplanned pregnancy have stayed relatively the same – at about 50% for all socioeconomic groups.

We believe that the FASD epidemic causing brain damage to children before women know they are pregnant is as much a public health crisis as the AIDS epidemic.  Just like with HIV/STD prevention, make conscious decisions when talking about alcohol and sex potentially leading to a pregnancy.

In this episode, we also discuss the man’s role in preventing (or causing) FASD. A man who drinks heavily causes “epigenetic” changes in his sperm. This means that the alcohol causes molecular changes in the DNA of the sperm.  There are also some studies showing low birth weight and prematurity as outcomes of alcoholic fathers even when the mother abstains. Since it takes 3 months for sperm to develop prior to being able to fertilize an egg, men have a responsibility along with women to avoid alcohol when planning pregnancy – both for the safety of their child and out of respect and support for their partner.  We like to point out that alcohol may boost libido, but heavy use can cause “faulty plumbing” and lowers a man’s fertility. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

– This week’s BSTS Ghost Writer:  Sydnie Butin from Salisbury University, Maryland.

Kick Off For The “Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix!” Talk Show

We are delighted to introduce you to the “Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix!” talk show – our newest blog addition. Our talk show is hosted by Dr. Susan Rich, a Child and Adolescent psychiatrist who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Dr. Rich moderates a young adult “coffee table” discussion about alcohol use and problems caused by alcohol exposure in the womb.
Watch our first episode on our BSTS YouTube channel : http://youtu.be/ymF_JV5Q9Uk
Each week we invite different guests to discuss recent postings on our blogwww.bettersafethansorryproject.wordpress.com. Our first session focuses on the high prevalence rates of drinking on college campuses and the potential for FASD in babies exposed inadvertently during unprotected sex.
Dr. Rich is joined by her team of “change agents”:
Daniele Mielke, a 25 year old graduate of a social work degree from Germany, currently looking to attend George Washington University’s graduate program in forensic psychology.
Sarah Roberts, a 23 year old recent graduate of UMBC’s department of psychology, also with an interest in attending graduate school in psychology.
Juliana Pietri, a 20 year old rising junior at Loyola University in New Orleans studying criminal justice, with an interest in forensic psychology.
Sydnie Butin, a 20 year old rising junior at Salisbury University studying psychology with an interest in graduate school as well.
Carlye Hillman, an 18 year old rising freshman at High Point University with an interest in psychology and pre-med.
Remember – if you are sexually active and using alcohol – contracept (i.e., avoid pregnancy!).  If you are pregnant, could be, or planning to be – avoid alcohol