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It can be difficult to tell if a young person is experimenting with substances. Kids don't always show obvious signs of substance abuse, and we do not have a way of predicting who will experiment with alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs in the future. Substance misuse and addiction does not discriminate against culture, income level, or race. Some teens will experiment and walk away; others can't walk away. There are teens who are surrounded by protective factors and could be the poster children for success, yet they may still fall pretty to drug misuse and addiction. There are also teens who have several risk factors who survive and thrive. There is no rule of thumb.
Substance use prevention has focused on teens in middle school and high school, but the specific teens years of 13 through 19 are too narrow a section. We know from data collected from our local youth that children as young as 11 or 12 years old are experimenting with alcohol and other drugs.
Common substances misused by youth include nicotine and alcohol. Other drugs commonly used by youth include over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs. Inhalants like aerosols and household cleaners are also being abused at growing rates. Drug trends often change faster than we are able to grasp, which can make the topic of substance use with our children feel overwhelming and daunting. It doesn't have to be.
First, we need to educate ourselves on the substances that are around and being used; what they look like, the signs of use. Secondly, it is so very important to understand the WHY of substance use; the more we dig into the root causes of substance use/misuse and addiction, the more we can counteract those risks with protective factors. Last, we need to have the ability to recognize the early warning signs, have the tools necessary to intervene, and the access and understanding of treatment options available.
What is MOST important in all of this is to not feel overwhelmed or scared to broach this subject with the youth in your life. Substance use prevention can never start too early and it is never too late. We are all here together, trying to figure out the answers and the best ways to protect the youth in our own lives and in our community.
Find a comprehensive and up-to-date source of drug information here. Learn the facts, prevalence, and warning signs to keep our children safe.
The United States Government Drug Enforcement Administration provides a wealth of information for parents, educators, & caregivers.
Many signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use can be, at times, typical teen behavior. Many may also be signs of mental health challenges. A challenging feat but educating ourselves is the first step.
There is no surefire way to predict who might begin using alcohol or drugs but understanding the WHY is just important as the WHAT.
Addressed in a context of public health, a focus on overall behavioral wellness is a key factor in substance use prevention.
No matter what role you play in our community, YOU have a part in substance use prevention. Find additional resources here.
Alcohol trends from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2017) shows that alcohol use among high school students has decreased over the last ten years; which is hopeful. In the 2018 Indiana Youth Survey, 13% of Dearborn County 8th graders reported using alcohol in the past 30 days and 37% of 12th graders reported alcohol use in the last 30 days (2018). Research shows us that early onset of alcohol and drug use is a risk factor that can lead to addiction in the future. While many of the students reporting alcohol use will come out of high school unscathed, it is still important to understand the risk factors that may lead to a future of substance misuse and addiction. Genetics, social pressure, and family dynamics have all been noted as factors in why teens move from experimentation to drug misuse and addiction.
As a community coalition, CASA is dedicated to identifying risk factors in our community that contribute to substance use/misuse and addiction. Our goal is to identify and implement evidence-based strategies that counteract those risks by increasing protective factors. Dearborn County youth, grades 8 through 12, participate in the Indiana Youth Survey facilitated by the Indiana University Prevention Insights, every two years. Using this data, we have prioritized the following risk factors to target in our coalition efforts.
Early onset of alcohol and drug use, family conflict, parental attitudes favorable toward drug use, parental attitudes favorable toward antisocial behavior, academic failure, low commitment to school, favorable attitudes towards antisocial behavior, perceived risk of drug use, rewards for antisocial involvement, mental health challenges.
For more information on specific strategies and activities, please reference our initiatives and action plan under the "About Us" page. We will also continue to update our CASA Newsletters with more detailed information. You can subscribe to our newsletter below or follow us on our Facebook page.
There is a lot of research on genetics and drug dependency. Discoveries have found that there is a correlation between the two, but there is no conclusive evidence of the role genetic factors play in alcohol or drug addiction. Exact determination of DNA involvement is difficult when factoring in an environment that support substance abuse and other risk behaviors. It is the old argument of nature versus nurture. When a parent abuses substances and a child grows up around this behavior, the parent is promoting drug use by example. The parent may also have a genetic predisposition to addiction and pass that on to their child. Environment and a genetic inclination can both play roles in substance abuse.
Social pressure can have both positive and negative effects. Good peer pressure can keep some teens in after-school programs or on the basketball team. Negative peer pressure can push teens to seek high-risk activities for acceptance. At an age when friends become more important to a teen than parental interaction, peers may endorse high-risk behaviors that include substance use/misuse. The pressure to use comes alongside the need for acceptance in a group setting. The perceived perception of harm from alcohol or other drugs is also an identified risk factor for substance misuse and addiction. If the peer group has a low perception of harm, they will be more likely to use/misuse a substance that is available to them.
A person's brain is not fully developed until their early to mid-20's. During adolescence, the brain goes through dramatic changes. From research we understand that the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that contains the ability to recognize consequences of actions and to understand the difference between good and bad, is not fully developed in the teenage years. This part of the brain overrides unacceptable responses to stimuli and retains emotional memory, which it uses to determine how to adapt to social norms and acceptable behaviors. Introducing alcohol and other drugs to the brain during a time when it is still developing, can have long-lasting and detrimental effects.
By promoting overall wellness, we can aim to prevent disease, disability, and premature death through education-driven, voluntary behavioral changes. The aim is to improve health knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors in order to positively influence the behavior of individuals and communities. In doing so, we can improve the living and working conditions that influence our overall wellness.
In our coalition's commitment to increasing protective factors in our community, we have embraced SAMHSA's 8 Dimensions of Wellness and created a list of local resources that can support and assist all community members in their pursuit of overall wellness. The importance of good behavioral health cannot be understated and we know that our community can have an impact on the choices and actions that affect wellness. Please join us in our journey through the resources and activities found right here in our own community.
Further information can be found in our CASA Newsletters and under the "Resources" page on our website under "8 Dimensions of Wellness".