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Considering Giving Alcohol as a Gift… Read On

Dear Abby 1/27/2011 As printed in the Abilene Reporter-News
POSTED: 10:30 PM, Jan 26, 2011
TAG: columns (/topic/columns) | columnists (/topic/columnists)

Dear Abby: You advised “Susan in Southern Oregon” (Dec. 1), who asked about the
appropriateness of giving alcohol as a gift at an office party, that “the only time that alcohol
would be an inappropriate gift is when the giver knows the recipient doesn’t use it.” As a
former psychiatric social worker, I would say that the only time alcohol would be an
APPROPRIATE gift is when the giver knows the recipient would use it, and do so responsibly.
People aren’t always forthcoming about their views and experiences regarding alcohol, so it’s
best to play it safe. Many people abstain from alcohol because they are recovering alcoholics
or have seen the devastating results that alcoholism has had on a loved one’s life. Others have
religious reasons for not imbibing.
Giving alcohol as a gift may not only dismay the recipient, it could also lead to worse results if
the giftee is someone who is struggling to stay sober.— Amy in Dover, Del.
Dear Amy: You have raised many valid points. Most of my readers disagreed with my answer,
and their reasons have made me reconsider my advice to Susan. I was wrong. (Mea culpa.)
Read on:
Dear Abby: Imagine receiving a bottle of alcohol after growing up in a home with an abusive
father who drank. Not only would you not want it, you wouldn’t want to give it to anyone else.
Imagine receiving a bottle of alcohol after having lost a child in an automobile accident
caused by a drunken driver. Would you want that reminder, or would you want to regift it to
someone who might get drunk with that bottle and cause someone else’s death?— Joe in
Birmingham, Ala.
Dear Abby: Many alcoholics choose not to reveal their disease. It is called Alcoholics
Anonymous for a reason. A person may have been in recovery for many years and may not
wish to tell anyone except close family and longtime friends.A gift of alcohol would be a temptation to any recovering alcoholic, one that is hard to resist.
The mind can easily rationalize: “It was a gift. I might as well get rid of it. I can share it with
others, so it’s not so bad.” The slope grows steeper from there.— Anonymous in San Antonio
Dear Abby: Have you any idea what it is like to get knocked across a room because you asked
your daddy to play with you? Have you seen your Christmas tree knocked over because your
mother and father were having a fistfight?
My father owned one of the largest businesses in our town. We belonged to the country club.
Yet my parents died in poverty because of alcohol. Of the four siblings, I am the only one who
doesn’t have an alcohol abuse problem.
I am frequently asked to attend functions so I can be the designated driver. I think the slogan
“Friends don’t let friends drink and drive” should be changed to “Real friends don’t try to shift
their responsibility.”— A Survivor in Las Vegas
Dear Abby: Twenty years ago, I would have agreed with your answer. I am the president of a
construction company, and it was standard practice for us to give alcohol at Christmas to a
number of our customers.
Then one day, I received a call from a tearful woman who asked if we had given alcohol to her
husband. When I answered yes, she said that in the future, she would appreciate it if we
wouldn’t do that anymore. Her husband, an alcoholic, had consumed the entire bottle, gone
home and beaten her up. We discontinued the practice immediately.
I would not advise people to gift alcohol unless they know the recipient very well and know it
will not cause harm to him or her, or those around them.— Safer in Tennessee
Six Reasons to Giv


Executive Director’s 2014-2015 Annual Letter


Post 4 Teen Smoking (1)

Vermont Department of Health Launches “Counter Balance”

[December, 2014, Londonderry, VT] — Vermonters have a new resource to talk to children about the influence of the tobacco industry in retail stores.  Counter Balance launched earlier this fall by the Vermont Department of Health to educate parents and raise awareness about how the tobacco industry targets youth with advertising in the retail environment, and how to help prevent the next generation of tobacco users. This highly visual campaign utilizes multiple channels including broadcast television, web, and social media.

Counter Balance’s primary focus is to counter the tobacco industry’s influence on Vermont’s youth. 70% of youth visit convenience stores at least once a week.  Retail stores are the primary place where tobacco companies recruit new tobacco users, and nearly 90% of those new users are underage youth.

The Collaborative, in partnership with the Vermont Department of Health, is promoting the Counter Balance resource to help reduce local youth tobacco use and raise awareness about tobacco companies marketing to Vermont youth. 13% of area High School students report smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days (Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2013 for Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union). Vermont’s goal is to reduce youth tobacco use rates to 10% by 2020.

Reducing smoking rates takes a multi-pronged approach including working with youth to make healthy choices. Talking with youth about tobacco companies’ marketing efforts targeting youth is a key prevention tool to help youth make healthy choices. Parents, teachers, community members the challenge is now to take a moment and converse with the youth in your life and speak with them about your expectations of remaining tobacco free and how tobacco companies target them.

The central hub of the campaign is the new website, which includes educational facts, tobacco industry tactics, research, tips and sharable information. In addition, social media will play a key role in building awareness and educating parents about the impact tobacco advertising and promotion has on Vermont’s youth. The launch of the brand, website and social media outreach is just the first phase of a longer-term initiative in Vermont.

88% of adult smokers began smoking by the age of 18. Every day in the United States, more than 3,000 youth under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette – and over 400 Vermont youth become daily smokers every year. Youth exposure to tobacco marketing is directly correlated to youth tobacco use, with an estimated one-third of teenage smoking experimentation resulting from tobacco advertising.

The bottom line: the more often kids are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to start smoking. 

Counter Balance provides Vermonters with facts, tips, downloadable information to share, as well as opportunities to help spread the word to help prevent youth tobacco use. It’s time to end tobacco’s influence on Vermont’s kids. For more resources and information, visit, or call The Collaborative 802-824-4200.


Healthy Alternatives Fair

Tuesday, December 9th 3:30 – 5:30

Long Trail School

Join your Middle School and High School peers for this RTU Make Up event!


Don’t Let Substance Abuse Wreck Your Holidays

From the Brattleboro Reformer
By Geoffrey Kane


As we approach the holiday season — the time of year from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day when “joy” is the word but not necessarily the reality — it’s worth reflecting on ways we can protect ourselves and those we care about from inconvenience and tragedy due to use of alcohol or other mood-changing substances. Start by believing that some measure of holiday joy and fulfillment, provided we are open to it, is available to us all.

Caution is needed. But the holidays evoke strong feelings, and strong feelings often override caution. Strong feelings could include the stress of keeping up with the seasonal parade of expectations and events such as shopping, travel, cooking, social gatherings, and so forth — or the stress of not having any of those to keep up with. Strong feelings also arise from our past. And our past is more present at the holidays, especially past family life. Cherished holiday memories hurt when special people are no longer with us. Painful holiday memories hurt even more when the holidays arrive, whether the people involved are still with us or not.


As a general precaution, reduce holiday stress by talking about your feelings with an empathic person and by letting go of unrealistic expectations. Specific precautions against hazardous holiday substance use depend partly on whether a person is in recovery or not. Individuals in recovery want to abstain from all mood-changing substances. But an occasional drinker may simply wish to limit her or his alcohol consumption enough to avoid disinhibited behavior (at an office party, for instance) or driving under the influence.

Motor vehicle crashes caused by drunk or drugged-driving end too many lives and damage countless others. For that matter, even DUI offenses can have life-changing consequences. The statistics are hard to ignore.

If you are in recovery, watch out for a strong feeling that you are entitled to celebrate with a mood-changing substance. One February, a man in his 40s required hospitalization to treat complications of his alcoholic cirrhosis. After he stabilized and was discharged, he realized his health was fragile and, even though he did not engage in any kind of recovery program, he did not drink for the rest of the year. The man’s birthday fell in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. He celebrated with a drink, could not stop drinking, and was dead by the following February.

Throughout the holidays, as people gather and share food and beverages, make choices in your best interest. It may be prudent to attend only gatherings you know will be free of alcohol and other drugs and to avoid groups with traditions of getting drunk or high. If you drink alcohol, know your limits. If you do not drink alcohol — or switch to another beverage after one or two — don’t apologize or feel self-conscious about it. If someone judges you by what you drink, one of you is at the wrong gathering.

If you are the host, make nonalcoholic beverages equally available and just as attractive as alcoholic ones. For example, offer a variety of juices, lots of seltzer, and plentiful wedges of lemon and lime. Place obvious labels (that are not easily switched or altered) on bowls of beverages such as eggnog or punch so guests will know which contains alcohol and which is alcohol free. If you are a guest and unsure what choices will be offered, bring your own beverage. May your holidays be full of meaning and enjoyment — and sufficient caution that you also enjoy the many days that follow.

Geoffrey P. Kane, MD, MPH, is Chief of Addiction Services at the Brattleboro Retreat.


The Caffeine-Alcohol Effect

Why quaffing energy-drink cocktails may be riskier than sticking to booze alone
 Source: The Atlantic
Amy Nordrum
Nov 7 2014 

One in four people in their early 20s have done it-mixed the stimulating effects of an energy drink with the buzz-inducing properties of alcohol. While partiers swig and stay out late, health experts worry that alcoholic energy drinks cloud their judgment in two important ways: by making people think they are not as drunk as if they’d only had alcohol, and causing them to crave another round more strongly. These effects could explain why people who add caffeine to their cocktail are at greater risk of being in an accident or making a decision they will later regret (like getting in the car with a drunk driver) than those who stick to straight booze.

When the world’s first energy drink debuted in 1987, it didn’t take long for Red Bull to find its way behind the bar. Bartenders soon started mixing Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar with vodka, gin, Jagermeister, and hard cider. These caffeine-laced cocktails became so popular, major beverage companies created canned and bottled versions like Four Loko to sell in convenience stores.

“Since caffeine lasts for six hours, that extends that time when you feel alert, and that makes you want to drink more.”

But as the popularity of alcoholic energy drinks rose, so too did the frequency of emergency-room visits by those who drank them. The rate of visits involving energy drinks in general doubled from 10,000 in 2007 to 20,000 in 2011, and about 2,600 of the visits in 2011 had to do with alcoholic energy drinks. That uncomfortable spike prompted the FDA to ban premixed alcoholic energy drinks including Four Loko-which contained 156 mg of caffeine and 12 percent alcohol, or the equivalent of four beers and a cup of coffee-in 2010.

Today, these drinks still flow freely in bars and restaurants-like at TGI Fridays, where the “Diddy Up” cocktail comes with Ciroc vodka, ruby red grapefruit, Red Bull and fresh-squeezed lime. It was added to the menu in 2010 and “continues to be a favorite for many of our Fridays guests” according to a company spokesperson. Dave and Busters boasts the “Raging Berry Bull” made with vanilla vodka, lemonade, and strawberry ice cubes, plus a can of blueberry-flavored Red Bull. The Black Diamond, a bar in Spokane, Washington, features a drink called “Hell Yeah” made with huckleberry vodka, citrus vodka, cranberry, and Red Bull. Jon Legault, the Black Diamond’s general manager, says he added it recently because “a lot of good drinks involve energy drinks nowadays.”

Kathleen Miller, a sociologist and researcher at University at Buffalo, says these cocktails pose a greater risk than the premixed versions that came in cans and bottles because more people are ordering them from bars than ever bought drinks like Four Loko from a store. She adds that college students have been the focus of most of the research on possible risks.

Cecile Marczinski, a psychological researcher from Northern Kentucky University, says the caffeine in these drinks has the ability to mask intoxication which could make people underestimate how drunk they are and impair their ability to cut themselves off. Subjects in several of her experiments who drank alcoholic energy drinks rated their own drunkenness as lower than subjects with the same blood alcohol content who only had alcohol.

Marczinski also says feeling tired is an important factor in many people’s decision to stop drinking, but that caffeine renders these feelings obsolete. “Since caffeine lasts for six hours, that extends that time when you feel really stimulated and alert and that makes you want to drink more,” she explains. Energy drinks contain between 50 and 500 mg of caffeine, along with additives like guarana and ginseng that also act like stimulants in many people. Sodas, another common mixer, contain about 34 mg to 54 mg of caffeine, but can also heighten intoxication as compared with alcohol alone when used as mixers.

From surveys, researchers do know that people who drink alcoholic energy drinks also consume more alcohol and tend to drink for longer than people who drink just booze. This could mean that heavy drinkers are simply more likely to order a vodka Red Bull, but it could also be a direct result of the masking effect-a question that Marczinski is testing right now in her lab.

The results of another recent experiment might also help explain why people who drink alcoholic energy drinks tend to drink more, and for longer. Rebecca McKetin, a researcher at Australian National University, showed that drinking a vodka-Red Bull created a stronger urge in subjects to keep drinking than having a plain cocktail with the same amount of booze.

She demonstrated this “priming effect” by pouring drinks for 75 participants, half with Smirnoff vodka and soda water, and the other half with vodka and Red Bull. Adding Red Bull made participants twice as likely to want to drink more than if they had consumed only alcohol, which McKetin considered a small to medium effect. She did not study whether participants actually would consume more drinks-just whether or not they wanted to.

“This is a really promising line of research,” Miller says. “There’s a whole host of reasons why alcoholic energy drinks may be significantly riskier in terms of over-drinking and adverse outcomes. Priming is just one piece of the equation, but it’s an important one.”

Not everyone agrees that alcoholic energy drinks are riskier than plain cocktails. Joris Verster, a pharmacologist at Utrecht University, questions the real-world implications of McKetin and Marczinski’s results. “It is never actually tested by these authors if participants will indeed consume more of the beverage,” Verster says. In his own survey of 2,000 students-which was, notably, funded by Red Bull-subjects reported lower overall consumption of alcoholic energy drinks than those with just alcohol over the course of a night when they were drinking only one or the other.

Caffeine and alcohol don’t even need to be in the same glass to show an effect.

Other researchers who have looked more directly at the consequences of drinking alcoholic energy drinks do find support for the idea that they are riskier, but often can’t prove that the drinks actually caused a hangover to happen, just that those who drink alcoholic energy drinks also tend to have more hangovers.

Megan Patrick, a sociologist at University of Michigan, surveyed 500 students about their drinking habits. The students who drank alcoholic energy drinks reported two to three times more negative consequences-like having a hangover or passing out-when compared with those who stuck to alcohol.

In another study, Patrick found that caffeine and alcohol don’t even need to be in the same glass to show an effect. Students who drank energy drinks and alcohol in the same day, but not at the same time, were still at a higher risk for negative consequences than those who did not have an energy drink all day. On those days when they did have energy drinks, students also drank 11 percent more alcohol and drank for five percent longer than on days when they did not.

As experts better identify the impacts of alcoholic energy drinks, the effort to make them safer could take several forms. College campuses might caution students to be careful while enjoying alcoholic energy drinks, or state alcohol beverage control boards could step in to regulate these beverages in bars and restaurants, as the FDA did with Four Loko. “There are plenty of ways to keep alcohol safer,” Marczinski says.

There has been a slight drop in teens who try alcoholic energy drinks since Four Loko was outlawed, according to Lloyd Johnston, a sociologist at University of Michigan who leads an ongoing study of drug use among adolescents. Even so, the latest results from 2013 show that one in four high school seniors has tried these drinks in the past year. Once they reach college, these teens could benefit from what researchers have learned from testing the classes that came before them-namely, that ordering a vodka cranberry instead of a vodka Red Bull might be a smarter choice.



Adolescent Brain Development & Substance Abuse Trends Presentations


Adolescent Brain Development & Substance Abuse Trends Presentations with Michael Nerney

Michael Nerney, a nationally-renowned expert on substance abuse education and prevention, will present at Flood Brook School on Wednesday, November 5 from 6:30-8 PM and Green Mountain Union High School on Thursday, November 6 from 6:30-8 PM. Nerney will give an engaging presentation on the current trends in adolescent substance abuse, high risk behaviors, and advances in adolescent brain research, putting new information into a framework that makes sense.

Parents and community members are invited to share in this educational evening to learn about the scope of the local, statewide, and national substance abuse problem; explore the underlying reasons for the increase in substance abuse among teens; discuss new drug trends and concurrent high risk behaviors; and explore possible prevention strategies.

These presentations have been made possible by a grant from the Vermont Country Store and the Berkshire Bank. The idea to host the presentation in Londonderry came from the series of community forums that were recently initiated by Neighborhood Connections. A subcommittee of concerned community members wanted to bring Michael Nerney’s presentation to our area. For more information, email or call 802-824-4200.


Wednesday, November 5 from 6:30-8 PM at Flood Brook School

Thursday, November 6 from 6:30-8 PM at Green Mountain Union High School


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Seeking P/T Afterschool Program Specialist



Job Title: Afterschool Program Specialist

Reports To: EDP Coordinator

Job purpose

The Afterschool Program Specialist is responsible for creating fun, enriching, and engaging programs and a safe environment for the youth attending The Collaborative’s afterschool Extended Day Program.

Duties and responsibilities


  • Developing and facilitating programs for youth-homework help, arts enrichment activities, fun physical activities, etc.
  • Providing youth a healthy snack
  • Creating and posting a programming schedule
  • Having fun with K-5 youth!


  • Assisting the EDP Coordinator with administrative tasks as needed
  • Communicating and building a relationship with parents
  • Assuring all EDP activities and programs adhere to licensing rules


  • Overseeing and building a relationship with youth
  • Tracking youth behavior


  • Some college, BA preferred
  • Experience with Microsoft Office, social media, and other computer software
  • Previous experience working with youth
  • Ability to manage time, multiple projects, and deadlines
  • Positive attitude, organized, enjoys working with youth

Working conditions

Afterschool Program Specialist will primarily work from 2-6pm, with room for some flexibility, onsite at the Extended Day Program located in Flood Brook School. 15-20 total work hours each week.


$12-$14 per hour, depending on experience level. Child can participate in the Extended Day Program afterschool program free of charge. Time off accrual.

How To Apply           

Applicants may submit a résumé via email to or mail to:

The Collaborative, Attn: Kerri MacLaury, PO Box 32, S. Londonderry, VT 05155

Or fill out an online staff application at