ASK KELLEY - Why does anyone start using drugs?

Dear Kelley,
I am aware that addiction is a disease and not a choice. The science is very clear on what happens to a person’s brain once they are addicted to drugs. However, the first time that person picks up a drug and decides to use it is a choice. We all go through hard times in life and not everyone becomes addicted to drugs. I’m having a hard time understanding what makes a person start using drugs in the first place and I’d like to learn more about that.

Dear Melissa,
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people are most likely to begin misusing drugs including tobacco, alcohol and illegal and prescription drugs during adolescence and young adulthood. In fact, by the time they are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nearly 40 percent will have smoked a cigarette, and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose.

There are many reasons adolescents use these substances, including the desire for new experiences, an attempt to deal with problems or perform better in school, and simple peer pressure. Adolescents are “biologically wired” to seek new experiences and take risks, as well as to find their own identity.

Many factors influence whether an adolescent tries drugs, including the availability of drugs within the neighborhood, community and school and whether the adolescent’s friends are using them. The family environment is also important: Violence, physical or emotional abuse, mental illness, or drug use in the household increase the likelihood an adolescent will use drugs. Finally, an adolescent’s inherited genetic vulnerability; personality traits like poor impulse control or a high need for excitement; mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or ADHD; and beliefs such as that drugs are “cool” or harmless make it more likely that an adolescent will use drugs.

The teenage years are a critical window of vulnerability to substance use disorders, because the brain is still developing and malleable (a property known as neuroplasticity), and some brain areas are less mature than others. The parts of the brain that process feelings of reward and pain—crucial drivers of drug use—are the first to mature during childhood. What remains incompletely developed during the teen years are the prefrontal cortex and its connections to other brain regions. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for assessing situations, making sound decisions, and controlling our emotions and impulses; typically this circuitry is not mature until a person is in his or her mid-20s.

Most teens do not escalate from trying drugs to developing an addiction or other substance use disorder; however, even experimenting with drugs is a problem. Drug use can be part of a pattern of risky behavior including unsafe sex, driving while intoxicated, or other hazardous, unsupervised activities. In cases when a teen does develop a pattern of repeated use, it can pose serious social and health risks. To learn more visit

Local VNA offers tips for Heart Health Month

FRANKLIN – The first American Heart Health Month took place in February 1964 to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease. At the time, this was the cause of more than half the deaths in the United States each year. While we have made improvements, the American Heart Association estimates heart disease claims about 2,200 lives each day, that’s one death due to cardiovascular disease every 40 seconds!

Heart disease is a term used for a variety of diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as coronary artery disease, heart rhythm disorders, and defects of the heart present at birth. It can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, blood clots, and be a factor in other vascular problems causing loss of function, pain or even limb amputation, all of which can lead to death. If you are one of the 23.4 million US adults to have diabetes, the risk is even higher. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states, “over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. In adults with diabetes, the most common causes of death are heart disease and stroke. Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes.” Despite increased attention to it, heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It is an equal opportunity killer which claims approximately one million lives annually.

The Franklin Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice offers these tips on things you can do to reduce your risk and to help prevent heart disease. First, do a little family research. Knowing your family health history and your own risk factors for heart disease are good starts. Next, take that new-found knowledge to your check-up and talk with your healthcare provider about what you’ve learned. Your next step would be to schedule a regular check-up with your primary care physician. Your provider will be your partner in managing your risk factors. One huge risk factor is smoking. So, if you smoke, quit. Visit for free resources and support.

Another important step is your diet. Eating foods low in salt, saturated fats, and trans fats, and high in unsaturated fats, like the Mediterranean Diet, is better for your heart. That means skipping the fried fish and chips in favor of the salmon with avocado and tomatoes, but in the end it’s a more flavorful option as well as being healthier.

Lastly, don’t forget to add exercise in to your day. Taking part in moderate aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week or more vigorous workouts at least 20 minutes three times a week helps keep your heart strong, your vessels clear and even improves your mood.

Foot care and blood pressure clinics slated

FRANKLIN — The following blood pressure and foot care clinics will be available to Frankllin-area residents this month:

  • Tues, Feb. 6, Blood Pressure Clinic, 10:30-11:15 a.m., Belmont Senior Center
  • Wed, Feb. 7, Foot Care Clinic, please call for appointment, VNA of Franklin
  • Wed, Feb.14, Foot Care Clinic, please call for appointment, Tilton Senior Center, 11 Grange Rd., Lochmere
  • Thurs, Feb.15, Blood Pressure Clinic, 11 a.m.-noon, Northfield Community Pines
  • Tues, Feb.20, Blood Pressure Clinic, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Tilton Senior Center, 11 Grange Rd., Lochmere
  • Wed, Feb.21, Foot Care Clinic, please call for appointment, VNA of Franklin
  • Tues, Feb. 27, Blood Pressure Clinic, 10:30–11:30 a.m., Tripp Center, Bessie Rowell Community Center
  • Wed, Feb. 28, Foot Care Clinic, please call for appointment, VNA of Franklin

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 603-934-3454.

Gilmanton knitter delivering Knitted Knockers to Concord Hospital

GILMANTON — Concord Hospital just became the conduit for connecting volunteer knitters and crocheters with breast cancer survivors who would like to have one or two Knitted Knockers. Knitted Knockers are soft, comfortable, handcrafted breast prostheses, made with love by volunteers for women who have had mastectomies and for whom breast reconstruction is perhaps not an immediate option.

Betty Ann Abbott of Gilmanton is a knitter who wanted to help local breast cancer survivors by making some knockers. Having gone to the organization’s website,, to find a local provider, and finding none, she asked at the Imaging Center and the Breast Care Center during a recent visit if they were interested in becoming a supplier. The hospital enthusiastically agreed. She has now taken on the task of providing the hospital with a supply of Knitted Knockers. They will be offered through the Heart Gift Boutique.

Like-minded knitters who want to help can contact Abott at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

01 30 Knitted Knockers

Gilmanton knitter Betty Ann Abbott recently delivered a basket full of Knitted Knockers of various sizes and colors to the gift shop at Concord Hospital. She is working to organize a team of local volunteers to guarantee a continuing supply of the soft, comfortable, handcrafted breast prostheses for women who have had mastectomies. (Courtesy photo)