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For one week every year, communities around the world join together to raise awareness about the dangers of drug and alcohol use for teens. The National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week® (NDAFW) started in 2010 as a way to debunk myths and provide facts about adolescent substance abuse. With more than 2,000 registered events taking place this year alone, NDAFW will reach millions of people.
Teens today are exposed to drugs and alcohol from a young age. Substances are portrayed in movies, television shows, music videos and on the Internet. In fact, roughly one in three songs today includes lyrics about drug, alcohol or tobacco use. The same number of movies, one in every three, also shows people getting drunk. Unfortunately, substance use is often depicted as a fun hobby or a way to relax. Because of this, adolescents do not always understand the harmful implications caused by drug and alcohol use.
Adolescent Substance Use Myths vs. Facts
With so many mixed messages surrounding the risks of substance abuse, it can be confusing for adolescents to separate real information from misconception. It’s important for teens to understand the true impact that drugs and alcohol can have on their health and well-being. When individuals are equipped with the right information, they’re empowered to make better decisions when faced with the temptation to use drugs or alcohol.
Here are some of the most common myths surrounding adolescent substance abuse:
Myth: It’s okay for adolescents to consume alcohol every once in awhile, as long as they drink under adult supervision.
Fact: There’s nothing cool about underage drinking. Not only is it illegal, but drinking during the adolescent years can lead to an array of developmental problems down the road. Children who consume alcohol significantly increase their chances of future dependency issues. In fact, adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop an alcohol dependency later in life compared with their peers who remain sober.
Myth: Marijuana and alcohol are less harmful than other drugs. I can quit drinking or smoking anytime I want.
Fact: Every substance, whether it’s a street drug, prescription medication or alcoholic beverage, has dangerous side effects. Recent research shows that roughly one in every six adolescents who use marijuana regularly will develop an addiction. Other types of drugs, including alcohol, can lead to a host of health complications, even when they’re consumed less frequently. Binge drinking is one example. When an individual drinks too much in a short period of time, they can experience serious side effects like alcohol poisoning.
Myth: Experimenting with drugs and alcohol will help me become more popular at school. If I just try it once, the other kids will like me more.
Fact: Many school-aged youths want to fit in. However, giving into peer pressure can be extremely harmful to their health, safety and overall well-being. Although drugs affect every person differently, they all cause damage to the brain and other vital organs. When peer pressure arises, adolescents have to consider whether or not the reward outweighs the risk. Unfortunately, some adolescents choose popularity over the potentially dangerous risks of drug or alcohol use.
Myth: Parents or other loved ones do not have any influence on adolescents experimenting with dangerous substances.
Fact: The truth is that a vast majority of children will listen to what their parents say about substance abuse. Sadly, only one in ten parents have discussed substance abuse with their children in the past year. Adolescents are vulnerable to experimenting with drugs and alcohol, which is why it’s important to talk about the consequences of using them often. Teens who learn about substance abuse from their parents or grandparents are 42 percent less likely to abuse prescription drugs.
Start the Conversation About Substance Abuse Today
Having a dialogue about the risks of adolescent substance abuse can make a difference in your teen’s life. Remember, a conversation works two ways, so be sure to listen to what your child has to say and answer any questions they may have.
Other tips for talking to your teen about alcohol and drug use include:
- Discussing the facts about the dangers of substance abuse
- Empowering them to stand up and say “no” to peer pressure
- Setting rules about alcohol or drug use, and establishing consequences if the rules are broken
- Guiding them in how to live a happy and healthy life
- Making sure they know they can always come to you if a problem ever arises
Don’t be afraid to talk about substance use awareness and prevention out in the open. Drug and alcohol abuse is more than just an individual or family issue; it impacts entire neighborhoods and communities.
Every person, no matter your age, gender, background or faith, can make a difference. Make the commitment today and take a stand against adolescent substance abuse.
- Author — Last Edited: January 26, 2018
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Drugs: Shatter the Myths. January 2017. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/file/14540/download?token=qhWH44pd
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (2016). National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week Is Coming January 23–29, 2017. January 2017. https://www.ncadd.org/blogs/in-the-news/national-drug-alcohol-facts-week-is-coming-january-23-29-2017
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week Begins January 23. January 2017. https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2016/08/national-drug-alcohol-facts-week-begins-january-23
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Adolescent Health. (2017). Substance Abuse: Alcohol. January 2017. https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/substance-abuse/alcohol.html
Drug Enforcement Administration. (2011). Get It Straight! The Facts About Drugs. January 2017. https://www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/get-it-straight-student.pdf
Willmer, Rebecca. (2013). Infographic: When Parents Talk about Prescription Drug Abuse, Kids Listen (Even If They Pretend Not To). January 2017. http://www.promoteprevent.org/blog/infographic-when-parents-talk-about-prescription-drug-abuse-kids-listen-even-if-they-pretend
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2009). Make a Difference. Talk to Your Child About Alcohol. January 2017. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/MakeADiff_HTML/makediff.htm