On teenaged drinking and alcohol abuse

There is one on every block.

Teenaged drinking

We all know who they are – the parents that want the kids to “drink somewhere safe because they are going to do it anyways”…..the parents that want to be “the cool parents”…..the ones who “have all the parties”……the ones who get the kids the booze “because they are going to get it anyways”….the ones who think that letting kids drink wins “the popularity contest”…..and the parents who want to live vicariously through their kids.

More often than not, these parents are alcoholics themselves.  This does not mean that they are bad people.  It is important to keep in mind that everybody has a story that makes them who they are – so don’t judge.  You might have become an alcoholic too if you had to deal with what they had to deal with.

But there is line crossed when this sort of thing affects YOUR kids.

Alcoholic Mom

People with “alcohol issues” often are productive members of society and hold respectful jobs.  Often, in fact – judicious drinking is PART of their job.  “Sales” – related jobs more often than not relate to a great deal of drinking at the golf course, at sales lunches and dinners or “meeting over drinks”, etc.

Alcohol Lunch

The fact is that we live in an alcohol fuelled culture where many have lost sight of the blurry line between alcohol “use” and alcohol “abuse”.

Alcohol abuse

It is interesting to note that certain flavours can be properly enjoyed and experienced only through alcoholic drinks.  This is because certain flavours and combinations of flavours are more easily mixed and dissolved into alcohol than into water.  Lots of drinks are awesome and are very enjoyable.

“Enjoying” a drink is a normal and healthy thing to do.  But when you are drinking primarily to get the “buzz” or routinely drinking until or beyond “the buzz” – you are probably abusing alcohol.  Alcohol is a drug that overstimulates certain neurons in the brain to the point that they no longer work normally.  Many alcoholics find the drug both sedating and “disinhibiting” – which is often desireable on top of the feeling of intoxication (which is addictive).


Many alcoholics don’t know that they are alcoholics.  This is mostly because they are in denial and also because they are so firmly entrenched into the “alcohol culture” – that getting drunk is an entirely “normal” thing for them.  A funny thing about alcoholics is the fact that their condition is obvious to most everyone around them….but people are polite and they don’t want confrontation – so alcoholics are tolerated (but always whispered about).

Lots of highschool parties are centred around alcohol and getting drunk.  For many teens, “the drunk party” is an opportunity to “spurn the rules” and “Exert autonomy and a feeling of joining adulthood”.  For many other teens, they are encouraged by their parents to “join the club”.

Many of these teens grew up seeing one of both of their parents pass out drunk on a routine basis since their earliest memories.  They then watch their parents friends do the same….then their older brothers and sisters.  This then becomes “the norm” to even young kids who don’t see anything wrong at all with drinking.


And let’s face it – lots of alcoholics do pretty well!  They seem to have a great time, they have a lot of “friends” and they “get all the sales deals”.  So, what’s wrong with that?

Well – they also kill a lot of people while driving drunk, and like a disease – they make even more people more likely to drive drunk and kill even more people.  Alcoholics also get more liver disease, more liver cancer and FAR MORE breast cancer and bowel cancer than “normal people”.  They drive up insurance rates and they all eventually become a force of destruction and toxicity in the lives of their families and friends. Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis ALWAYS EVENTUALLY leads to negative consequences to the drinkers and the people that care for them.


The worst thing about alcoholics is that they tend to encourage other people – even their kids – to become alcoholics.  This happens through both active and passive influences.

So what do you do about your teenaged son or daughter who has to consider being “in the cool group” and going to “the party that  EVERYBODY is going to go to”?  The answer is to stand firm and teach your kids that there is a very visible line between right and wrong.  The law in Canada for drinking is age 18 and the law in the USA is 21.  The law is like this for good reason.  Simply insist that your teenager respect the law and teach them that the law exists for good reason.

Drinking age 18 and 21

Also – encourage your teenager to totally avoid the “alcohol culture”.  No need to make the kids all sanctimonious and “judgey”.  The fact is that your kids are going to live and work in a world where there are many, many people – even good people – that simply drink too much.  Encourage your kids to be comfortable being around these people – but to not feel even a little bit of a need to “join them” in their bad choices.  Your kids should be ENTIRELY COMFORTABLE AND CONFIDENT in having a pop while most everybody around them is having a beer or “doing shots”.  Your kids should be comfortable in being firm about saying “NO” to drinks when it is not appropriate nor desired.

Kids and families that flaunt the “alcohol culture” should be recognized and discussed openly with your teen.  They might be good people otherwise, but you should discuss with your kids your approach to handling situations where there is likely to be a lot of drinking and intoxication.  My own view is that my kids are to avoid these situations wherever possible.  My wife and I avoid them whenever possible – but it is not ALWAYS possible.  Discussing strategies with your kids like how to avoid these situations and how to extricate themselves from unavoidable “heavy drinking” situations are critical life skills for them to have.

Have a “code word” that they can text you or call you with.

For example, simply getting the text or call from your teen that says, “guava juice” – should prompt you to pick them up immediately without explanation or comment.  This little safety trick keeps your teen safe in the knowledge that they have a “special ops extraction team” ready and always willing to “get them out” while helping them to “save face”.

Spec Ops

“Good” kids and “Responsible parents” are ALWAYS on the lookout for others like them that share similar values.  Encourage your kids to get to know other kids who come from families with similar values to yours because there is strength in numbers.

Everybody knows who the “drunk parents are” and who “the party parents are”.  Encourage your kids to be open about their criticism of drinking under age and provide your kids with lots of alternatives.  Teenagers LOVE to have fun.  Encourage a community teen group, girls nights out, guys nights out, etc., etc. that is organized by the teenagers and supported by responsible parents.  Support your teens’ relationships with responsible friends and do not pussyfoot around your opinions about kids and families that are centred on “the alcohol culture”.  Be blunt and open with your kids about your opinions on alcohol abuse and underage drinking.

happy teens

Encourage good behaviour and good decisions – and perhaps more importantly – REWARD good behaviour.   Rewards can be in many forms like parent-sponsored movie nights, alcohol free parties, trips to the ski hill, waterslide, movie in the park, hay ride, etc., etc…….

Most importantly, no matter who you are and how busy and tired and involved and overburdened you are – take AT LEAST 10 minutes to “turn the world off” and just chat with your teen every day no matter what.  It might be a rough start at first but it will get more and more comfortable and they will be more likely to trust you with their “day to day” concerns which might surprise you.

choosing from images stream

Your teen is living in a very different world than you grew up in…..they live in a world of text messaging, i-messaging, snapchatting, facebooking, tumblr-ing, instagramming, etc.  In your teenaged world, there were only 250,000 cars on the road in your major city….now there are over a million on the road.  Taking “Bath Salts” is far more dangerous for you than cocaine, “meth” is traded at parties and kills much more easily than a “couple of joints”.


We have to be aware of a whole new breed of increasingly dangerous addictions that want to take our teens in modern society – so you have to know the nature of these addictions and the cultures and families that feed and water them.

The best way to keep your kids safe from these problems is to send them into the “real world” armed with knowledge, support and confidence.

Your Comments are always welcome!


Should I Take a Vitamin? Which Vitamin is the best?

This was an interesting question that patients of mine ask me regularly.  Should you take Vitamins or not?  Many would argue that Vitamins are not needed if you have a balanced diet.  I agree. 
The problem is that most “balanced diets” are not nearly as balanced as you would think.  Eating your fresh fruits and vegetables daily may still leave you deficient in key trace elements like Selenium and Chromium.
Balanced Diet
For example, the WHOLE ISLAND of New Zealand has literally not one atom of Selenium.  Therefore, anything that is grown in New Zealand, has no Selenium in it.  This is why so many of the Maori Natives from New Zealand have a short stature and a history of thyroid disorders.  Selenium is known to be critical to the production of thyroid hormone in your body – a key element to proper metabolism and immune system function.
Our Fruits and Vegetables are increasingly grown in lands far away in soil that is over-farmed and not allowed to rest for decades as used to be the “standard” in agriculture.  This means that the Chromium and Selenium and other trace elements you should expect to get from your fruits and veggies – may not be there!  In fact, this is also the case for many other vitamins.  Tomatoes, for example, are most often picked green and then shipped for 100′s or perhaps 1000′s of miles before they end up in a “ripening facility”.
Ripening Tomatoes
 In the ripening facilities, the tomatoes are exposed to Ethylene Gas which is a plant hormone that forces a ripening process and which turns the green tomatoes red.  They rarely have a nice flavour and are definitely missing many of the key nutritional items and vitamins that are contained in “vine ripened” tomatoes.  If you can buy them from a locally grown Farmer’s Market, then all the better for you.  If you can’t – you should consider a good quality Vitamin Supplement.
I have spent years researching Vitamins in great depth, including where and how they are manufactured. I lot of what I learned was disturbing. Many Vitamins are manufactured from source material that comes from rural China and other heavily polluted environments.
Chinese Farm Pollution
Agricultural Pollution
Lots of Vitamins also contain large amounts of fillers and are huge and difficult to swallow.
Vitamin Size Comparison
JP Vitale is a tiny #3 E-Z Swallow Capsule
The best supplement I was able to come up with is JP Vitale. It is made by a Canadian Company in the USA, and only uses source materials from the USA or Canada that are all certified to be pure and free of contaminants. Each ingredient in the Multivitamin is vetted through Physician peer-reviewed journals. The Vitamin is tiny, easy to swallow and only needs to be taken once per day. It is packed with anti-oxidants like Lutein and Lycopene and also has difficult to find trace elements like Chromium and Selenium.
The Product is called JP Vitale and is available in the USA through AMAZON and at Pharmacies listed on the JP Vitale website.
Your feedback is always appreciated!

Eating Healthy on Vacation (with thanks to Cole Millen)

Eating Healthy on Vacation

Vacation Restaurant
Today, people are slowly retraining themselves to eliminate poor eating habits on vacation and you can too. Eating healthy on vacation does not have to be painful. In fact, it is incredibly simple.

Mentally Prepare

Before you even leave for your holiday, mentally prepare yourself. Tell yourself that you are allowed to indulge on vacation once in awhile as long as you remain active and only once a day. Perform a bit of reconnaissance to find the restaurants and must-have food stops you cannot miss and plan your food splurges in advance. Also, tell yourself over and over that you will avoid the minibar, limit your alcohol intake and always order a side of vegetables when possible.


Airport Food
Airports and airplanes were once the easiest places to fall victim. For this reason, make sure to eat a filling and nutritious meal prior to your departure to ensure you will not be starving when you are in the airport. If the airline offers a vegetarian dish, it is often more waistline friendly than other meals. Try to bring your own meals and snacks, however be mindful of your destination when packing foods. Most restaurants in airports offer healthy snacks and alternatives. You can often have a piece of fruit in place of french fries. You simply have to ask. Also, a number of cafes and sandwich shops offer yogurts, fruit and vegetables. It is also a good idea to take the stairs and to carry your luggage rather than to roll it through the airports. If you cannot pack a meal, these activities will help save you a few extra calories for the inflight meal.

Choosing a Health-Friendly Hotel

Health Friendly Hotel
As you mentally prepare, choose a health-friendly hotel to help you in your quest. Be certain the hotel offers a gym or pool. Choose a hotel within walking distance to many sights or activities. Check with the hotel to see if they offer bike rental, if they are close to trails and public transportation and if the restaurant offers healthy alternatives such as baked chicken, fish or vegetarian options. Be certain they have a fridge to keep perishables so you can always eat a piece of fruit before leaving for a restaurant. Often times determining these pivotal aspects can be difficult. This is why it is very important to do your research before booking. While hotel websites can be misleading to drive in business, I have found that reviews from other travelers are extremely helpful. I most recently took a trip to Sin City, where eating healthy is nearly impossible, and found a great site called Gogobot that listed reviews for the Las Vegas hotels regarding their amenities, the restaurants in the nearby area, as well as things to do. This was extremely helpful and ensured that I would be able to maintain my healthy lifestyle regardless of where I traveled.

During Your Stay

Fat Kid in a Hotel
Be mindful of temptations at every turn. It is a good idea to keep a food journal on your vacation. It will force you to be realistic about what you have eaten and what you can still eat or drink for the day. Do not forget that fruit drinks, while somewhat healthy in small quantities, can easily escalate your caloric intake for the day. Go for a walk after dinner. This is also a romantic way to end your day if you are traveling with a partner and good exercise for the entire family. If you remain active throughout the trip, you will be able to enjoy yourself more and return happier with your decisions.

At the Restaurant

Healthy Restaurant Meal
It is inevitable that you will be eating out at restaurants; after all it is a vacation. Just make sure to find a restaurant that has a wide variety on their menu to increase the likelihood of finding something that is healthy without sacrificing flavor. From heavily battered entrees to endless bowls of rolls and fresh bread, many chefs create decadent menus with no abandon. If you consistently consume these meals during your vacation, your body will quickly begin to show the results. While indulging in your favorite foods every once in awhile is permissible, try to steer clear of fried foods and opt for smaller portions when possible. Lean proteins, undressed salads and heaping portions of fresh veggies are all great dietary options that you can find in most restaurants. You should also avoid greasy buffets and fast food if possible, as it can be challenging to find appropriate foods in these dining establishments.
Remaining healthy while on vacation does not have to be overly complicated or difficult. Make smart decisions, allow yourself a few indulgences and stay active. If you follow this guide, you may just return even more fit than when you left.

The REAL culprit behind many illnesses…..STRESS!


Today I did a minor surgery on an interesting fellow.  While I was dissecting a benign but bothersome mass, called a fibrolipoma off his skull, we had an interesting chat.  I had noticed that he had been bleeding quite a bit during his surgery.  He mentioned to me that he had stopped his anticoagulants as instructed a few days before his surgery.

Why was this fellow on anticoagulants?  He was a “young” early forty-something, muscular and in phenomenal physical condition.  He was happily married with young kids and made more money than he could spend.

He had been on anticoagulants for the past couple of years every since nearly dying from a heart attack.  He had thought that he had been doing everything right.  He was a busy, involved Husband and Father, an avid recreational hockey player and he also played in a soccer league – all while functioning as the president of a medium sized oil company.


So when he as sitting down in the chair one evening, going over stock reports and working his way through the unending pile of work – he dismissed the initial dull ache in his chest as just one more pulled muscle of a litany of them that he had experienced over the years.

So he took a tums….and he thought the pain went away a little.

Until it returned a little later.  He took another tums and when this didn’t help, he thought he’d just turn in to get some sleep.  He had never slept very much.  At best, with all the demands of his family, work and interests – he had averaged about 3-5 hours of sleep per night for as long as he could remember.  This habit of his started with the early years of University, studying and working to keep up in Engineering at University….then in continued during his early years of working as a young Engineer, trying to climb the corporate ladder.

Finally, as President of a larger and successful company he was accustomed to the constant workload and seemingly unending demands.  His solution to fulfilling the requirements of being a Family Man and also playing in his soccer and hockey leagues was simple – just cut out the sleep!  That trick worked just fine for him all these years and he had no reason to believe that he could not keep this going.

So when he started to feel nauseated, he blamed the lunch he had earlier in the day at the place on the corner by his office building.  He went up to bed and made a mental note to book a massage to address that pain in his left arm that probably resulted from hockey last night.


By the time he got to the top of the stairs, he intended to get into bed beside his wife who had been asleep already for hours.

She awoke suddenly with the loud thump that felt like something large fell in her room.  She got up to call to her husband downstairs to see what had happened – and tripped over his body on the floor beside the bed.  In a panic, she turned the light on and would never forget the sight of her pale husband on the floor, unconscious and with a bluish tinge to her lips.  Her panicked thoughts turned immediately to her daughters and the anguish she would have explaining to them something she could not even imagine.

Still unsure whether or not she was having a nightmare, she called 911 and started CPR.



Days later, her husband woke up in the hospital, drowsy, sore, nauseated and unsure where he was.  All he knew is that he had to get to the office…….it took him a while to realize what really happened to him – it wasn’t “just a heart attack”.  It was but one deadly manifestation of chronic stress.

This fellow was lucky.  He survived his heart attack, and it took him some time to work through the old “disbelief – denial – bargaining – acceptance – introspection” cycle.  So as he lay on my surgical table talking to me about his experience, he admitted that it took him some time to accept that “living the dream” nearly cost him his life.

He quit his job and took a lesser position at a smaller but stable company.  He resolved to changing his lifestyle to become much more aware of stress and the negative effects of chronic sleep deprivation.  He had always been a good Husband and Father – but he realized that a dead Husband and Father is not a good one.

He adjusted the way he saw and interacted with the world and he was thankful that he was healthy enough to be able to live with a heart that continued to work despite having sustained about 15% permanent damage.

And he learned a new and healthy respect for stress.


So what, exactly is stress?  Stress is a state of prolonged emotional tension from internal or external stressors, which may cause various physical manifestations that can accumulate to threaten your health and well being.


“People are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.” 

(Suffering occurs from trying to control what is uncontrollable)

Epictetus (Greek Philosopher AD 55-135)


Stress can and does lead to bad health and you have to protect yourself against it.  It is also unnatural to experience prolonged stress.  We probably evolved the ability to feel stress in order to survive dangerous situations.  For example, in the “caveman” days, stress probably functioned to increase blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and blood sugar in order to help us survive dangerous but temporary situations like trauma, exposure and hunger.  Those early humans that had the ability to “get through” these sorts of tough situations ended up surviving more often than those that didn’t.

Technology has largely removed stressors like exposure to the elements and starvation from the lives of human beings lucky enough to live in the “first world” – and so we are now attuned to respond to other “stressors” like financial, interpersonal and work-related stress.  We also now often live in cities that contain millions of people that live close to each other.  As a result, personalities, interests and personal styles can clash – leading to social stress.

Even young kids are at risk.  Parents tell kids to “study”, “do well in school”, “get along with your peers”, etc., etc.  Kids are waking up early in the morning well before dawn to go to hockey or swimming, etc. practice; they spend hours in school on desks under cold, flat fluorescent lights – often listening to teachers say “blah, blah, blah” for hours on end.  They listen to their parents fight at night, they are subjected to bullying, insecurity and competitiveness in school and in their social lives with personalities that clash more often than they get along.  Our kids increasingly do meaningless homework to “artificially” learn about abstract concepts years before their brains are even wired to be able to grasp abstract concepts.  But our increasingly redundant “British industrialist-modeled” education system decrees that they spend hours per day sitting in a desk and at home to complete tasks with little meaning most of the time.


Kids compete to get into schools, onto teams, into social groups, for jobs, colleges, clubs, friends and increasingly for parental attention and affection.  The venues for this sort of competition is also becoming a 24/7/365 stressor for kids as facebook, tumbler, twitter, instragram, youtube and snapchat infiltrate and influence their lives.

Our kids are often chronically sleep deprived, and they learn to compete and to “be the best” from a very early age to the point that they often grow up not knowing what it is like to feel secure, well rested, and “stress free”.  Kids are increasingly at risk of turning into adults with the same lack of insight into stress.

Stress has become our new normal, and is the worst of the legacies that we are leaving to the next generation.

Signs of stress may not be recognized by people experiencing chronic stress.  These signs are (borrowed from http://www.law.suffolk.edu/offices/stuservices/asp/warning.cfm):

Physical Signs of Stress:

  • Tension, or migraine, headaches
  • Upset stomach, problems retaining food
  • Change in appetite
  • Tightness in chest, back, shoulders
  • Aching jaw, tight forehead
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sweaty palms
  • Tingling sensation in fingers toes
  • Nervous tension all over; heart palpitations
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Constant low grade fever
  • Cold, or sore throat
  • Rashes, hives, skin irritation
  • Increased blood pressur
  • Always tired
  • Menstrual problems, missed menstrual periods

Emotional Signs of stress:

  • Less interest in hobbies, familiar fun activities
  • Upset by the unexpected
  • Sudden shifts in mood
  • Frequent and/or recurring nightmares
  • Vague feelings or uneasiness, restlessness
  • Feelings of being swamped, overwhelmed
  • Feelings of anger, resentment
  • Intolerance, irritability with others
  • More easily frustrated
  • Increased fear of failure
  • Feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness, hopelessness
  • Changed interest in sex, either more or less
  • Apathy, general dissatisfaction
  • Desire to cry
  • Reduced confidence
  • Fear that everyone except you is doing fine
  • Worry that you are asking for too much help or too much time from others

Behavioural Signs of Stress:

  • Change in eating habits
  • Eating more less
  • Sleep problems
  • Too much, too little
  • Difficulty talking to, holding, loved ones
  • Isolating self from others
  • Staying at home or staying at work
  • Complaining more
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, coffee, tobacco
  • Change in general activity level
  • Change in sexual activity, either more or less
  • Pacing
  • Increased nervous habit, such as nail biting or hair twisting
  • Loss of temper: yelling, throwing, and kicking
  • Increased recklessness, risk-taking
  • Bossiness or inflexibility with others
  • Grinding teeth
  • Stuttering
  • Sudden outbursts of crying
  • Laughing, or anger

Intellectual Signs of Stress

  • Having difficulty remembering recent information or details of recent situations
  • Less able to make decisions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Attention span shortens
  • Feeling confused, especially with familiar tasks
  • Repetitive thoughts
  • Continually thinking particular thoughts
  • Misunderstanding what others tell you
  • Increasingly poor judgment
  • Thoughts of escaping, running away
  • Racing thoughts
  • Unable to slow down thought process
  • Loss of objectivity


What is the best “Defence” against stress?  How do you “Cure” stress?

First – be aware of stress.  Look at your life objectively, and determine if you may be stressed.  Know that stress REQUIRES YOUR PARTICIPATION.  Somehow, you must be aware that your stress is affecting you WITH YOUR PERMISSION.

Second – Respect stress.  Don’t slough off the fact that you are stressed and don’t just assume that “it’ll get better soon”.  Stress never gets better unless you take action.

Third – Recruit your resources.  Ask your friends and family for insight and help with recognizing and dealing with your stress.  If you have nobody – get somebody, even if you have to walk unannounced into a church.  That’s the nice things about churches.  The clergy that run them, at the end of the day, are there for anybody and everybody.

Fourth – Deal with it.  That also means deal with yourself.  Remember number one up above: stress needs your permission to stress you.  All problems can be either solved or accepted.  You may be not able to solve an unsolvable problem – but you can ALWAYS deal with it.  Have the talk that you need to have, get help for the problem you have.  Don’t stay in the “stress rutt” – motor yourself out of it.  Quit that job or make a plan to change it.  You have to be brave enough to make your decision – or get help to do it.  There is always a solution and there is always somebody.  Very few people live on an “island unto themselves” – and while there are challenges in living with millions of neighbours – there are also clear benefits.  Each of us is surrounded by hundreds or thousands and even millions of good people.  Get to know some good ones, it isn’t hard.

Fifth – Recognize the patterns of stress in your life and how it tends to “sneak in”.  Develop strategies for a “gut check” on a regular basis to see if you have allowed that monster back into your life again.  In fact – schedule the “stress gut check” on your calendar every month.  Give yourself time to reflect on your life and sources of stress.  Often, you can eliminate sources of stress – but just as often, you can choose to feel differently about a source of stress that you can’t control.  This takes practice and gets easier with experience.

One Strategy to deal with Stress


One useful strategy that I often describe to patients is to view the world and your concerns about it into two or three concentric circles, with you at the centre.  The outermost circle is your circle of concern – everything you care about, but can’t do anything about.  Within this is the circle of influence – everything you care about that you can possible influence.  The closest circle to you is your circle of control – everything that is directly under your control.  Controlling your stress is a simple matter to choose to be unconcerned about anything outside of your circle of influence.  With EVERY issue that you face – you should place it in the correct circle.  Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to figure out whether or not you can affect or control a certain concern in your life – and therefore which circle your concern belongs in.  Simply organizing all of the concerns in your life this way is a great approach to dealing with your stress monster.