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Teen Drug Prevention

The most cost effective and successful approach to dealing with a teen and the possibility of drug use is prevention. Many are affected by drug use every day. Some of these effects are irreparable while other effects can be repaired. The cause of teen drug addiction is primarily linked to a lack of knowledge about what to do to prevent drug use in the first place or incorrect methods of dealing with drug use once it has started. Parents play an important role in preventing their teen from experimenting with drugs.

SAMHSA's 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 11.6 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 are current illicit drug users. The survey also reported that only 5.5 percent of youths who thought their parents would disapprove of their using marijuana had used the drug in the past month while 30.2 percent of youths who thought their parents would only somewhat disapprove or neither approve nor disapprove of their trying marijuana, used the drug in the past month. This data seems to support past research that shows parents can influence the choices children make about drug use.

While many feel that scare tactics or enforcement are the best methods of preventing teen drug addiction, other methods are needed to communicate to the curious, recreational or experimental user of drugs. The best way to prevent the use of drugs is with proper effective drug education to the teen and parents long before they need it. Drug education is clearly the way to prevent teen drug addiction from taking hold of the future generations.

A teen must decide for themselves about drugs and will do so intelligently if they have truly been given skills and solutions to life challenges that work for them. Included in these skills is a knowledge of exactly how drugs affect the mind, body, brain, attitudes of the user and what that means to their own happiness and success even when small amounts of drugs are being offered. These are skills because the information must be used by the teen in everyday life and interactions with their friends.

Effective teen drug prevention should include facts, experiences, words which the teen understands, and humor. A serious teen is not a sign of maturity. Most teens like to laugh and have fun in life. Life to a teen is about having fun and being successful in what they decide to do everyday. Learning about drugs should also be a fun and successful experience. The success of drug prevention is answered by the youth in "How can I now use what I learned?"

Talks should permit the teen to contribute or ask questions and fully including the participants in the learning process. An open forum to ask questions is vital to getting teens to make informed decisions about drugs. How can they decide to be drug-free if all the facts about drugs are not known by them? This requires listening to many talks on many of the popular drugs as well as the general facts on drugs both legal and illegal.

Reality is the keynote when talking to teens. What is real to them and makes sense to them is more important than giving the academic descriptions of which neurons are affected or which chemical agents travel around the body or brain.

  • Reasons to conduct teen drug prevention:
    • Teens that use drugs are 5 times more likely to have sex than are those teens that do not use drugs. (CASA).
    • Teens who have used marijuana are four times more likely to have been pregnant or to have gotten someone pregnant than teens who have never smoked pot. (CASA)
    • More than 1/3 of sexually active teens and young adults report that alcohol or drug use has influenced a decision to do something sexual. (CASA, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
  • Here's what the entire community can do to help regarding teen drug prevention:
    • Educate yourself. Keep up on current drug issues and the dangers of drug use. Find out what schools in your community are doing to promote teen drug prevention. And become familiar with drug names, paraphernalia, and appearance.
    • Talk to your teen. It's never too early. Believe it or not, one out of four 4th-6th graders has been offered drugs. Create an open forum, and be involved in their lives - know what they do in school AND during their free time.
    • Set an example. Don't abuse drugs or alcohol. Teens do as you DO, not as you say.
    • Get involved. Volunteer your time and effort to making your community one in which there is plenty of opportunity for young people to become interested, involved and inspired. Camping trips and sporting events bring the entire community together. Work together to keep your neighborhood clean.
    • Spread the word. Write letters to your local papers. Speak out publicly against drug use.
    • Organize a teen drug prevention event. There are many ways to get other concerned members of the community actively involved with making your neighborhood a safer, nicer, better place for everyone.

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