If you’ve spent a bunch of years opening a bottle of wine to deal with stress and overwhelm, to celebrate or reward yourself for making it to the end of the week, it may feel awkward or hypocritical to talk with your kids about the risks of addiction to alcohol.

But in a culture obsessed with booze, being able to help your kids understand the impact that alcohol and drugs can have on their lives and how to identify risks and behaviors that can lead to substance abuse and dependence is important (arguably even more important than all the hours we spend helping them with algebra homework and cheering them on at soccer games 😉).

🎙️ I asked Jessica Lahey, author of The Addiction Inoculation, Raising Healthy Kids In A Culture Of Dependence to share what parents can do to help kids recognize their risk for alcohol addiction, spot signs of early abuse and navigate our boozy world without falling into the trap of substance use and dependence.

It’s information I wish I had known when I started drinking and in looking at the risk factors for dependence it also gave me a new level of understanding of why alcohol was such a compelling drug in my life and compassion for myself for falling into the drinking cycle.

In this episode, Jessica and I dive into:

The factors that bump up kids’ risks of substance use, abuse and dependence

✅ The role genetics, social and family environment and mental health has in impacting a child’s lifelong risk of developing substance use disorder
Myths we believe about how to “help kids have a healthy relationship with alcohol” that are increasing the risk our kids have for alcohol use disorder
✅ The HUGE impact of age of first use of alcohol or drugs

Lahey shares “If a kid has their first beer in eighth grade, they’re going to have somewhere a little below a 50% chance of developing a substance use disorder over their lifetime. If they have alcohol in 10th grade, it’s halved. If they can make it till 18, we can get the risk down to what it is in the general population, somewhere around 10%.”

✅ Research that shows that parents who have a permissive stance on alcohol have kids with much higher rates of substance use disorder over their lifetime
✅ Why substance use in adolescents is a completely different thing than substance use in adulthood because of kids’ developing brains

Ready to learn more? Let’s start with the basics.

Here’s what bumps up the risk of substance use and addiction for our kids:

➡️ Genetics: If addiction runs in the family, our kids might be more likely to inherit that risk. It’s like a heads-up to keep a closer watch.

➡️ Starting Young: The earlier a kid tries alcohol, the trickier things can get down the line. Early exposure can increase the likelihood of developing an addictive behavior later in life.

➡️ Mental Health: Kids who struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues are at a greater risk for substance abuse as they may use alcohol to self-medicate. Supporting their mental health can steer them away from using substances as a crutch.

➡️ Social Environment: Peer pressure is real, and so is the environment. If drinking is the norm where our kids grow up, they might just follow the crowd.

➡️ Family Environment: What we say and do about alcohol at home sets the tone. Being clear and open about our expectations can help keep them on track.

➡️ Stress & Coping Skills: If our kids don’t have good ways to deal with stress, they might turn to alcohol. Teaching them healthy coping techniques is key.

➡️ Lack of Engagement: Kids who are not engaged in school or extracurricular activities may have more opportunities to experiment with alcohol. Whether it’s sports, music, or clubs, keeping them involved can keep them out of harm’s way.

➡️ Media messages and marketing: All those shows and ads making drinking look cool and consequence-free? They definitely have an impact. Talking about the reality behind the glam can help keep things real.

One of the first things you can do to mitigate your kids’ risk of dependence is to modify your own drinking habits. 

As Lahey writes, “Children’s perception of alcohol norms, such as drinking habits and frequency of use, come from observing their parents, and this education begins at a very early age…Modeling a healthy relationship with drugs and alcohol, whether it looks like abstinence or moderation, may just be one of the most important lessons we teach our children.”

As someone who was a daily drinker and spent years immersed in the wine mom culture, I know that taking a look at your own drinking habits and the messages you are sending to your kids is hard. 

But the good news is that as you embark on this sober curious journey, you’re learning about alcohol’s impact on your brain and body and you can share that information with your kids.

That kind of open conversation is exactly what Jessica Lahey suggests is the most helpful thing you can do to shield your kids from the risk of substance abuse.

Here’s what you can do to minimize the risk of alcohol addiction for your kids:

🩷 Lead by Example: Take a moment to think about what your own habits and attitudes towards alcohol and drugs might be showing your kids. Remember, kids are like little sponges; they absorb more of what they see us do than what we tell them to do. So, try to be a role model when it comes to healthy behaviors. And demonstrate healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress and emotions.

🩷 Educate About Risks & Keep the Conversation Going: Start chatting with your kids about drugs and alcohol early on, framing it around health and safety. Provide age-appropriate education about the risks and consequences of substance abuse.The key is to keep these conversations going as they grow. Make it clear that they can always come to you with questions or worries, no matter what.

🩷 Talk, Don’t Preach: Kids tune out when they feel like they’re being lectured. Instead, try to have a real conversation. Tap into what they’re into—whether it’s sports, music, or something else—and use that as a gateway to talk about bigger issues. Showing genuine interest in their passions shows that you value what’s important to them.

🩷 Teach coping skills Equip your kids with healthy coping mechanisms to navigate stress, peer pressure, and difficult emotions.

🩷 Practice Saying No: A neat way to prepare your kids to resist peer pressure is to practice with them. Help them come up with and rehearse their own ways to say, “No, thanks, I’m good,” when offered drugs or alcohol. Giving them the tools to defend their choices can really empower them.

🩷 Set Clear Expectations: Establish clear and consistent rules surrounding substance use, communicating family values and boundaries from an early age. The later you can delay the age of use of any substance the lower your child’s risk of developing substance use disorder or addiction will be.

🩷 Monitor and Supervise: Stay actively involved in children’s lives, monitoring activities, friendships, and online behavior.

🩷 Seek Professional Help if Needed: Be proactive in seeking professional support if concerns arise about children’s behavior or substance use.

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Connect with Jessica Lahey

Jessica Lahey is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed and The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. Jess was awarded the Research Society on Alcohol’s Media Award for “outstanding journalistic efforts of writers who cover empirical research on alcohol” for her book The Addiction Inoculation and advocacy for the recovery community. 

In this supportive, life-saving resource, the New York Times bestselling author of The Gift of Failure helps parents and educators understand the roots of substance abuse and identify who is most at risk for addiction, and offers practical steps for prevention.

The guidelines are age-appropriate and actionable—from navigating a child’s risk for addiction, to interpreting signs of early abuse, to advice for broaching difficult conversations with children. 

Over twenty years, Jess has taught every grade from sixth to twelfth in both public and private schools, and spent five years teaching in a drug and alcohol rehab for adolescents in Vermont. 

She has written about education, parenting, and child welfare for The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and her biweekly column “The Parent Teacher Conference” ran for three years at the New York Times. 

She designed and wrote the educational curriculum for Amazon Kids’ award-winning animated series The Stinky and Dirty Show, and was a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee. Jess holds the dubious honor of having written an article that was later adapted as a writing prompt for the 2018 SAT. 

She co-hosts the #AmWriting podcast from her empty nest in Vermont.

Follow Jessica on Instagram @teacherlahey

Follow Jessica on Facebook at @jplahey

Learn more about Jessica and purchase her books at www.jessicalahey.com

Connect with Casey McGuire Davidson

To find out more about Casey and her coaching programs, head over to www.hellosomedaycoaching.com

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Are you looking for the best sobriety podcast for women? The Hello Someday Podcast was created specifically for sober curious women and gray area drinkers ready to stop drinking, drink less and change their relationship with alcohol.

Host Casey McGuire Davidson, a certified life and sobriety coach and creator of The 30-Day Guide to Quitting Drinking and The Sobriety Starter Kit Sober Coaching Course, brings together her experience of quitting drinking while navigating work and motherhood, along with the voices of experts in personal development, self-care, addiction and recovery and self-improvement. 

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In each episode, Casey will share the tried and true secrets of how to drink less and live more.

Learn how to let go of alcohol as a coping mechanism, how to shift your mindset about sobriety and change your drinking habits, how to create healthy routines to cope with anxiety, people pleasing and perfectionism, the importance of self-care in early sobriety, and why you don’t need to be an alcoholic to live an alcohol-free life. 

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Addiction Inoculation: How to minimize your kids’ risk of substance abuse and dependence With Jessica Lahey



kids, drinking, talk, alcohol, risk, substance, brain, people, substance use disorder, substance use prevention, genetics, fentanyl, women, conversation, drugs, feel, parents, prevention, learn, guilt, shame, epigenetics, personality, trauma, childhood traumas, early intervention, divorce, separation, gift to failure, people-pleasers, perfectionists, high-achieving women, anxiety disorder, sober curious movement, nonalcoholic, education, recovery, blackout, modeling, sober, Narcan, harm reduction, harm reduction kits, save someone else’s life


SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson + Jessica Lahey


Welcome to the Hello Someday Podcast, the podcast for busy women who are ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids, my stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.

In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.

Each week, I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a buzz, how to sit with your emotions when you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.

I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.


Hi. Today, I’m excited because my guest is Jessica Lahey.

You might know her because she’s the author of The Addiction, Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids In A Culture Of Dependence.


She quit drinking a little over 10 years ago, and has written a number of books on parenting, that are New York Times bestsellers, she wrote the Gift of FailureHow The Best Parents Learn To Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.


And The Addiction, Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids In A Culture Of Dependence.


She was awarded the Research Society on Alcohol Media Award for Outstanding Journalistic Efforts of Writers who cover empirical research on alcohol for her book, the addiction, inoculation, and advocacy for the recovery community. And we’ll just dive into it.


But Jessica, thank you so much for taking the time to join me.


Jessica Lahey  02:18

Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m so glad that we’re able to talk about this. I mean, this whole topic, like anytime I talk about this, whether it’s in these daily videos I make or whatever I say, you know, we have to sort of leave guilt and shame at the door, because there’s just no place for it in this conversation. There’s a lot of work to be done. And the guilt and shame tends to get in our way. So, I’m just so happy that we’re normalizing this conversation.


Casey McGuire Davidson  02:46

Yeah, absolutely.

And I think especially when you said, raising healthy kids in a culture of dependence. So many of us have been raised with the idea that alcohol is normal. It’s required for celebrations.


I know I was a bottle of wine a night drinker for, you know, a long, long time I quit when my kids were 8 and 2. But a lot of the women listening to this podcast, have older kids in high school or empty nesters. And there’s interest both in what do we model for our kids? If we have been drinking heavily and we want to stop? What do we need to talk to them about if what we’ve been doing doesn’t match up with what we know? And also, why did we become dependent on it? To begin with, right? There are a lot of interesting factors in your book.


Jessica Lahey  03:37

Yeah, so I have this incredibly cool job. So, I was a teacher for like, 20 years. And the fun thing about being a teacher is you have to constantly keep learning, right. And then I became a journalist on education and parenting. And my job was essentially to get curious about things that I was experiencing, either of classroom or at home, and then research the heck out of it, and then write about it. And then, I was given this opportunity with both of these books to do what I really love to do, which is to like, hide out in my office for like 2 years and research everything about a topic and answer the questions that I have about that topic. And for me, this was really personal.


Not only that. I got sober in 2013. And my kids were 9 and 14 at the time, you know, just getting to the age where they were going to start noticing stuff if they hadn’t already.


I also come from a long line of people with substance use disorder. And my husband side of family has it as well. So, that’s in the genetics there. But again, my question was, you know, is that a thing dude, like, what role does genetics play?


I had all these questions. I had some like, guesses about things I thought might work because I’d heard other parents talk about it. Like maybe if my kids sit at home that they can become moderate drinkers or, you know the if to model this moderate drink Before them all that stuff, I wasn’t sure if that was true or false. And I was teaching, by the way in a drug and alcohol rehab for adolescents.


And so, my big question as an educator was, how these kids get here? Is there anything on the education side that we could have done differently, to at least reduce the risk of they ending up there? And so, you know, I got to come in from you know, this, hopefully as objective as possible and sort of read all of the research and see what matters and what doesn’t matter. And, you know, the answer is genetics do matter. It’s about 50, to 60%, of the risk picture.


So, for me, I was born with an increased risk of substance use disorder, and so was my sister, but my sister doesn’t have substance use disorder, and I do my children. Now, 20 and 25, are at increased risk genetically for substance use disorder. What that means specifically, is still being researched. Because it’s not like, there’s not like an addiction gene that you could like, delete, and then say, Oh, good, it’s fixed. It’s never. It’s not about that. Because, you know, there’s a lot of research happening around genetics and personality and brain chemistry, and your body cameras, and all that sort of stuff. So, for me anyway, you know, selfishly, for me, this book allowed me to sort of look at the risk that my children face, not just genetically, and the objective about that risk, so that I could, you know, if you envision Risk and Prevention, or risk, and sort of these protective factors is like a scale of Justice, the heavier my kids risk picture is, the more I’m going to have to layer on the protective factors. And being objective about that risk is really important. So, we can be more precise with the protection.


So, you know, it sort of starts with genetics, and goes all the way through to environmental factors, and education and all these other things that we have to consider when it comes to risk.


Casey McGuire Davidson  06:49

I was really interested in that as well, because I’m the only one in my family that has really struggled with substances at all, my sister doesn’t, you know. There was always a bottle of wine on the dinner table. My parents always hosted dinner parties, but you know, they both are very “Take it or leave it” and I was the word with like, “Never enough” switch. And so, it’s interesting to me as well, you know, the 40 to 50% that are environmental factors, or you talk about anxiety, and I definitely dealt with anxiety as an underlying reason, alcohol work for me. But now, I know there is with my kids, that genetic component, you know what I mean? So, it’s interesting. Well, you tell us a little bit about the way those components factor in your research side.


Jessica Lahey  07:44

Yeah, so that 50-60% risk picture for genetics that I mentioned, comes from Dr.

Marc Schuckit, of University of California, UCSD, San Diego, and he, you know, that’s sort of our best, you know, our best sort of all the best research sort of points at that wide range there. And then, in there, there’s also this stuff called, epigenetics, which is sort of a combination of genetics and an environment because it has to do with how the environment, various aspects of the environment affect whether or not genes express or don’t express and how they turn on and they turn off, that kind of thing. And that’s a really cool topic. And I gloss it over in the book, because it’s also really complicated.


And then, there’s, as I mentioned before, personality. There’s a fantastic book of Danielle M. Dick, called, The Child Code. She’s a Geneticist, and she talks about the impact that genetics have on personality as well. And we know, you know, if I were to look at the kids in my in-patient Recovery classroom, you know, there are lots of kids there with, you know, ADHD. There are kids in there who have had academic problems, who have undiagnosed learning issues. And we know that those all can contribute as well. But you can’t really talk about substance use prevention and who’s at risk, who’s at less risk, more risk, all that without being pretty comfortable with gray areas, because all these lines are so gray. Right? So, then, on top of, so we have genetics with epigenetics.


And then, we have trauma. Like, big T trauma. Adverse childhood experiences that can affect everything from our risk for heart attack and stroke and all kinds of other mental health issues, physical and mental health issues. And then, we have things like academic failure, social ostracism, aggression between children. If your child is aggressive towards other children, then that is a risk factor for substance use disorder, things like that undiagnosed learning issues. But if you look at those risk factors, they also get all tangled up, right? Because a kid who’s aggressive towards other kids is more likely to be socially ostracized, and social ostracism can lead to academic failure and undiagnosed learning issues can lead to academic failure, which can lead to aggressive behavior. So, the early intervention again, over, and over and over again, it’s early intervention.


Early intervention, because we can get at what the root causes are earlier. There’s really great ways to manage those. So, the thing I want to mention really quickly for your audience in particular, especially since there are a lot of people out there who might hear some of this and freak out, especially and I have to add here, given that one of the adverse childhood experiences, there’s obvious ones like physical and sexual abuse and neglect, and an incarcerated parent and violence in the neighborhood, or in the home, substance use disorder in the neighborhood, in the home, or all these sorts of things.


Divorce and separation is on that list. And it’s at this point that a lot of parents will just freak out and email me about how not all divorces are created equal. And sometimes, that’s absolutely true. But we have to look objectively at the risk factors in order to help our kids to the best of our ability, right? And that’s sometimes the hard part. Which sidenote is, the reason why the talk that I give in schools, which I call, it’s really gift to failure. But I bring in this big Trojan horse of substance use prevention and sort of deploy it in the middle of my talk where they dovetail. Because a lot of times when I do this talk, which I call in my own head, the substance use prevention talk for people who don’t want to talk about substance use prevention, I give everyone my email. And inevitably, I get all these emails back saying, Yeah, I wouldn’t have gone to a talk on substance use prevention, it was too scary for me. I’ve got my own issues I haven’t dealt with. I just wasn’t ready to face that yet. And yet, I still appreciate the information. And I’m glad I heard what I heard.


So, you know, in order for us to do this, right, we have a lot of stuff to get over. And yeah, substance use prevention, talk about kids would have been really scary for me when I was still inactive substance use disorder, that would have been really scary for me.


Casey McGuire Davidson  11:48

So, yeah, I mean, it’s scary overall. And you know, what’s amazing is, so many of us, and all the stats are out there, about, sort of, substance use, particularly in women, particularly in parents, particularly during COVID, binge drinking, skyrocketing all the reasons. And if you are in it, you desperately don’t want to talk about it or look at it.


Jessica Lahey  12:15

I mean, I know I didn’t. I didn’t want. I was a teacher, I thought I was going to get fired. Like, it was awful. Yeah.


Casey McGuire Davidson  12:19

I mean, I didn’t want my husband to notice quite how much I was drinking every night or pay any attention. Right. And so, I certainly wasn’t going to voice any information about rings that I might be doing, that might be an issue.


The other thing, and I mentioned this to you before I jumped on, that was really interesting to me, is some of us who say, Okay, I don’t have anything in my family. You know, and I’m talking for myself, What is wrong with me? Why don’t I have an off switch? What’s going on? Because hey, my sister didn’t have that is you also talk about all the risk factors that might give ourselves like more compassion for what we’re going through, you know, you talk about mental health for high functioning people. So, the people-pleasers, the perfectionist who might suffer in silence, and I know a lot of women who listened to this are high-achieving, and also that awesome combination of high-achieving and people-pleasing. Talk about anxiety disorder, right? More likely, in women. More likely to use alcohol to self-medicate. And that the progression in women from alcohol youth to dependence happens faster. Can you say that?


Jessica Lahey  13:41

You know, my anxiety disorder really kicked into high gear. I mean, I’ve always had it I was very anxious kids stomach aches all the time, that kind of stuff. One of the kids I profile, she’s not a kid anymore. But one of the people I profiled in the book, Georgia. She was one of my students. And she was a daily drinker by the time I met her at 15. And her she had such bad stomach aches due to her anxiety when she was young, but no one thought oh, there might be a brain stomach connection here and nervous system stomach connection here. And so, she just, you know, kept, had to just manage the best she could and for her, that was alcohol.


For me, you know, I was very fortunate in that I have been well managed with medication but it’s, you know, social anxiety, impostor syndrome, all those things, definitely led me to really love those, you know, those pre-gaming drinks before you go to a dinner party, where you might have that social anxiety going on. And you know, the magic for me has been, since I stopped drinking, I’ve had to just deal with my imposter syndrome and my social anxiety. But you’re absolutely right. Women who drink and have alcohol are more likely than not actually to have to have some whether or not they rise to the level of have clinical substance use disorder or just some issues with, you know, and that’s again, huge gray area in between the two.


But the nice thing about the sober curious movement, this is what I love so much is that so many people have said, Okay, well maybe I don’t have to actually qualify on one of those quizzes as an alcoholic. Maybe, just maybe, I can stop drinking, because it’s making me sick, it’s making me tired, it’s making me unhappy, it’s putting stress on my marriage, it’s messing with my job. Maybe I don’t have to rise to the level of some clinical standard, let’s take a look at what’s working for me and what’s not, and why there’s so much more shame around that, then, you know, my sleeping habits are really bad. And I may need to change those for a while or, you know, I don’t even eat enough green leafy vegetables. So, I’m going to give that a shot and see how it makes me feel. That’s what I love about the sober curious movement.


It gives us that out to say, I’m just trying this to see if it makes me feel better. And you know, a lot of people do Dry January and find that, Wow, I feel a lot better than I felt in December.


Casey McGuire Davidson  16:08

I mean, I love that, too. And in fact, what’s interesting, I was always, you know, surrounding myself with a big drinking crowd. That’s just I played rugby in college, which is like, a crash course on enhancing drinking.


Jessica Lahey  16:22

I dated one of those people. I dated a rugby player. And yes, there is some serious drinking that happens.


Casey McGuire Davidson  16:29

There’s some  serious, problematic jerky like, Let us teach you and enough, you know, immerse you in how to drink in a really desperately unhealthy way.


Jessica Lahey  16:39

Well, and actually, while we’re, while we’re on it, just really quickly, it’s the four biggest sports for risk of involvement with alcohol and developing substance use disorder are hockey, wrestling, football, and hockey, wrestling, football, and lacrosse, for very high contact sports. And rugby is in there too. But you know, there’s a question of whether it’s the all that hitting your head, and getting, because that can mess with your impulse control and stuff like that. But I think it’s really interesting that there are just some sports, that not only if you play those sports is your risk of substance use disorder higher. If you are a fan of some of those sports, your risk for developing substance use disorder is higher football being the biggie.


That’s right. And that’s about culture and marketing and things like that. Sorry, I interrupted your story about writing. Love that.


Casey McGuire Davidson  17:32

I mean, I think that’s really interesting. And I also think it’s funny when we talk about our kids, and addiction inoculation, I would really discourage my son or daughter from playing rugby, just because of the traditions and the culture, not only around alcohol, but in around sort of, when I look back at some of those songs, I mean, that is date rape culture, one on one. But that said, it’s, it’s really interesting how that progresses over time and what you think is normal. But now I’m 48. A lot of my friends husbands have stopped drinking almost completely, like we got together last Christmas, I would say, three husbands out of my group of 12 women husband’s almost don’t drink at all anymore. And they’re talking about the sleep and how incredible it is. And I’m just like, this is cool that we’re at a, you know, dinner party where there’s wine everywhere, and I have my nonalcoholic drinks, and they’re all freaking asking for them. And never as far as I know how to major quote unquote, issue.


Jessica Lahey  18:41

Yeah, there’s also a huge it’s been an explosion in the nonalcoholic cocktail market in the nonalcoholic beer market. It’s been really fun to watch. The what’s also it’s notable also that there is there’s all these camps in the you know, substance use disorder, substance use prevention thing.


There’s like the trauma camp. The Gabor Ma Tei trauma camp, you know, totally agree with parts of that argument.


Then there’s the brain disease camp over here. Totally agree with parts of that argument.


There’s also a camp that refers to, you know, the talks about substance use disorder as being a developmental disease.


And I just got back from a conference in Baltimore, just I was there just last week, and over and over and over again, people pediatricians, people, experts in prevention kept talking about substance use disorder as a pediatric disease because it is 100% of pediatric disease in the sense that if you look at the curve of problematic drinking, it really hits its zenith at late adolescence and emerging adulthood and begins you know, younger than that, obviously, with pediatricians having to look at sort of the whole family environment and all that sort of stuff and risk factors there. But as you get older, it is absolutely normal for you to see a falloff in problematic drinking simply because, and there aren’t a lot of people that start drinking late in life and develop a problem. I happen to be one of them. But that’s not the average story you hear. It does tend to be something that you see more often in young adulthood.


Casey McGuire Davidson  20:18

Yeah. And one of the strategies, I want you to get into the strategies absolutely, that you have in your book, one thing I noticed is, you know, reading, um, Gen X, reading this strategies to help your children, almost none of those were present. When I was growing up in my family in terms of open communication and healthy coping strategies and discussions of the risk and, and all that kind of stuff. It just wasn’t a thing. And when I think back to my mom’s generation, it’s absolutely you know, they were New England Wallace. Right. Right. Well, I mean, talk about anything, right?


Jessica Lahey  20:59

Well, and part of that is, it’s analogous to the smoking thing, right? So, advertisements for smoking used to there used to be doctors in there saying, if you’re, you know, smoke cigarettes, it’ll lower your, you know, your nervousness, that kind of thing. And then, you know, and then we started to understand just what smoking does to the body. And if you think about it this way, also, it’s only been in the last generation that we’ve been able to look inside the human brain and see what’s happening, either with learning or with substance use, and to see what’s happening and what is really going on inside the brain.


We didn’t realize that alcohol is the carcinogen that it is, we didn’t realize that it does permanent damage to the brain, more so in, and we can talk about this that you know, drinking, when you’re young, when you’re before your brain is fully developed is much more dangerous than after your brain is fully developed that plasticity of adolescence into the early to mid 20s is a really, really delicate plastic. Meaning, if the brain is susceptible to all kinds of outside influences, and it can short term change the brain long-term changed the brain, rewire the brain, make certain structures in the brain smaller, create thinning and other structures.


So, when we talk about this stuff, we have to come at it from a place of understanding what it’s doing so that we can communicate to our kids in a way that’s based on actual facts and real evidence, not just that it’s different when in adolescents and young adulthood in terms of a brain, the brain perspective, and damage perspective, but also help them see who’s you know, when they say when they hear everybody’s doing it, it’s just not true. It is just not true.


If someone offers your kid a beer in eighth grade, and they say it’s no big deal. Everybody’s doing it. And your kid knows that it’s only about 25% of eighth graders who admit they’ve had more than a sip of alcohol by the end of eighth grade. Your kid doesn’t have to be a big dork and say, Oh, that’s not true. It’s only 24.7% of eighth graders. But in their head, they go, hold on. That’s not true. And it gives them that sense of self efficacy, that sense of competence to be able to turn it down if they want to turn it down. And that’s essentially where the term inoculation comes in the title.


There’s a school of sociology, a field of research called, inoculation theory. And that’s where that comes from.



Casey McGuire Davidson 

Hi there. If you’re listening to this episode, and have been trying to take a break from drinking, but keep starting and stopping and starting again, I want to invite you to take a look at my on demand coaching course, The Sobriety Starter Kit.


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Casey McGuire Davidson  23:26

That’s very cool. I was actually almost a sociology major I combined. And so, I love this stuff. So, tell us about I know, I’m going to encourage everyone to read the book. There’s so much in there, but can you give us some of those strategies that you recommend we think about, do talk about?


Jessica Lahey  23:44

Yeah, so I think I’ll start with a myth I mentioned earlier. The one about, you know, I aspire to have my kids be like those European kids. And those European kids can moderate, and they don’t go crazy when you know, suddenly alcohol is available when they’re 18. Because the drinking age in those countries tends to be 18. And that’s an absolute myth for a couple of reasons. You know, the European Union as a whole has the highest rate of alcohol consumption in the entire world. And they also have the highest rate of illness attributable to alcohol consumption and death, attributable to alcohol consumption. And here again, is where I’m going to get a lot of emails because I always do saying, Oh, but what about this country? What about this country? When I did a daily video about this busting this particular myth. I had to do 6 follow-up on like, endeavor, individual countries. And what’s so fascinating is that the countries that are the exceptions to this rule, like for example, one country, like Italy has the highest rate of daily drinking, but one of the lowest rates of, you know, really, really high levels of drinking. There are other countries where it’s just not culturally acceptable to be really excessively drunk, especially out in public and in those countries, the rates of Alcohol consumption are lower, which really just proves the fact that we can create cultures around alcohol. If we want to, we just, you know, it depends on the information that we’re sort of passing down. So, there’s that.


And also, if your goal is to teach moderation to a kid, you know, I can’t learn moderation, I just can’t. Like, you can teach me to treat you. Can model moderation for me all day long. And it’s not going to affect my ability to moderate or not moderate. So, that’s an issue.


Also, for there’s those other the other big myth is they’re going to do it anyway. Might as well do it in the basement at my house. I’ll take everyone’s keys, they’ll all be safe. So, the problem there is that that’s an example of permissiveness around alcohol. And parents who have a permissive stance on alcohol have kids with much higher rates of substance use disorder over their lifetime. You’re also if other kids are involved, you’re raising their levels of their risk for developing substance use disorder, and C, it’s illegal. And D, you know, the problem is, is that you got to think a little bit about what your end game is. Because if your end game is to lower your kids lifelong risk of developing substance use disorder, then the clearest information we have the clearest research we have is the later your kid has their first drink of alcohol or drug. The lower their lifelong risk of developing substance use disorder.


So, a kid in eighth grade has their first drink in eighth grade, they have a 50%, while almost 50% lifelong risk of developing substance use disorder, if they wait two more years. Yeah, so if they wait, and this again, statistics, yeah, there are there are confounders here, you know, a kid who has more alcohol access might live in a family with more alcohol use disorder. Therefore, they’re, you know, there’s all of this but okay, eighth grade, nearly 50% 10%, or sorry, 10th grade. So, eighth grade nearly 50%. If we wait two years till 10th grade, it goes down by over half, to around 21%. And then if you wait just another two years till they get to 18, we can get down around 11%. It falls again by half. So, the later and a good way.


Casey McGuire Davidson  27:22

I’ve a Vaisey because I waited pretty much till college. I think I drank twice in high school both times. Fully blacked out. Yeah. Yeah. Great.


Jessica Lahey  27:32

Yeah, our stories are fairly similar. And actually, you know, since this book came out, I’ve met so many people who have a similar story. You know, I was scared of alcohol, mainly because I had a parent and with alcohol use disorder, and it was traumatic and horrible, and we weren’t allowed to talk about it. And it was, it was a nightmare. And I just didn’t ever want to be that. And I escaped it for a good long time. And then I hit my 40s and late 30s, or really early 40s. And it just happened anyway. You know. And that’s, that’s us a valid form of this story. That’s a valid story, too. It comes in lots of different flavors.


So anyway, the older kid is when they first start using the lower their lifelong risk of developing substance use disorder. And the more time their brain has had to develop unimpeded, you know, there are certain things we know, for example, a kid who uses cannabis on a chronic basis, which no pun intended is, you know, which is two times a week or more has a small these kids tend to have smaller hippocampus is which is the area of the brain that handles memory formation, short term memory, retention and processing, they can have thinning and other areas of the brain that are responsible for like the adulting stuff, the executive function adulting stuff. So, as much as we’re desperate for our kids to develop those sort of grown up skills of like, organization, time management, resource management, all stopping things, starting things, transitioning, all those things are, that’s all frontal lobe. You know, prefrontal cortex type stuff. And we’d messes with that, too.


So, you know, there’s all of these reasons that we want to keep the kids brain in an environment where it can just do what it’s supposed to do without glomming up receptors with stuff that it’s not supposed to be glommed up with.


And then, also, the longer they wait, the lower the risk. It’s one thing for us to know that, but it’s really important that we’re explaining that to our kids. That our kids know, only 25% of kids in eighth grade have, how to drink by the end of eighth grade.


Here are lots of ways that I can say no, including throwing mom under the bus by saying she drug tests or she breathalyzers? I don’t care if I’m the uncool parent, that’s fine with me. There’s lots and in the book, you know, I got adolescents to give me lots of they gave me like two and a half pages of reason. Is that ways that they could say no. And of course, no is a complete sentence, you don’t need anything other than that, but ways that they could say no and save face. And they come up with all these brilliant ideas for ways that they can if they were at a party, and they didn’t want to use that they could say face. So, you know, all of our best research shows that the more real evidence based information that our kids get, the better they’re able to make decisions that make sense for them, that they’re more likely to make healthy decisions.


And not only that, they’re more likely to know that they could say no if they want to in various forms but knowing that information and having more self-efficacy around that information, makes them renders them more likely to not just know how to say no, thank you, but to be able to refuse if they want to. And then and that’s kind of amazing to me.


Casey McGuire Davidson  30:56

Yeah, that’s really amazing. I talked to my daughter about it all the time, mostly because I drive around constantly, and we have to approve my podcast. So, it comes up a lot. But my son is older, and we don’t talk about that as much other than hip jokey that they would never have a party here, because his mom’s a Sober Coach, the principal at his school.


Jessica Lahey  31:23

So yeah, my kids have like come to our house, my kids have had a similar experience. My daughter when she was in like 9th grade, came home and said that her human Biology teacher asked, you know, just did an informal poll, like, Do your parents ever talk to you about substance use and stuff? And she just laughed, and she was like, Why doesn’t she talk about it? But the point for my kids like, I don’t have time to not talk about it, right? Because my kids are at higher risk.


My, you know, I also have an LGBTQ kid. And that raises their risk. There are other things that happened in our family that put them at higher risk as well. And I talked about that in the book, which, you know, there’s nothing more fun than revealing all of your skeletons to the world. But whatever it is, we have to do in order for, you know, other people to feel like they’re able to do it.


So now, for example, as I said, my kids are 20 and 25, like my oldest kid, can walk into a weed store and buy weed. Can buy alcohol whenever he wants, could do whatever, it’s his life. He doesn’t live with me. He’s not financially dependent on me. And yet, we constantly have conversations about, here’s what it looks and feels like. When casual use turns to something different. When it starts doing, we start to really look forward to Thursday or partying on the weekend starts to sneak into the week, or you call in sick that one time because you’re a little hungover, or, you know, just when it’s starting to impact your life. What it feels like, because I can’t point to the exact moment when it turned from Oh, you know, having a glass of wine with dinner to something different. But one of the wonderful things about substance use prevention, and the way I talk about it in the book is that it’s like a 100 piece puzzle, right. And that final piece in my puzzle that got me into recovery was me blackout drunk. At my mom’s birthday party, my dad coming upstairs the next morning, I was feeling awful. And he said, You know, I know what an alcoholic looks like, and you’re an alcoholic, and you need help. And I was ready. And that was my moment. I was ready. But piece 100 couldn’t have fallen into place until I, unless I, had peace 2 and peace 26 And peace 34. And all of those pieces are things really wanting to call in to school late because having to get kids out of the car at pickup at you know, 8 o’clock at 7 o’clock in the morning in the middle of winter would just be awful. But I didn’t. I went and it felt awful. And that was another piece of my puzzle.


And for my kids, all this “prevention stuff”. Like, I cannot guarantee. I could never guarantee it’s not possible that my kids will not develop substance use disorder at some point during their life. You know, its odds are that maybe one will end. But they have a lot of pieces in their puzzle because that’s what a lot of this prevention stuff is. The more pieces in their puzzle, the more likely the faster they hopefully will be able to get to recovery, if they do develop substance use disorder.


So, all this prevention stuff is also getting to recovery stuff, if you know what I mean.


So, although we don’t ever want to think about it that way because that is so terrifying. I do not want my kids to have to go through what I went through. In fact, I called my daughter out on something that I thought was happening but wasn’t happening and she got slightly offended with me. And I said, end. Finally, when we made up and everything, I said, I would 100 at 100% expect and hope that if you went into my closet to get something and you found a vodka bottle on the floor behind my shoes, you call me on that. And that’s what I was doing. And she was like, she laughed, she put a little “haha” emoji at the, you know, on top of the thing. And she’s like, absolutely, I would.


So, all of this “stuff”, all of this talking is keeping communication open. If one of them screws up, I want them to be able to come to me knowing full well that I’ve screwed up and it’s okay. And that’s not going to change our relationship. And so that, you know, hopefully someday if they ever need it, they have the ammunition to sort of the brain space, the tools to know that maybe something is awry.


Casey McGuire Davidson  35:33

Yeah. And so, talking to them about obviously, the stats in terms of starting younger what it does to brain not being permissive in terms of, hey, they might as well drink at home, if they’re going to do it anyway, you know, these other countries, they start drinking younger, and it’s not a problem because you’ve modeled healthy substance use, I would guess, that 70 80% of the women listening to this podcast, and I’m just guessing, based on the women I’ve talked to, and what they’ve emailed me are definitely in the moderate to heavy use category, right? And probably have not modeled necessarily healthy, moderate drinking to their kids, and might feel hypocritical. Yeah, telling them all this stuff, knowing that maybe they’re drinking a bottle of wine at night, and, you know, modeling that.


Jessica Lahey  36:40

Yeah, there’s so there’s two really interesting parts of this. And like, so I’ve given, I’ve done talks with people who are employed by the distillery industry, the alcohol industry to about how they talk to their kids about drinking underage drinking. And that is, if I can, if we can figure that they can figure that out, like, Hi, sweetie, this entire house was paid for by whiskey. And yet, we would prefer that you not, you know, that’s a tough one. But modeling takes all kinds of forms, right? So, modeling for our kids is way more important, I think, than what we say to our kids. And there’s actually a lot of research to show that, you know, they tend to do what we do, and not what we say.


So, I’m never going to say don’t drink in front of your kids, right? If you have issues, if you have your own issues with alcohol, and it’s, it’s veering off in a really destructive direction, you’re going to have to think a lot about that. But I’m not going to say, you can’t drink in front of your kids. What I am going to say though, is the messaging, you’re sending your kids about why we drink is really important. So, if you’re coming home from work and saying things like oh my gosh, I had the worst day I really, really need to drink. That’s problematic. Because what we’re telling kids is the way we deal with stress is to drink at it to numb it.


If you’re saying things like, Okay, if we’re going to Thanksgiving, your grandma’s house to better be a lot of wine, because this is going to be a long day, you know, that kind of thing. And these are all coming from things I have said in my own head, like oh my gosh, you know, your family, family events are a real source of stress. But I will let me insert one little thing. I do have a parent with alcohol use disorder, and that parent stopped drinking and which I’m forever grateful for. And since that parents stopped drinking, our holidays, and everyone else pretty much putting up it not stopped but definitely reduced. Or maybe like, you know, one or two people will drink a glass of wine at a family function over the holidays. There’s so much more enjoyable, like all of that weird, how a couple drinks get a little bit aggressive or have a couple of drinks get a little bit defensive, all that sort of stuff doesn’t happen anymore.


So, it’s great. But having this sort of modeling that, oh, we feel uncomfortable, we drink at it, we have social anxiety, we drink at it, we had a bad day, and we drink at it. That behavior is I think one of the more problematic parts of the modeling thing that we do. The nice thing is though, I wrote this whole book called, The Gift of Failure. And in the Gift of Failure, I talk about the fact that all we can ever hope for our kids to get from us, as teachers, is the idea that we do the best we can with the information we have, where we are, if we learn to do better, or we like, when I learned that this myth of the European moderate drinker and the myth of oh, they’re going to do it anyway. I might as well do it in our basement, keep them safe. When we learned that those things don’t work. Then we say I am so sorry. I was doing the best I could with the information that I had. But I learned this stuff. And now, I’m going to try to do better. So right after I stopped drinking, I sat down with my kids. It was that week actually and I said I will not be drinking anymore. I am an alcoholic just like your grandparents is an alcoholic. We didn’t keep that from them either, you know.


One year, when they were young, it was for, I can’t remember if it was before or after. I stopped drinking, Christmas blew up, relapse, Christmas blew up my sister and I decided it was our job to keep our kids safe, you know, emotionally safe. And we left and Christmas didn’t happen that year. In this way we expected it to happen. And that was devastating and really messed things up. But we were very clear. And we said, you know, the reason Christmas didn’t happen this year is because your grandparent relapsed. And it’s my job as your mom and dad to keep you safe. And I grew up with that, and I’m not going to let that be a part of your existence.


And, yeah, it also happened to be the 100 piece for that grandparents, you know, losing access to grandchildren is a very powerful Wi-Fi. So, we’ll say. So, that kind of modeling of how we deal with it, the fact that we talk about it, the fact that we don’t brush it under the rug, the fact that it’s a part of regular conversation. And that we are going to admit, you know, when we’ve learned something new and that we’re going to do better you like that’s all I could ever hope for my kids, if my kids make a mistake, I am, I pray that they’re going to be able to learn to do better, say I’m sorry, and move on from a place of better information.


Casey McGuire Davidson  41:26

That’s all. Like, I love that. And I think that one of the things I’ve seen with the women I work with and hear from is even if they’ve been drinking their kids whole lives. And you know, I’ve talked to women who are 65 and 70. They say that as they learn more. And you know, this stuff was not in the news, like you said a decade ago about the cancer connection and wasn’t really discussed the right connection for anxiety and depression. They’re sharing that information and also sharing, Hey, I didn’t know this stuff. And, yeah, I’m taking a break from drinking, and I’m sleeping better, and I feel better. And I have less anxiety, like even just sharing the fact that you’re taking a break from drinking, and you feel better. Without it, right, is powerful. Like, seeing that you can change and that it wasn’t serving you. Regardless, if your kids are 30 years old, they’re the kids are usually extraordinarily proud of you.


Jessica Lahey  42:27

Because yeah, it’s it was really cool when my you know, kids will grow up in a given situation. And that’s just the reality. And they tend to think of that as normal. And so, my kids grew up for the most part with a sober mom, and then went out into the world and met people who have parents who are inactive substance use disorder. And my kids have come back and said, I’m just really happy that you’re, you know, I’m really grateful that you’re sober.


And you know, and my husband had made it very clear as well that you know, he was not going to we were we would not still be married if I was still using. And that was an honest conversation we had. And another piece of my puzzle as well.


I was raised in an environment in which I was gaslit. Not allowed to talk about the elephant in the room. And that’s, I think that’s very much the life that I live now, where I talk about this all the time is, in direct reaction to that, I was never allowed to talk about it then. So now, I’m like, let’s talk about it all the time and normalize this for other people. Because also I have to add, there’s a piece of this that is very much about privilege as white women, if I mentioned to someone that I’m an alcoholic, and that I stopped drinking, there’s all this Oh, you’re so brave, that’s so great, so much, blah, blah, blah. There are a lot of women who are not allowed to admit to faults simply not faults, but you know what to admit to things that are perceived as problems because then that’s just another strike against them. So, it’s even more important for me to talk about being an alcoholic, because then maybe hopefully, someday the shame and stigma around it introduced to the port where a woman who is you know, single mom, woman of color, has all these other social strikes against her, is then also able to admit to that and get help and be open about it.


And that’s, you know, that’s sort of part of, you know, why we’re out here talking about it.


Casey McGuire Davidson  44:24

Yeah, I love that. And with, I think the interesting is also, you mentioned, going into the conference about pediatric health or medicine or an issue there. I have been very surprised looking back that a lot of doctors have adult don’t ask about alcohol use. They ask about smoking, they ask about diabetes, they asked about exercise they asked about diet. They don’t really ask about alcohol use, and I know Oh, that I always lied about it anyway. But I, you know, I mean, come on, nobody’s going to be like, yeah, drink a bottle of wine at night, maybe 9 bottles a week anyway. So, what do you think about like, my blood pressure? But women have even had. Have told me that they’ve gone to psychiatrists or doctors and express concern about their drinking and have been told, it’s no big deal or even doctors have been like, well, you’re not an alcoholic. So, I think you’re okay.


Jessica Lahey  45:36

Yeah, that’s what’s changing actually is, especially for pediatrics. But also, you know, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but often right for my appointment, I would be given a tablet to answer some questions. And there would be some risk screening questions on that, like, do I feel safe in my home? How much am I drinking, you know, that kind of those kinds of risks, screening questions, risk screening has become something that’s sort of a norm now, where, for example, if your kid goes, especially as your kid gets a little bit older, and is tapping out answers on the Screening Questionnaire at the beginning of their appointment, please give them space to do that. Because the questions on there, especially as they get older. Things like, you know, do you ever get in a car with a drunk driver? Do you drink? Do you smoke cannabis, you know, that sort of stuff. And those questions are not a moratorium on your parenting. You’re not going to get graded. These are really important screening questions.


So, the European, your kids pediatrician, or, you know, RN, or PA, or whomever it is, can really gauge your kids risk and keep on top of that, because and I talked about this in the book, health care providers are incredible allies, especially for kids around this, and that, whether they’re screening using a tool called expert, or craft, or, you know, there’s a whole bunch of acronyms around screening tools, they’re really, really important parts of understanding whether or not your kid is safe, how much risk they’re taking on. And if, for example, SBIRT is Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment. So screening, and then if they see problematic issues there, they can do a brief intervention. And then if things are, you know, rising to the level that they need treatment, you know, referral to treatment. So, this is really, this is stuff that’s changing.


And I think, again, analogous to the cigarette thing, analogous to not understanding with the alcohol thing, our thinking around these substances is changing. And that’s also happening with cannabis now, too. I mean, I think cannabis, you know, I’m all for, you know, legalization is a separate question. But as legalization is happening, and more kids are using, which generally, especially young adults 19, to, you know, 19 to 35, in particular, are using cannabis and psychedelics, there’s really important research for for bat, you know, showing bad effects and showing some interesting effects. You know, there’s really interesting psychedelic research going on right now. But with cannabis in particular, it’s only now that we have these larger numbers of young adults using that we’re getting sort of more information, more research dollars are being spent on research about what it does to the brain and body. And we’re able to use, as I mentioned, the past generation, we’ve had these abilities to do like fMRI and PET scans and things like that, and look at the brain, you know, on drugs, so to speak, you know, to mimic the ad that we grew up with those Gen X’s, to see what it’s actually doing to the brain. Because, you know, that’s stuff that when I, you know, if I know what my kids goals are, and let’s say one of my kids goals is to, I don’t know, do well on the MCAT. So, they can go to med school. And I mentioned that, you know, if you’re using cannabis on a regular basis, you are significantly impacting your short term memory over time. And in the short term in the long term. Because the receptors for THC are right there near the hippocampus. And that’s where the short term memory stuff happens.


I can actually get a kid this, I can give them enough information so that they can make an actual educated decision about whether it’s worth it for them to use the weed in the short term and tradeoff for their long term goals. So yeah, real information.


Casey McGuire Davidson  49:17

It’s important. That’s really interesting. And do you have any thoughts or are in Queens, I guess, because it’s kind of new. The degree to which I know Gen Z, and millennials are drinking significantly less than their parents and grandparents did similar ages. How much of that is trading alcohol for cannabis?


Jessica Lahey  49:41

Really, really good question. And I don’t actually think I have that sort of direct comparison question. So, you know, we’ve seen among kids so when we when I say kids, I am saying up to 18 Right, but then there’s this emerging adulthood 19 to 35. And, you know, among kids So we’ve seen, you know, a long term decline over a decade of kids drinking less and less, we saw a slight plateau before COVID. And then because a lot of the data comes in through schools during COVID, there was sort of, it’s going to take us a little while to catch up and see what’s happening. But we also know that drinking went way up between 19 and 35 year olds, for a couple of different reasons. You know, during COVID, they relaxed regulations around being able to order alcohol, and so you could order it on Instacart. Or you could, you know, get an order from a restaurant, and it could include cocktails, whereas that didn’t used to be a thing, that has been one contributor to more drinking, especially at home, there’s thinking that, you know, with legalization, there’s been a lot of people in sort of emerging adulthood who are like, this is just, you know, it’s just a plant, it’s done it, whatever. So, there is this. It’s not just about that age, or how good our prevention is going, it has to do a lot with, you know, regulatory stuff like this, how, you know, making it easier to be able to order alcohol in without even leaving your house that is a that’s significant.


And then, even if we look at different socio economic groups, so for example, there are a lot more alcohol outlets in poor black communities than there are in wealthy white communities. And there’s marketing to kids in sports, because the earlier we can get brand loyalty, that’s worth a lot of money. There is a lot of marketing in different ways to different socio economic groups, you know, so we hear a lot about like, oh, well, they’re not allowed to do like Joe Camel anymore, which is was clearly marketing cigarettes for kids. So cool. That’s not happening.


But one of the fun things that I talked about in the addiction inoculation is, adolescents, hate being manipulated, and young adults hate being manipulated.


So, One fun way to sort of harness that power, is to talk about how they’re being advertised to, you know, what do you think this ad is selling? Do you really think that if you drink that brand of beer, that you’re going to look like that? Have that many friends? And see, you know, be out, you know, looking totally toned and fit and, you know, jumping into the ocean with your and it’s just getting them to look a little bit more carefully at how they’re being advertised to?


And then, talking about things like why do you think it costs so much money for the beer brand to be at the 50 yard line? As opposed to over there by wherever else? Well, because that’s where the camera is going to be the most often, it’s worth the most money because the most eyes will see it and establishing brand loyalty, especially related to a sports team is worth a bloody fortune.


So, you know, all of these considerations, you know, have to happen. My niece, for example, is a wrestler she’s and she I have her permission to talk about this. We talked about this last time I visited her. She’s a wrestler. She’s an incredible wrestler. She’s going to college to wrestle for her college. And I’ve talked with her about the fact that wrestling is one of the big four when it comes to substance use. And so, given that, and given her genetics, guess what, Auntie Jess is going to talk to you about this a lot. And so, when my other niece moved to Los Angeles, one of my first conversations I had with her, she’s 20, was, I found out where you can get your harm reduction kits where you can get your Narcan where you can get your fentanyl test strips. So, I’m not saying I want you to use drugs, but I want you to have the tools that you need in order to reverse someone’s overdose in case you run across someone who’s overdosing. And she has lost friends to overdose. So, she was able to go get her harm reduction kit at the LA County Public Library or at the LA County Department of Health. And she carries it around with her and that’s, you know, that’s a part of having these real conversations about how to save people’s lives and how to keep yourself safe.


Casey McGuire Davidson  53:57

Yeah, that’s incredible. And really interesting. I didn’t even know that you could get harm reduction kit.


Jessica Lahey  54:03

Yeah, so Narcan is now depending on the state. So, Narcan is the thing that you can squirt up someone’s nose that can reduce it. It reduces the effects of an opiate sad, you will bring them out you can literally bring people back from like a flatline with that drug. It’s amazing. And then there’s fentanyl test strips because as we know fentanyl is showing up in so many drugs because it is a way to inexpensively boosts the effects of those drugs and some people blocked before taking fentanyl anyway just as itself, but you can test you know your whatever drugs it is, you know, with this little test strip and it can help you determine whether or not there’s fentanyl in it because fentanyl is incredibly deadly.


There’s also test strips for a drug called, Xylazine. There’s all kinds of ways that we can do what’s called, harm reduction, which is to acknowledge that people take drugs. And to make it safer, so that because as we like to say, you can’t get recovery if you’re dead. So, I would very, very much like to keep my nieces alive. And so, that means that I’m going to make sure they have harm reduction kits. And it also mean, you can save someone else’s life.


There was an article out of Ontario, just recently, 2 kids went to a party. And they decided at the last second to take some Naloxone along with them and someone at the party overdosed. They didn’t even know there was going to be drugs going on there. But thought, let’s just take it. It’s here. And they took it with them. And they brought someone back from an overdose. Someone who would have otherwise not made it.


So, you know, I have asked you harm reduction kits right over on the other. There’s in the lock zone and fentanyl test strips in my office right now. In case you know, I’ve run across someone who might have need for one.


Casey McGuire Davidson  55:50

Yeah. And I would assume that in terms of communicating the risks, just having that conversation with Yeah, hey, by the way, fentanyl can kill you immediately.


Jessica Lahey  56:03

Yeah, with you know, and you may not tell you, when you better believe I made sure I had my daughter checked to see if the first aid kits in her dorm include Naloxone and test strips and they do. My daughter, and her girlfriend went around to check. And yeah, so those are and if they didn’t die would have said to the college. You know what this is really important. It’s like having, you know, an AED for giving someone you know, if they’re having a heart attack. It’s a similar sort of thing. If you’re going to have an AED in the college dorm, I would really, you know, it makes sense to have something like Naloxone, which can be and if you give it to someone, and they’re not overdosing, guess what it does nothing bad to them. You can give guys a couple doses and even if they’re not, overdosing, obviously call 911 first.


Casey McGuire Davidson  56:47

But yeah, yeah. Oh, that’s incredible information that I had no idea about. And I also didn’t know about the 50% in eighth grade, and you know, all of that information. So that’s incredibly helpful. Thank you.


Jessica Lahey  57:04

Good. Is there just one it’s in the book? I mean, I figured the more informed we are, the more informed our kids can be. And the less intimidating the topic becomes, right?


Casey McGuire Davidson  57:15

Yeah, absolutely. And I’m, I’m 100% planning on being like, at the dinner table.


Jessica Lahey  57:23

There’s some really interesting, I mean, frankly, the I’ve always said, the more you understand about how the adolescent brain works, the more patient you can be with the at your adolescence because their brain is going through so much. And I find it endlessly fascinating. But it also means that you learn some pretty cool stuff, like, you know, if your kids, if you’ve got a let’s say, you have a boy and a girl, and you say to them, did you know that if the two let’s say you have twins to a girl and a boy, and those, that girl and that boy, even if there’s similar heights and weights, let’s say they go out and they drink, that the girl is going to get drunk faster, she not only is likely to have an enzyme not have an enzyme in her body, that’s really important to breaking down alcohol, but also because your body composition is different.


You know, drinking for drinks means something very different to that boy than it does to that girl. Also, Did you know, for example, that adolescents are less likely to feel the intoxicating effects of alcohol and actually understand how incapacitated they are, which then means that they’re going to be more likely to feel like they can use drive a car or getting you know, and they’ll or they’re also interestingly, less likely to have the negative side effects the next day, so they won’t get that little. Oh, by the way, you really consumed too much last night, don’t do that again. And so, they’re less likely to feel the After Effects and get that little reminder and more likely to do dangerous stuff. Because they don’t really realize how incapacitated they are. That’s important information, I will want my kid to know that so that they might be more likely to say, you know, that little, tiny voice in the back of their head is like, I don’t know, I feel okay to drive. Maybe, I’ll just wait an hour and not drive or call for a ride.


Casey McGuire Davidson  59:08

Yeah, no, that’s super interesting. And like I mentioned, my husband’s actually the head of a middle school that goes five through 12. So, I’m going to ask him whether all of this information is available to the kids or if, if he, you know, could find someone?


Jessica Lahey  59:23

Do you want the horrifying information on that? Only 7, only 57% of high schools in this country have any substance use prevention program. And of that 57% only 10% of those programs are based on any evidence of efficacy.


There’s all kinds of other crappy programs out there. They’re based on magical thinking, hope, prayer, that kind of, I mean, you know, we’re Gen Xers the day or that we went through in high school actually rendered us more likely to use substances that is not the case with the current there, but there are, and I talk about the programs that work in programs that don’t work.


There’s a whole chapter in the book on education. And that’s what I spend most of my time doing is going to school, talking to kids about this stuff, getting the conversation, started talking to kids about how to get challenging conversation, started with their parents, and then talking to the parents about how to listen for the clues for those conversations that your kids really want to have with you. So that we can prime the pump for those conversations, and it gets a little bit easier, because here’s the secret about challenging conversations, conversations that make us uncomfortable. The more we have them, the less uncomfortable they are, whether that’s about sex, or porn or high risk behaviors.


And the other cool thing that I found out in the book is that inoculation theory also is about reducing it by talking to our kids about high risk behaviors in general.


Like, whether that’s drunk driving, or having sex before you’re ready, or, you know, whatever that thing is, and they cross pollinate. So, if your kid if they generalize, so if you are talking to your kid about not engaging in high risk behaviors, like consuming alcohol, you know, then it’s also gives them some of the ammunition, they need to also think critically about some of those other high risk behaviors that they’re engaging in as well. And if that generalizes, well, you better believe, I’m going to use it. Because if I can sort of reduce my child’s chance of engaging in all these other high risk behaviors, as well, by talking about inoculation theory and doing some inoculation theory with my kids, which is really just refusal skills. It’s a fancy way of talking about refusal skills.


Casey McGuire Davidson  1:01:37

So yeah, I’m definitely that’s that. That’s amazing. Well, I’m coping with this episode, you know, 1000s, more women have learned something, and can take that to their kids or to their schools, or whatever it is. So, thank you so much for your time.




For saying yes, I really appreciate it.


Jessica Lahey  1:01:55

Absolutely. And if anyone wants to reach out to talk about any of this stuff, go to jessicalahey.com, the contact form, it just goes to my email, if anyone wants to talk about this stuff, anyone wants to talk about how to bring this up with their school administrator.


One of the frustrating things that happens to me is I’ll send copies of the addiction inoculation off to elementary school heads, and they’ll say, oh, yeah, I forwarded on to the high school head because that’s where they talk about that stuff. But the best substance use prevention that we know of starts in pre-K and kindergarten by talking about like bodily safety and, you know, not swallowing things that are for external use only or, you know, not picking up those little things on the floor that look like candy but could be pills and talking to a grown up first about whether or not you should put it in your mouth, you know, all that kind of stuff starts really, really young. And we’re going to have to start thinking about substance use prevention as a real a pediatric issue and issue that starts really, really young and goes all the way through college.


Casey McGuire Davidson  1:02:53

That’s awesome. Thank you so much.


Jessica Lahey  1:02:54

You’re so welcome, Casey.


Thank you for listening to this episode of The Hello Someday podcast.

If you’re interested in learning more about me, the work I do, and access free resources and guides to help you build a life you love without alcohol. Please visit hellosomedaycoaching.com. And I would be so grateful if you would take a few minutes to rate and review this podcast so that more women can find it. And join the conversation about drinking less and living more. 


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