What To Do About JUUL in Our UES Schools?

What To Do About JUUL in Our UES Schools?

Are our teenagers getting addicted to nicotine in class?

What can parents do about it?

It was brought to my attention today that in at least two middle schools on the Upper East Side, kids are selling JUUL in the school bathroom. This is a major problem! Now, I know what you may be thinking: “Limor, kids have been selling pot and other drugs in school bathrooms for years — why are you so up in arms about it now?” Well, first of all, I would be alarmed if my 13-year-old were smoking in any capacity. But there is a new trend sweeping the country that allows kids to buy drugs and smoke them in class literally at their desks without adults noticing, because it doesn’t give off an odor, and it looks like a USB flash drive. It’s widespread, and it’s scary.

Here’s what’s happening: Something that apparently “blew up” last summer is a trend called JUUL. I’d never heard of it before, and I’m assuming this is new to many of you as well. In this blog, I’ll go over what JUUL is, what the health risks are, and what we can do to stop it. My goal is to start a discussion among parents so that we can all be more knowledgeable and address the problem before it becomes even more rampant. My oldest daughter is 13 and she is the one who brought it to my attention. Raising teenagers today is just insane!

Unfortunately, schools are often limited in what they can do to help out with the problem, but I definitely suggest bringing it up to your school boards and principals. This is not just a “trend” or a “fad” that is going to go away. It’s something that could lead to long-term health problems and more serious drugs with severe consequences.

First off, here’s a brief guide on JUUL that I’ve compiled so we can help our kids by getting to the bottom of this.

What is JUUL?

JUUL is just another form of vaping — but it’s sleek and trendy. The JUUL vaporizer looks like a USB flash drive, and it charges when plugged into a laptop. It can be filled with marijuana, a homemade concoction, or JUUL “pods,” which are vaporizer products that have more nicotine than any other vaping product. One JUUL pod has the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes! JUUL vaporizers were apparently made for adults who are trying to quit smoking, which might be true, but it’s also interesting to consider the fact that the oils have flavors like mango, creme brulee, and chocolate — pretty kid-friendly options, if you ask me.

JUUL entered the market in 2015 and gained quick popularity over the summer of 2017. Currently, many teenagers say that a majority of their peers own a JUUL device, and they even smoke them in school.

On the company’s website, it states,  “The JUUL Labs’ mission is to eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes.” It goes on to say, “…smokers who want to switch are looking for something that does not look or feel like a cigarette.” For their part, they do talk about sale to minors, and how they are trying to combat it: “While we are dedicated to our mission of helping adults switch off cigarettes, we are also incredibly focused on combating underage use… Underage use of certain product categories remains a persistent problem, and at JUUL Labs we are committed to combating underage use of our product. While we have made strides, we are working on new approaches to address the issue more effectively.”

My question is, how can we all address the issue more effectively as a community, including parents, lawmakers, and the DOE?

Why do kids use it and how do they get it?

People get addicted to JUUL the exact same way they get addicted to cigarettes — they try it once, love the immediate buzz, and keep doing it. Eventually the buzz wears off after each hit, and then they feel like they have to take hits just to feel normal. According to one Yale study, 25% of U.S. high schoolers had tried e-cigarettes, and 3.5% of U.S. middle schoolers had tried them. Many kids stated that they were less afraid of e-cigs, saying that they wouldn’t try real cigarettes but would try e-cigs.

According to the JUUL website, “The Starter Kit” includes a rechargeable JUUL device, a USB Charger, four JUULpods (Virginia Tobacco, Cool Mint, Fruit Medley, and Creme Brulee), and a one year limited device warranty. All for $50.

Kids cannot order JUUL from the JUUL online shop or buy it in a store, but keep in mind that kids can’t buy pot or alcohol in stores, yet they get those anyway. Think of any way that a high schooler might get their hands on weed or liquor — fake IDs, stores selling illegally, older siblings, black market, you name it. We talked to a store owner on the UES who claimed that they never sell JUUL to underage kids, but that adults sometimes do come in and buy in bulk. The store wondered if those adults were selling to minors. You only have to be 18 to buy nicotine products like cigarettes and JUUL, so many high school seniors can legally purchase these products.

A bit of online research landed us at a Reddit thread titled, “How to get Juul as a minor,” in which teenagers comment on each others’ posts so they can figure out how to purchase a JUUL. Responses included the following: “eBay,” “Just talk to the cool vaper kids at your school lol. Almost every single middle school/high school these days tends to have such a group, and I am sure they have means/would be glad to sell you a real juul,” “Literally any gas station ever. As long as you look like you’re old enough to drive, most workers don’t [care]. If they ask for ID just give them ‘your birthday.’” “Go from gas station to station to gas station that’s how I got mine.”

You get the picture. If a kid wants to find a JUUL, he/she can figure it out.

What are the health risks of JUULing?

There is a common misconception among teens that JUULing and e-cigs are safe because they were designed to help adults quit smoking. While they are safer than smoking cigarettes, they are far from safe. The same cancer-causing lung issues are in e-cigarettes. Nicotine is damaging to brain development, which is especially worrying for people whose brains are still growing, like high schoolers. Nicotine is also addictive.

E-cigarettes are also very new, which means that there are fewer regulations in place. For example, the FDA has banned other flavored drugs such as cigarettes and tobacco products, but not yet in e-cigs.

E-cigs have a different health issue than cigarettes, which is a result of the inhalation of vaping liquid. The liquid is usually a combination of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavors, and nicotine or hash oils. The long-term effects are still unknown. Think about how people started getting lung cancer from non-stop cigarette smoking in the 50s and 60s — the generation that is mostly in their 80s and 90s now. They had no idea that cigarettes could have such negative effects because long-term research hadn’t been done yet, and that’s exactly what I’m worried about with our kids today. None of us knows the consequences, and we won’t know them until the current batch of teenagers is older.

According to the American Lung Association, diacetyl, which is found in e-cigarettes, causes Popcorn Lung. You may remember diacetyl from popcorn products, when it was linked to factory worker death and bronchiolitis obliterans, which is a serious lung disease. It caused such a stir about a decade ago that it was quickly removed from all popcorn products… but the same chemical is found in most e-cigarettes today, along with two other harmful chemicals: pentanedione and acetoin. Diacetyl scars the tiny air sacs in the lungs, resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. Even if there is no nicotine present, kids are still breathing in hot liquids full of chemicals, which is harmful by itself.

What bothers me the most is that sales of regular cigarettes to teens have dropped in the past few years. To me, this means that vaping companies are using innocent, young children to make money, which horrifies me. Many experts also say that e-cigs are a gateway to regular cigarettes, which have been widely found over the years to be a gateway to other drugs as well.

In addition, we know that kids are using e-cigarette devices to smoke pot. Why? Well, for one, the smell is much more disguised so it can go unnoticed.

Another scary thing that kids do with e-cigs is something called “dripping.” Dripping is a more labor-intensive way to vape, in which a user manually puts a few drops of liquid directly on the exposed heating coil of the e-cigarette. The flavor, direct hit, and cloud intensify the user’s experience of vaping, which is why people take the extra time and effort to drip. Studies have shown that dripping also releases much more harmful chemicals than just smoking the e-cigarette.

How do I know if my child might be using JUUL?

  • Dehydration – Propulene glycol is a major ingredient in vaporized liquids. This chemical holds water molecules in the body, which results in increased thirst.
  • Aversion to Caffeine – One of the side effects is not wanting caffeine, so if your kid all of a sudden doesn’t want the coke they always ask for, it could be a sign.
  • Needing a Hit – If your child is addicted, they may need a hit every hour, or even less. They may disappear to the bathroom or their room every so often to vape.
  • Nosebleeds – The same effect that causes dehydration also dries out nasal passages, which sometimes leads to bloody noses.
  • Change in Habits – Some parents told us that they recognized the signs after the fact — their child had been doing well in school, and all of a sudden started getting Cs and Ds. Keep in mind that this could be related to something entirely different, so it’s always good to look into it.
  • Scents – There isn’t a distinct odor like with weed or cigarettes, but sometimes you can catch a whiff of flavors like mint, fruit punch, or candy. If there is no gum, candy, or juice around, there is reason to be cautious.

What are schools doing about the problem?

To be clear, this is happening in public schools and in private schools. It’s happening within all demographics, across the entire country. Don’t think that your child is exempt from this trend.

I talked with the assistant principal at my daughter’s school and he said that, unless they are specifically told who the people using are, the only thing that the school can do is monitor bathrooms and other parts of the school in which kids are likely to sell JUUL. I also went to the governor’s office, and they said that a lot of people have been complaining about vaping in schools. In middle schools, administration is trying to be proactive, incorporating drug-related education into the curriculum, monitoring hallways and bathrooms, etc.

However, as parents, we know that those steps simply aren’t enough and unfortunately, not being informed is the worst thing we can do

What can I do?

How do we raise healthy kids in this society where things are so accessible? I strongly feel that this is about the community! We all have to work together to fix this. I want to call on each and every one of you to help me out.

I started a list of helpful tips from my friends who have teenagers. Here is the start of an eventual longer list of suggestions:

  1. Urge schools to bring addiction specialists to speak with students about the dangers of drugs.
  2. Urge schools to perform random searches in bags.
  3. Urge schools to monitor areas where kids sell, and take actions that will prevent kids from selling drugs in schools.
  4. Get involved in the DOE, and invite other parents to as well.
  5. Talk to your kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes, whether you think they may be using them or not. Some kids told me that they didn’t know there were any dangers because it “didn’t seem like as bad of a drug as cigarettes.” Talk to your kids!

Here’s a suggestion I love from a friend. At first, it might seem like over monitoring or policing your kid too much, but you may find that it helps your relationship with your kid, and turns into a positive thing. I definitely think it’s worth a try. She bought a nicotine tobacco testing kit, which can be found on Amazon for under $10, and she told her son that she may use it in the future. She hasn’t used it, but the fact that her son knows that she has it means that he doesn’t want to smoke or vape. He told her that it actually helped him get out of being pressured by his friends because he could use the excuse that his mom would test him at home if he vaped. It passed the blame to someone else other than him, which gave him an easy out.

What else can you do? Here’s a huge one — let’s come together as a community and figure this out! If you are a parent to a teen, let’s get together in a room with other parents to brainstorm as a team! Let me know if you’d like to join. I am forming a parent group to come up with bigger and better ideas about how we can take action NOW to make a change. To start, we will meet monthly in person with a Facebook Live meeting.

Are you concerned about vaping? What can you do as a parent, and what can we do as a community? I want to start a discussion. We can work together as a community, whether you live on the UES or somewhere much farther away. If you want to get together and make a change, message me! Tell me your stories. Tell me your challenges, your advice, your worries, your successes!

Let me know if you’re interested, whether you live on the UES or across the country. Make your voice heard! I can’t wait to get this started!

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

5 Insider Tips On Finding The Right Therapist For You!

You’ve decided to see a therapist, amazing! Now you just have to pick the right one and that’s the hard part. CBT? DBT? Psychologist vs Psychiatrist? Hypnosis? Sand tray? Dance Therapy? With so many types of therapy and practitioners, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you are dealing with the thing that made you want to go to therapy in the first place! We are here with insider tips to help you make sense of all the conflicting information out there and find the right therapist for you!

5 Insider Tips On How To Find The Right Therapist For You!

Finding a therapist can be anxiety provoking! Deciding that you need a therapist is actually the easiest part. When I was shopping around for my first therapist, I wasn’t sure what to expect, what to ask or even what I needed. I hired the first therapist I met and dove right into whatever it was that was bothering me at the time. As a newcomer to the US and a foreign student, searching for a therapist was even more of an anxiety-provoking task because of the language barrier, but my confusion as to what kind of therapist I should see ended with a therapist who claimed to be an eating disorder therapist. Seven month later, I realized that my therapist wasn’t an expert in eating disorders. She had treated about 10 clients with disordered eating and therefore she considered herself an “expert” in the field. I also realized that after seven months, I was just as sick as when I first came to her, so I started questioning myself. I ended up on the internet searching for a new therapist, and I realized finding the right person was possible — but there was a lot I had to learn.

Hours of research opened my eyes to a whole other world and helped me have a much better understanding of what types of therapists were available to me, what I needed to look for and, most importantly, what questions to ask when interviewing a therapist. Yes, you heard me right…YOU interview your therapist. Here are some of the things I wish I knew before looking for a therapist all those years ago.

Tip #1 ALWAYS Listen to Your Gut Feeling

Don’t be intimidated by therapy. Even if you have never met with a therapist and you are apprehensive about the process, it’s important to trust yourself. While it may be challenging to get a good read on a therapist or even develop a gut feeling simply by talking on the phone, you can do your homework beforehand and research as much as you can about the particular therapist you are interested in meeting with. Start by looking at the therapist’s name, bio and photo — what are your initial feelings? From years of working with people and from serving in the Israeli army, I learned that one can learn a lot from looking into the eyes of another person. When you meet your potential therapist for the first time, pay special attention to how that person makes you feel in the first 30 seconds.

Do you feel a connection? Is there something making you uneasy? You may feel uneasy about the idea of therapy in general, but try to decipher on a human-to-human level, what your reaction is to your potential therapist. If your gut doesn’t feel right, I recommend continuing on with your search.

Tip #2 Do your research on types of therapists

Understanding the various types of therapists and their education is important, but knowing that talk therapy is not the only option is just as important. You might be familiar with psychologists, therapists, social workers, psychotherapists and mental health counselors. You might also wonder what the difference between them is and which one will be the right one for you. This can be very overwhelming for someone who hasn’t studied psychology or ever had an experience with counseling. You might think any psychologist will work for you. Right? Wrong! While they all provide therapy they all have different education and training and each is best suited to work with a different population. Yes there is some overlap, and clearly most licensed professionals in the mental health field can work and help people, but my aim is to empower you to find the BEST fit. Not just any fit. So here is a general overview, so you can at least be familiar with the vocabulary when you start searching.

Psychiatrists: We hear about psychiatrists often. They have medical degrees and therefore can prescribe medicine. Psychiatrists often work alongside another type of therapist who handles the therapy. Some psychiatrists also provide therapy for the clients, as some clients and psychiatrists believe that it is best to keep the treatment at one place. I have worked with some exceptional psychiatrists who also provide therapy, but if you are seeking therapy without prescription management then you will most likely choose a therapist from one of the other categories.

Psychologists: There are doctoral level psychologists (Dr before their name) and masters level psychologists (MA, MS, LGPC, LCPC), but neither can prescribe medicine. An “L” means they have completed license requirements, which often involve state board exams and supervision hours. Psychologists are usually very specialized, and so there are a wide array of options for finding one in a particular area of interest. Psychologists can diagnose and offer counseling. Within the psychology degree, there are also some variations, and some psychologists, such as organizational psychologists, are not clinically trained (and therefore not a good fit if you are seeking mental health therapy).

Mental Health Counselors: Relatively new to the therapy world, mental health counselors are one of the fastest growing professions. These professionals provide counseling to individuals as well as couples and families on a variety of problems regarding their mental health and general well-being. Often, mental health counselors focus on a “wellness model,” choosing to highlight and develop clients’ strengths, rather than focus on illness.

Social Workers: They will have an “SW” in their title and have completed a Masters program in clinical social work. They can diagnose and offer specific therapy, but cannot prescribe medicine. Once an LMSW has completed their hours, they become LCSW which means they are able to work in their own private practice. There are even some variations within the social work world, but I won’t delve into all those details.

Marriage and family therapists :They are designated with either MA, MFT, LMFT, LCMFT and must complete a masters program in marriage and family therapy. They can diagnose and offer counseling, but cannot prescribe medication.

There are also art therapists, dance therapists and several other types of therapists who work with specific populations that express themselves better via other forms of communication. I remember working with a 17-year-old girl with anorexia, and after I realized that she preferred to communicate to me how she felt using drawing, I referred her to an eating disorder therapist who is also an art therapist. While I could have potentially worked with her and helped her, her best form of expression was through art and I knew that there was a therapist who specializes in that specific form of communication.

It’s very important to understand the different types of therapists out there and what their credentials are before making your decision.

Tip # 3 Research the orientation/ approach used by the therapist and be aware of which treatment modality is best to treat your condition.

Therapists use various modalities of treatment when working with clients. The most popular modalities are psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, person centered therapy, internal family system therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and group therapy. Some therapists combine a variety of approaches with clients (“eclectic”) and some are more specific in the modality of treatment they use. As a potential client, it is important to be aware of the different treatment modalities as some are known to work better for different psychological disorders. Also, some modalities of treatment can fit best to different people based on their personality.

For instant, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is a specific form of cognitive behavior therapy developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, is best known for the treatment of borderline personality disorder. This type of therapy emphasises the psychosocial aspects of treatments. In DBT, the therapist includes homework assignments and the client is an active participate in the treatment. DBT has also been adapted to treat other psychological problems including eating disorders, suicidal and self -injurious behavior in adolescents, substance use and treatment resistant depression.

Psychodynamic therapy, on the other hand, is the oldest form of therapy (think Freud!) and it focuses on unconscious processes as they are manifested in a person’s present behavior. The goal of this therapy is for the client to be aware and understand the influence of the past on their present behavior as well as to examine unresolved conflicts and symptoms that arise from past dysfunctional relationships.

Furthermore, when seeking a therapist, you might want to think about the length of time and commitment that you are willing to invest in your treatment. CBT for instance will require anywhere from 12-30 sessions in order to see a change in behaviors, and psychodynamic therapy might require the client to remain in therapy for several years. If you are not sure what type of therapy will work best for your problem, I suggest doing some research before meeting your therapist.

Lastly, when calling therapists you can ask for their typical orientation of treatment so you can make a more educated decision. Last year I started working with Max, a 55-year-old who had been seeing the same therapist for 20 years prior to seeing me. One of the first questions that I asked him after he said that he had another therapist was what insight he had gained or what skills he had learned from his work with the other therapist. The only answer that Max gave me was that he enjoyed speaking with another person and wanted to continue sharing his past and present experiences. It’s important to note that Max was seeking therapy because he wanted to create meaningful relationships in his life and learn to be happy. However, 20 years after being in therapy he was still unhappy and without any meaningful relationships. After learning as much as I could about this client, I found that the best treatment for him was cognitive behavioral-mindfulness based therapy.

What this client needed most after gaining insight into his challenges was some concrete solutions that would help him lead a happier more fulfilled life. After he realized that his thoughts affected his emotions and behavior, he gained more control over his life, and using mindfulness techniques, such as learning to be in the present moment without judgment, he was able to find happiness. He is now dating and practicing what he learned.

Even after finding a therapist, it’s important to reflect on how you are progressing from session to session. Just because you enjoy the person you are talking to, it’s important that you are making changes and actually working through the problems that led you to therapy in the first place.

Tip # 4 Make sure your therapist is professional and honest and displays a non-judgmental approach when you relay information.

When I was actively binging and purging 18 years ago, I remember gathering the courage to tell my therapist about it, and her reaction was, “Why can’t you just stop? That is so unhealthy for you.” She went on to remind me of all the medical implications that could result from me doing what I was doing to my body — as if I wasn’t fully aware already. I just remember feeling so judged and humiliated, and as a result, I began to hide other things that I had done that I felt shame over. Of course I would later realize that concealing my problematic behaviors from my therapist was counterproductive, but at the time I didn’t know any better. Most importantly, when it comes to evaluating your therapist’s character, you want to make sure he or she has your best interest at heart, and never makes you feel shame or puts blame on you.

Tip # 5 Shop around and contact/interview at least 3 therapists to find the right price

Unfortunately, therapy can be very expensive, but before you write it off as some kind of luxury, consider what your mental health is really worth. Our well-being and happiness shouldn’t be an after-thought. Think about all of the things you spend money on. If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself and your family, what are you willing to invest in?

While you obviously want to find the best therapist for you who is also priced reasonably, you might be disappointed when you start looking. There are many therapists out there who are excellent and also take insurance or only charge a low fee. However, what I found from years of working with both clients and therapists is that the more experienced therapists who also have a speciality tend to charge higher fees.

As I mentioned earlier, in my early 20s while recovering from an eating disorder, I didn’t have the best luck working with qualified eating disorder therapists. As I progressed with my education and started shopping around for psychologists, I realized the importance of being an educated consumer, but at the same time, I had financial limitations that didn’t allow me to hire therapists who fit my needs at the time. I will say that if you want to invest in yourself, then paying for an excellent therapist can make a huge different in your recovery time and quality.

Finally, let me pose this question: If you knew that you could work with someone for 48 weeks paying $75 a session or work with someone who is more qualified/experienced/a better fit and pay $450 per session, but make the same progress that you would have made in a year, which therapist would you choose to work with?

By automatically going with a lower fee, you could end up doing more harm than good, so it’s important to not jump at the cheapest option available.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!