When does it stop being a party and start becoming a problem? Is there a way to steer clear of addiction? Every Wednesday, Mike McGowan, host of the podcast "Avoiding the Addiction Affliction," explores substance use disorders with expert guests. The podcast series is sponsored by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition.
Original cover art created by
Kelly P. of Kenosha, Wisconsin
Juliana Obayashi, Maria Brunetta, and Brenda Benadiba
Are the customs and patterns around alcohol and other drug usage that much different in other places? Juliana, Maria, and Brenda talk about substance use and abuse in their native Brazil. The legal drinking age is different, and so are the consequences. Now in the United States for college, the women compare the culture they were born in with the one they moved to. Other countries and cultures address alcohol and other drug usage differently than in the United States, too. If you or a loved one has a substance use disorder, help is available. Locally, resources can be found at Crisis, 262-657-7188 or 211 Wisconsin: https://211wisconsin.communityos.org. You can also find AA meetings here: https://mtg.area75.org/meetings.html?dist=7 and NA meetings here: https://namilwaukee.org/meetings/
[00:00:00] [Jaunty Guitar Music]
[00:00:11] Mike: Welcome everybody to Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, brought to you by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. As always, I'm Mike McGowan. When I speak about alcohol and drug usage, especially to young people, I often get the response. Well, in other countries, they don't have a problem with it because they allow it, they can use it all the time.
And now every time I get these statements, they tend to be made by people that, one, have never been to that place or know anything at all about it, have any knowledge. So we've had a few conversations with people who actually live in other places to talk about alcohol and drugs and the culture of alcohol and drugs in the countries that they come from.
Now this will not be research or scientific conversations. This just a chat with people who are actually [00:01:00] from the places we're talking about. Today I'm delighted to have as our guests, three young women from Brazil, Juliana Obayashi, Maria Brunetta, and Brenda Benadiba. Did I get it right, Brenda? Very good. They're college students living here in the United States from Brazil.
[00:01:19] Julianna: Hi. Thanks for having us.
[00:01:22] Mike: Well, you're welcome, and thank you for doing it. Well, now we'll just jump in in a conversation, but let's just start it this way, Juliana, we're gonna talk about alcohol and drug usage. I know you were all born in Brazil. You all live here now, but it's always nice that people get to know you a little bit.
Tell us a little bit, you, you're, you're all students at UW Madison, right? Juliana?
[00:01:39] Julianna: Yes.
[00:01:40] Mike: What are you?
[00:01:40] Julianna: I am majoring in Nutritional Sciences Certificates and Global Health Disability Rates and Service Leadership. And I'm also pre-pharmacy, so I hope to go to pharmacy school after undergrad.
[00:01:56] Mike: I can use you as an expert in about nine different categories [00:02:00] here, right? Maria, how about you?
[00:02:03] Maria: Yeah, so I'm a junior and I am majoring in Journaling Spanish and Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian studies with certificates in sports communications and digital studies.
[00:02:15] Mike: Okay. For those people that don't know what are certificates as opposed to majors?
[00:02:20] Maria: It's like a minor basically they just call it certificates but it's just a little bit less credit requirements.
[00:02:26] Mike: You just stick it on your resume and say, I can also do this.
[00:02:30] Maria: Yeah.
[00:02:31] Julianna: Yes.
[00:02:32] Mike: And Brenda, how about you?
[00:02:33] Brenda: I'm also a junior and then I'm just majoring in biology and Spanish.
[00:02:38] Mike: Wow. Well, Spanish would be great. And you told me earlier that you're going to be overseas.
[00:02:45] Brenda: Yeah, yeah. So me and Maria are actually going to the same place, but we're both gonna be in Spain for the Spring semester.
[00:02:53] Mike: Wow. Yeah. When you go on a foreign exchange trip like that, do you just continue your own [00:03:00] studies or how does that work? ?
[00:03:02] Brenda: Well, it depends. You have to like study what they have available there. So most of my courses are just for my Spanish major, because they don't have like biology courses there. But I know there's programs like business programs or journalism programs for Maria that offer different classes too. But most of them are just for your Spanish major, I would say.
[00:03:22] Mike: Now, Maria, are you already fluent in Spanish?
[00:03:24] Maria: I would say pretty much, I've been studying it for quite some time, so it's definitely like, no, I'm not a hundred percent confident, but I would say pretty close.
[00:03:32] Mike: So the journalism part, will you then have - well. I always found I could listen in Spanish better than I could speak it. And I could speak it far better than I could write it.
[00:03:43] Maria: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:44] Mike: So will you have to write, do journalism by writing in Spanish there?
[00:03:49] Maria: Yeah, so I'm taking a class that's like digital and visual culture Spain, I think that's what it's called. So I'll have to do a lot of writing I believe, and [00:04:00] yeah, do like all of its speaking, writing, listening, all of that stuff.
[00:04:04] Mike: Wow. Well good luck. That sounds outstanding. I'll have you back and you can talk about the drug and alcohol cause you're in Spain when you girls get back.
[00:04:12] Brenda: Good.
[00:04:13] Mike: Well, Juliana, let me start with you then. Okay. So, not that you are experts, but in Brazil, when it comes to alcohol and drugs, what's legal and what isn't and what ages, you know, fill us in a little bit, whatever, you know.
[00:04:25] Julianna: I don't know too much about it. I just know the drinking age in Brazil is 18 but they usually start drinking under age.
[00:04:32] Mike: Like what age?
[00:04:33] Brenda: Yeah, I would say for my cousins it's like 13.
[00:04:36] Mike: You know, Brenda, we, we were talking before we signed on and you said something, I wanted to save it, because you said, yeah, I moved here just before the partying started and you said you moved here about 13.
[00:04:48] Brenda: Yeah, I moved when I was 12, so I moved in the summer. So my birthday's in April, so it's like that year. I know this because I like seen from social media, but right before I moved, like right after, that's when everyone [00:05:00] started partying and drinking.
[00:05:01] Mike: In middle school.
[00:05:03] Brenda: Yeah. Yeah, because my cousin, she lived in the US and she went back to Brazil that same year and that's when she started all of that. She's the same age as us, so.
[00:05:14] Mike: Yeah, Maria, same for you?
[00:05:17] Maria: Yeah. Well, I moved when I was six so I was pretty young. But yeah, from the people I kind of kept in touch, it was a pretty young age. And it's not like a casual house party, it's a, like, from what I've seen, it's like they're going out partying like very hard.
[00:05:32] Mike: Like seventh graders, hammering?
[00:05:36] Maria: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:05:37] Mike: Okay. Well then I'm gonna just hop into it. Cause what we know about alcohol is that the sooner you start, the greater the risk to your development. You're all nodding your heads,
[00:05:50] Maria: Right? Yeah. So have you seen that with the people that you left behind?
[00:05:57] Mike: Did there seem to be a consequence to it?[00:06:00]
[00:06:02] Maria: I mean, for me, maybe Brenda has a different view, but I'm not like, as close with the people that I was when I was younger.
[00:06:08] Julianna: Yeah, I have an older sister in Brazil too, and she's in school for dentistry and stuff. So like that's a pretty hard thing to get into. So I think she is developmentally fine.
[00:06:26] Brenda: Yeah, I was gonna say the same thing, like my cousins who are all my age or around the same age. Like they're fine. My cousin is in college right now. My other cousins are doing fine at school. So it's, it's interesting that fact and like, yeah.
[00:06:39] Mike: What did they drink?
[00:06:41] Brenda: I know they drink like hard alcohol. I don't know. I think my cousin was a big vodka fan, I don't know.
[00:06:49] Mike: How do you avoid getting into trouble when you're doing it - is it sporadic or are they doing it on a regular basis?
[00:06:58] Brenda: I think it's just so easy [00:07:00] for them to get it there. Like everyone is just so chill about it because the legal age is so young, I think it's so easy. They have fakes too, but they're not as strict as here, like bars here, I feel like they could block you, but there, if you have a fake, they'll let you in. They won't really check.
[00:07:18] Mike: So we're more punitive. So when you go back there and you know, I know you're all older now, but when you go back there, you've been able to get into clubs for how long?
[00:07:28] Brenda: I've never been, I dunno if they have.
[00:07:31] Maria: I was gonna say, I've never been to like a club there, but we could technically, legally.
[00:07:38] Julianna: I went to a club this past summer and we went to three different ones I think? None of them asked for my ID and, well, one of 'em asked, they were just like, how old are you? And they're like, okay, you can go. Like, they didn't check anything. So it was kinda weird.[00:08:00]
[00:08:00] Mike: And here they're doing a retina scan, right?
[00:08:02] Maria: Yeah. It's like a whole different thing, but I don't know I think the drinking culture here is so much more prevalent. It's like here, it's like a lot of people wanna drink to like binge get drunk, like black out. I see that a lot more than I see with people there maybe here they are just a little bit more public about it on social media, but I think it's interesting that the people are partying at a young age, but I don't see that like huge culture like I see kind of here in Wisconsin.
[00:08:31] Mike: I actually wanted to ask you about that because that's one of the things we have here in Wisconsin and I think people misunderstand that, right? So what you're saying is while drinking may happen younger the point of the evening isn't to get blasted to the wall.
[00:08:45] Maria: Yeah. Or at least from what I've seen. I mean, I'm sure there's people who are in that same,
[00:08:50] Julianna: I would same thing. Like people just drink to be social. Yeah. Not to get drunk and blackout.
[00:08:55] Maria: Yeah.
[00:08:56] Mike: Yeah. Well, and all three of you are at Madison, [00:09:00] right? Right. Now you, you're gonna find this the rest of your life as I have the minute you say UW Madison, people chuckle, right?
[00:09:06] Maria: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:09:07] Mike: But it's a hard university. It's a great university. But the reputation for heavy drinking is well established, right?
[00:09:16] Maria: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
[00:09:18] Brenda: I think it just depends on your friend group. Like they said, there's people that drink casually and there's people that like, just wanna get blackout wasted. So yeah, just depends on who you're with and where you go.
[00:09:31] Mike: Well, there's so many different things to do at Madison that you have a choice, right?
[00:09:34] Brenda: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:35] Mike: You can either learn how to sail on Lake Mendota or you can sit and look out the window of a bar. Right. My friends chose the second option. Especially my friend who said his junior year was the best four years of his life.
So I think I just read right, did Brazil just strengthen their drinking and driving laws? Can you drive when you're down there? What's the driving age?
[00:09:58] Brenda: It's 18.
[00:09:59] Maria: So you're [00:10:00] not really driving at all until you're 18.
[00:10:02] Mike: Well, and up until this year, you can still have open intoxicants in the car, it just can't be the driver who's drinking, right? What happens if you get pulled over? There's absolute sobriety, so it's not like 0.08 as here. Right? Did I get that right?
[00:10:22] Maria: Yeah. It's zero, like absolutely. I know whenever we go, whoever's driving, like they do not drink at all. They barely even touch. And maybe we'll have a sip, but yeah.
[00:10:35] Mike: Because what will happen to you?
[00:10:36] Maria: I don't know the exact like penalty, but yeah.
[00:10:39] Julianna: It's like really strict too. When I was in Brazil I was with my sister's friends and we were driving somewhere and they were drinking while driving. So then I asked, oh, it's legal here? They're like, actually it's not. We just can't get caught. I was like, okay. So yeah, [00:11:00] that's how I learned about those laws.
[00:11:02] Mike: Did I also read, I think I came across an article that said alcohol is banned in soccer stadiums?
[00:11:10] Brenda: I've never heard that.
[00:11:11] Maria: I feel like I haven't gone to a game there. Ever, so I dunno.
[00:11:14] Brenda: Yeah. I would just see that being a thing, just because like some incidents happen and they just wanna avoid it. Because it's so easy to get alcohol, so.
[00:11:22] Mike: We're actually recording this on the day that Pelé died. And I know we were talking earlier, it's a big deal, right? In Brazil.
[00:11:30] Maria: Yeah.
[00:11:30] Mike: Are you into soccer at all? Did you watch the World Cup?
[00:11:34] Brenda: We did.
[00:11:35] Mike: I thought one of the things that was interesting was during the celebration, after Argentina -, can I say Argentina won, does that irritate everybody from Brazil? Is that like saying Chicago bears to Packer fans? Right?
[00:11:50] Julianna: We'll let it slide.
[00:11:53] Mike: Sorry. But they were all on the field. They were taking pictures. They brought their families down because [00:12:00] there's no alcohol in Qatar. And so it was an interesting celebration as opposed to when you watched the World Series Super Bowl or you know, sporting events here where alcohol is such a central part.
What is the other drug usage like? Is, is there marijuana?
[00:12:17] Brenda: I think weed is a pretty big one too.
[00:12:20] Maria: Yeah, I think it definitely is. I know that, I mean, from what I like heard from my family, like it's not legal. A lot of the people I know are very against any drugs, but it's definitely big there
[00:12:33] Mike: And I think they decriminalized it right, so that they look the other way if you're using it? You're not likely to go to jail if you're using it.
[00:12:40] Maria: Yeah.
[00:12:42] Mike: Well that's actually refreshing, you know, our jails are full of people. Now, if you don't mind, I'd love to ask you questions about women. Because in a lot of cultures, women and men are treated totally different when it comes to consumption and being out. Is it that way? In Brazil? [00:13:00]
[00:13:01] Maria: I would say that just from what I've seen, the culture is definitely, it's a lot more integrated from just the people I'm around. But I know that in the past, it definitely was like men would drink and that was their social thing and that wasn't like necessarily a women's thing. And the way that men did it. But I think now it's definitely becoming a lot more like equal.
[00:13:25] Mike: Hmm. Brenda, what do you hear from your mom? Like, what was it like for your mom?
[00:13:30] Brenda: Yeah, I was gonna say, in most social settings I've been in like, whenever we go, we still go out with like my parents' friends and just like old friends that we've had. And I'd say it's pretty equal. Like in terms of who drinks, the amount of people drink. My parents are not big, like hard alcohol drinkers. If they drink, it's like wine. Like we have a drink called Caipirinha, which is like, you have to drink there. So, I don't know. I think it's pretty equal, like Maria was saying like I [00:14:00] know my grandma drinks my cousins drink. Like all my cousins are girls, they drink just as much as the boys.
[00:14:05] Mike: You know, I think people have different perceptions. When I was looking up some of the statistics, I was struck that almost all South American countries, the consumption is significantly less than it is in the United.
[00:14:19] Brenda: Wow. Yeah.
[00:14:20] Mike: And Juliana, let me ask you a question. Since you have this biology/pharmacy background, right? When we're talking about opiates, you can't get data or good data because they're just not measuring it. Can I ask you about in the classes that you're taking, how much of an emphasis is on whatever we're experiencing here currently? Is there an emphasis on it, on opiates?
[00:14:44] Julianna: With the more biological aspect, I wouldn't say that there's a big emphasis on it. It's just about like what it does to the body, but when I took a class about substance use disorders, it did focus that [00:15:00] a lot more, and I learned a lot of the social aspects in my social work class.
[00:15:08] Mike: Excellent. And was that mandatory as part of the degree?
[00:15:11] Julianna: No, I wanted to take it because it was about substance use disorders, so it's something I'm interested in, especially with going into pharmacy.
[00:15:21] Mike: Well, we have a lot of therapists and people that listen to this. I don't want to irritate anybody, but I think if you wanna know about what a drug does, go and ask a pharmacist rather than your physician.
[00:15:31] Julianna: It definitely [inaudible] cause that's what they go to school for. And a lot of doctors like ask pharmacists questions too.
[00:15:39] Mike: Oh, well then I feel better. I feel like I'm not gonna irritate if I'm already talking about the experts as we go there, right? And, when you go out and for family, Brazil does have a reputation as being as not necessarily in the same as some of the other countries, but as a staging area for some of the drug trafficking. Does it [00:16:00] feel unsafe when you go out?
[00:16:01] Maria: I think it's all about being aware of your surroundings. Definitely you have to know which parts of the city that you're going to. Like for example, a couple years ago the favelas, which are like the slums are definitely a place to avoid because of all the drug trafficking. They kinda made that area really violent, even though it is a thriving community, people live there. Not everyone is there to traffic drugs. But it's a poor community and drug drivers take advantage of that and make it really violent. So it's definitely like, you can't just go out and do whatever. But I never at any point felt unsafe. It's just about knowing where you're going.
[00:16:41] Brenda: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:42] Mike: Same Brenda?
[00:16:44] Brenda: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. Like this past summer I was there, it was actually the time where I was a little bit more scared of Brazil in general, just because my family would tell me stories and everything, but I don't think I've ever felt unsafe because of like drug [00:17:00] trafficking.
But like there's definitely unsafe areas and you just gotta be careful. Like you just gotta know where you're going. And a lot of parents, like our parents know where to go and where not to go, and they tell us, don't walk with your phone on the street, it's gonna get stolen. Don't draw attention to yourself. You know, you, you just don't wanna do that.
[00:17:16] Mike: I didn't even ask you this as we started. Brazil's such a huge country. What part are you from Brenda?
[00:17:22] Brenda: I'm from São Paulo. So like the big city
[00:17:26] Mike: Maria.
[00:17:27] Maria: I'm from Curitiba. It's like an hour south by plane from São Paulo, but it's still a pretty big city.
[00:17:33] Mike: Say it again. There's no chance I'll ever get that name right,
[00:17:36] Maria: Curitiba
[00:17:38] Mike: Yeah. No, no chance at all. And Juliana, where were you born? I never asked you.
[00:17:42] Julianna: Yeah, I was born in Minas Gerais, so I think it's north of São Paulo, I think? I don't know by how long. But yeah, more inland.
[00:17:53] Mike: Are you three planning, I would assume, after graduation, staying in the states?
[00:17:58] Maria: Yeah. [inaudible].[00:18:00]
[00:18:00] Mike: So how much longer, Brenda, talk about you, how much longer till graduation? What do you hope to do after that?
[00:18:05] Brenda: I have a bit, so I wanna go into PA school. So you need like two to three years of PA school depending on where you go. And I'm gonna take a gap year, so I would say like five more years? Yeah. But I hope to go into PA and then work in the pediatrics unit.
[00:18:20] Mike: What are you gonna do during your gap year?
[00:18:23] Brenda: Work. I was talking earlier, but to go to PA school you need more than a thousand hours of patient care and I'm a CNA, and I just started my job this past summer, so I don't have enough. So that year will just be, it will be like a year of applying to school because it's a long process. It'll be applying working. And just getting those patient hours.
[00:18:41] Mike: Wow. Juliana?
[00:18:42] Julianna: So my undergrad will be four years and then that will be four more years in pharmacy school. And then if I wanted to do residency, that's one more year. Usually people do residency if they wanna work in a hospital inpatient setting, which is something I'm [00:19:00] interested in, but I don't know if I wanna do that for sure yet. But yeah, I feel like I have a lot of interest and you can go a lot of different directions in pharmacies, so it's good.
[00:19:11] Mike: Great Maria?
[00:19:13] Maria: Yeah, so, after I graduate, I wanna go into like, work somewhere. Hopefully Chicago, that's like my dream. And then eventually maybe, well I wanna work for some company that's international since I have like the Spanish and the Portuguese background. So maybe eventually moving out of the country, maybe going to Brazil for a while and do maybe doing some journalism there.
[00:19:34] Mike: Wow. Outstanding. Talk about accomplished, the three of you sure are. You know, again, we started this conversation saying we just wanna show a little bit of a light, just a different, to start conversations because without them there's a lot of misinformation out there. I really appreciate you taking time during your winter break. I might add. Talking to me about this. So thank you.
And for those of you who have been listening please feel free to listen in next time when we talk about other [00:20:00] issues regarding substance use. And until then, stay safe and get educated.
The Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition’s mission is to support networking, encourage education, explore gaps, and realize solutions to improve treatment and reduce alcohol and other drug abuse in our community with a primary focus on families.