Every March, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health partner to spark conversations in observance of National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. This weeklong event, March 21-27 this year, is dedicated to educating youth about drugs by using science-based facts delivered by health practitioners, scientists, students, educators, and community members. The idea is to stop drug misuse by educating kids.
Too much, too soon
Data on drug misuse by American youth hit a roadblock during the pandemic. The last normal national collection of information was in 2019. At that time, drug misuse had skyrocketed. Although reliable data collected by a decades-long study reports unprecedented sharp declines in all youth drug use during 2021, there is reason to assume that returning to more normal daily activities as COVID begins to wane will come with an upswing.
Alongside drug use comes death from overdoses, a tragic problem that was increasing before the pandemic. These statistics point to an ever-increasing need for an education program that helps teens understand the weight of their decisions when it comes to using illegal substances.
National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, with its tag line “Shatter the Myths,” aims to do just that. By having honest conversations with teens and providing information based on the science of drug use, leaders are hoping to help kids understand the long-term consequences of their actions. This week is all about facts, not emotion and fear.
Right here at home
If you’re looking at the statistics above and thinking that Indiana youth are exempt from drug- and alcohol-misuse problems, think again. While every state has its own degree of drug-related issues to solve, in 2018, Indiana teens were reported to be 2.11% more likely to have used drugs in the last month than the average American teen. On top of that, 2018 data showed:
- 2.96% of teens reported misusing pain relievers
- 46,000, or 8.51%, of 12- to 17-year-olds reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days
- 9.06% of youth ages 12 to 17 reported using alcohol within the past 30 days
What can you do?
You can encourage your local schools and community organizations to participate in National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. Educating teenagers is the first step to solving the drug-use problem that affects so many of our kids. Another way to help is to seek treatment for mental health concerns in your kids. The Healthy 365 Connection Center provides a great service for the community by helping clients navigate the local mental healthcare system.
Additionally, it’s important for parents and educators to recognize the amount of stress today’s teenagers are carrying. They live in a world that we would never have imagined, and teaching them self-care habits will help them understand the importance of balancing stress with enjoying life. Hancock Wellness centers offer a full range of such mind and body classes, including Pilates and yoga. Participating in these activities as a family offers an avenue for you to connect with your kids and to open a running dialogue about concerns them.
Substance misuse in our country is a problem that won’t go away on its own. It requires examining the multitude of ways in which youth fall through the cracks, whether due to a lack of education or a lack of stress management. National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is designed to spark interesting and honest conversations in our community so that we can tackle this problem together.