The week provides students nationwide with scientific facts about drugs and alcohol to balance what they learn from peers, the internet, social media, TV and movies.Too many students in high school and middle school take drugs and/or drink, even though it’s illegal to do so. And they don’t understand the resulting risks to their health, school success and safety while driving under the influence.
National Institute on Drug Abuse scientists started Drug and Alcohol Facts Week in 2010 to teach teens about the dangers of drug use and addiction. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism partnered in 2016. Both institutes are part of the National Institutes of Health.
Now, more than ever, this week is needed. The use of illegal drugs is increasing, especially among young teens, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reported last March. The average age of first marijuana use is 14 and alcohol use can start before age 12. It’s common for high schoolers to use marijuana and alcohol, according to the academy.
Startling facts from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include:
Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year.
Twelve year olds to 20 year olds (illegally) consume 11 percent of all alcohol in the United States. More than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed during binge drinking.
In 2013, about 119,000 emergency room visits by youth aged 12 to 21 were for alcohol-linked injuries and other conditions.
The brain develops until the age of 25, according to National Institute on Drug Abuse’s public liaison officer Brian D. Marquis, and drugs and alcohol can harm that process. Alcohol and drug use can lead to injuries, poor behaviors, risky behavior, impaired judgement and other problems such as getting in trouble with the law and poor grades at school. The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported the following percentages for high school students:
30 percent drank some amount of alcohol
14 percent binge drank.
6 percent drove after drinking alcohol.
17 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
Drug and Alcohol Facts Week gives teens scientific facts to make good choices about drug and alcohol use and to understand the consequences of substance use.
What can community members do to help mitigate the problem of alcohol and drug use with youth? The best way is to make sure schools are providing information and resources for students to get help, according to Marquis. Talk to school counselors and nurses to support the students. Volunteer at the school or at prevention coalitions and organizations dealing with health and wellness at the local and county levels. For starters, check out teens.drugabuse.gov for a host of material. Sometimes hearing the facts again is what it takes to keep a drug or drinking problem from escalating.