May 20-26 is National Prevention Week, a week to underscore everyone’s responsibility to help prevent underage drinking and other drug use by our children and teens.
Our kids need to hear clear and consistent messages about substance abuse to help them make good choices when they find themselves having to make the decision of whether or not use. This is National Prevention Week. There has never been a better time to emphasize the critical role of parents, caregivers, educators, community leaders and other role models in helping to shape these decisions for all youth. Working together, we can prevent substance abuse by being involved in our children’s lives, engaging in continuous dialogue from an early age and being aware.
According to statistics compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), half of all lifetime cases of mental and substance use disorders begin by age 14, and three-fourths by age 24. On an average day, 4,617 youths under the age of 18 use an illicit drug for the first time, and 2,000 teens a day use a prescription drug for the first time that wasn’t prescribed to them. Here in Broward, there were 6,674 emergency department visits involving the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals in 2009. Broward middle and high school students also self report that the #1 place they get their alcohol is at home. The #1 place they consume their alcohol is at someone else’s home.
Now is the time for us to make a difference in Broward County by joining together, identifying resources, support systems, and alternatives for youth in our community, and raising awareness about the importance of substance abuse prevention.
• Youths aged 12 to 17 who believed their parents would strongly disapprove of their using substances were less likely to use that substance than were youths who believed their parents would somewhat disapprove or neither approve nor disapprove; and
• In 2010, youths aged 12 to 17 whose parents always or sometimes engaged in monitoring behaviors – like helping with homework – used illicit drugs, smoked cigarettes and binge drank less frequently than those whose parents seldom or never engaged in such behaviors.
To support National Prevention Week and to give parents nuggets of useful information on this subject, the United Way of Broward County’s Commission on Substance Abuse has posted examples of the current local media campaign addressing these issues at www.drugfreebroward.org/environmentalstrategy. These ongoing, research-based and strategic prevention initiatives help keep alcohol and other drug use by our youth top of mind among moms and other adult influencers.
Kathleen Cannon is the President and CEO of the United Way of Broward County. She can be reached at 954-462-4850.