This January 23th marks the seventh National Drug Facts Week, first launched in 2010 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The purpose of this week is to counteract the myths that youth get from the Internet, television, movies, music, or friends, and replace those myths with scientific facts about drug abuse and addiction. The more informed our youth are about substances and the negative impact those substances can have on their lives, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors. “Shatter the Myths” is a free NIDA publication that parents can use to talk to their kids about substance abuse, and is free to download. Here are seven facts to use each day of this week to help start the conversation with your children about drugs and other substances.
Monday: Young people who drink alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who abstain until age 21. Brains develop until age 24, and young brains become damaged more quickly than adult brains.
Tuesday: Marijuana can speed the heart rate up to 160 beats per minute, dilate the blood vessels so the whites of the eyes turn red, and cause feelings of panic that include sweating, dry mouth, and breathing difficulties.
Wednesday: Inhalants can cause permanent damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and bones. Sudden Sniffing Death is death by suffocation, which occurs when inhaled fumes take the place of oxygen in the lungs and brain.
Thursday: Withdrawal symptoms from prescription opioid abuse include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goosebumps, and involuntary leg movements.
Friday: Anabolic steroids are bad for the heart, cause damage to the liver, and halt bone growth. This means that a teenage steroid user may not grow to his/her full adult height. Aggressive behavior may be triggered by steroid abuse and is known as “roid rage”.
Saturday: Tobacco use and secondhand smoke cause illnesses such as lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and respiratory problems. One of every three cancer deaths is caused by smoking. Average smokers lose more than 10 years of life because they smoke.
Sunday: Vapor products may seem harmless because of their flavors and names, but most of them contain the highly addictive chemical nicotine and contain many of the same dangerous chemicals and carcinogens that are found in regular cigarettes.
NIDA’s “Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse” report highlights five questions relevant to parenting skills that help prevent the initiation and progression of youth drug use. The questions emphasize calm and clear communication about relationship issues, encouraging positive behaviors on a daily basis, negotiating emotional parent/teen conflicts and working toward a solution, ability to set limits when behavior ranges from defiant or disrespectful to more serious problem behavior, and monitoring teens to assure that they are not spending too much time unsupervised. Visit Family Checkup for a copy of these questions and to view video clips that display positive and negative examples of the skills, as well as additional videos to help parents practice positive parenting skills.
We can all do our part by supporting our youth, getting the facts, and remembering that PREVENTION WORKS!