Many teens are not aware of the serious risks drugs and alcohol poses to their health, to their success in school, and to their future. So the question is: What can communities do to effectively educate this generation of teens about drug abuse?
One way is for school staff, parents, and students to work together on awareness events that will provide teens with the facts about drug use. National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) is a national health observance designed to arm communities with the materials and tools they need to influence teens to say no to drugs. Inspired by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institute of Health, NDAFW is in its sixth year and will be held from January 25 through 31, 2016.
"This week is designed to counteract the myths teens have about drug abuse, often reinforced by their peers, the Internet, and the entertainment industry," said NIDA Director, Nora D. Volkow, M.D. "When given the facts from people they trust, teens are in a better position to make good decisions about drug use.”
All around the country, science teachers, health teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, drug prevention programs, and community support programs are using the science-based information available FREE from NIDA in their curriculum, school assemblies, PTA meetings, and evening workshops to get the truth out. In some cases, local research scientists and government officials can be invited to participate in these important events.
This year, NDAFW is expecting more than 1,700 events with every state represented. These events range in size and scope, but they are all focused on educating and communicating with teens about drug and alcohol use and its consequences. NIDA staff can provide ideas and information to help make an educational event successful.
Some event ideas may include:
• A school assembly
• An addiction-themed art contest
• A graffiti fact wall
• A trivia night
• A panel discussion with local law enforcement, substance abuse counselors, and individuals affected by drug abuse.
• A government proclamation.
By: Brian Marquis, Public Liaison Officer, National Institute on Drug Abuse
Recently, several high-profile news articles have brought new attention to underage drinking. In Washington, D.C., a local high school principle sent an email to parents imploring them to not provide alcohol to underage students. Also in Washington, a former high school quarterback was charged with vehicular manslaughter after leaving a house party where a seemingly knowing parent allowed underage drinking to occur. And finally, a ballot initiative was just filed in California to lower the drinking age from 21.
MADD is committed to the health and safety of our young people. We applaud Walt Whitman High School Principal Alan Goodwin for taking a stand and encouraging parents to stop underage drinking. Parents are the biggest influence on their children, and this program will help keep your child safe, and we have proven tools like the Power of Parents that can help.
MADD takes our mission to prevent underage drinking seriously, and we want to remind parents and teens that the consequences of underage drinking can be devastating. The 21 minimum drinking age is one of the most researched and reviewed public health laws in our country. Recent studies show that the adolescent brain is continuing to develop until young people reach their mid-twenties. It is important that we continue to support the 21 drinking age to keep our children safe and healthy.
Underage drinking is an adult problem. In order for those under 21 to obtain alcohol, an adult somewhere must break the law. For parents who provide or permit underage drinking in their home, the episode in Washington is stark reminder of the consequences. Not only was the father given a citation of $5,000, which could have been $60,000, but two young people lost their lives. All of this is 100 percent preventable.
Some parents still believe that “all kids drink underage” and that “it’s safer under my watchful eye.” After all, Europeans drink at age 18 and their society is flourishing, right? These three myths couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is, the majority of teens don’t drink. In fact, less than 30 percent of teens have had a drink in the past month. And only 20 percent of teens binge drink. So, not everyone is doing it! Research proves it’s never safe to let children drink.
And when teens feel they have their parents’ approval to drink alcohol, they tend to drink more — and more often — outside the home. What seemed harmless at first often results in tragic consequences that even parents don’t anticipate.
Finally, in Europe, young people have higher intoxication rates than in the United States, and less than a quarter had lower or equivalent rates to the United States. Also, a greater percentage of young people in a majority of Europe report binge drinking at higher rates than their U.S counterparts. Most European youth have higher rates of alcohol-related problems because of their heavy drinking.
MADD continues to speak out about the dangers of underage drinking. We have made too much progress to see effective laws like the 21 drinking age discarded. We encourage you to support the 21 drinking age and talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking. Together, we can make a difference and end underage drinking.
Parental influence is the most important factor in helping keep kids safe, and MADD’s Power of Parents® program focuses on educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of underage drinking, and provides them the tools they need to talk with their kids about alcohol. Visit madd.org/powerofparents to download our Parent Handbook and get tips and tools to help you have this lifesaving conversation about alcohol with your kids.
This is a guest post written by Brittney Hultgren M.S., a Graduate Assistant at Pennsylvania State University and coauthor of a paper on factors that can influence adolescents' decisions to ride with drinking drivers.
Each year hundreds of passengers are killed in car crashes with drivers who had been drinking.1 The numbers could become higher. Our work shows nearly 1 in 4 college students ride with drinking drivers.2 Despite the prevalence of this high risk behavior, there has been very little research devoted to understanding why it occurs and how to change it from happening.
What can be done now?
Our research with college students suggests potential strategies to help reduce riding with drivers who are under the influence.2
- Parents- Our research showed that what parents do can be very influential. Parents should be made aware that when they get into cars with drivers who have been drinking they are also influencing their children’s decisions to be passengers in cars with drivers who have been drinking.
- Peers- Our research showed that peers have the potential to really impact their friends’ decisions to ride. One of the strongest predictors of students’ willingness to ride in cars with drivers who have been drinking was whether they thought their closest friends would approve or disapprove of them being passengers when the drivers have been drinking. #protecturfriends
What can we do for the future?
Riding with a drinking or drugged driver is an issue that affects our entire society, and therefore we need all levels of society to make strides to reduce it.
- Research- Our work suggests research is needed to answer the questions of Why do people decide to ride with someone who has been drinking or using drugs? and What can we do about it? Right now, there is very little research to fully answer these questions and inform the development of effective interventions.
- Schools and Social Media- While schools have been the traditional setting to provide students information about riding with drinking drivers, it is evident that students are consistently connected on social media. Thus, this may be a good avenue to target and reach them. MADD has done a great job at branching out in the social media world. Partnering schools with a social media approach could be an especially strong way to reach students both for research and prevention.
- Businesses- Businesses have the ability to promote behaviors, such as safe driving and alternatives to being a passenger in cars when drivers have been drinking. Fortunately, we have leaders such as State Farm who strongly encourage these behaviors and support programs like MADD and the scientists who work with MADD. We encourage more business leaders to partner with MADD and researchers to answer important questions and inform the development of effective interventions.
While there is much more work to be done to reduce riding with drinking and drugged drivers, there are many different parts of the solution. Step up and make a difference!
1 NHTSA. (2013). Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
2 Hultgren, B. A., Scaglione, N. M., Cleveland, M. J., & Turrisi, R. (2015). Examination of a dual process model predicting riding with drinking drivers. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 39(6): 1075-1082.
3 NHTSA. (2015). Fact sheet: National roadside survey of alcohol and drug use by drivers. Washington, DC.
4 Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2012). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2011. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
HealthDay reported today on new research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on the risk factors in early adolescence that later lead to driving under the influence and riding with a drinking driver.
Of note in the research are five things that, if they happen at age 14, predict that as an older teen, they will commit DUI or ride with a drinking driver:
- If they’ve been exposed to peer marijuana use
- If they’ve used alcohol in the past month
- If they have positive beliefs about marijuana
- If there is marijuana use in their family
- If they perceive alcohol as prevalent
This new, third party data reinforces much of what MADD has said for years – that underage drinking is dangerous and can lead to serious, often deadly consequences. One of MADD’s most important mission prongs is the prevention of underage drinking.
It is crucial not only for parents to talk with their children about underage drinking prevention, but also for teens to understand the important role they play in protecting themselves and their friends from underage drinking and related consequences, such as riding with a drinking driver.
That’s why MADD developed two programs to make the prevention of underage drinking a community-wide priority. The first program, Power of Parents®, equips parents and caregivers with the tools they need to have early, ongoing conversations with their children about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking. The second program, Power of You(th)®, empowers teens to take a stand and help their peers, adults and entire communities understand the importance of underage drinking prevention.
This October, MADD and community partners across the country are promoting the Power of You(th) program’s #ProtectUrFriends campaign, empowering teens to protect themselves and each other from the dangerous and often deadly consequences of underage drinking. Together, we can create a community-wide priority to prevent underage drinking and its tragic consequences to keep our teens, roads and communities safe.
For more information about MADD’s underage drinking prevention programs and this October’s #ProtectUrFriends campaign, click here.