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National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week - Get the Facts and Spread the Word

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse — especially when it comes to teens. National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, March 30 through April 5, 2020, is a great way to cut through the clutter of misinformation, whether it’s coming from their peers and/or social media and get to the facts.

The week is an outreach of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), and its stated theme is to “shatter the myths” about drug and alcohol use. During this period, students are connected to scientists and other experts through public education projects aimed at counteracting the bad information that hits teens from all sides. It was launched in 2010 by scientists at the NIDA in order to elevate awareness about what science has taught and continues to teach us about drug use and addiction. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, also part of the NIH. became a partner in 2016, and alcohol was added as a topic area.

The Facts about Drug and Alcohol Abuse Are Stark

To a degree, National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week can be seen as “tough love,” because the numbers around drug and alcohol abuse are grim. Even so, teens need to be aware that choices have consequences, and overuse and abuse can quickly spiral out of control:

  • 29 people die every day in motor-vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol impaired driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is one death every 50 minutes and comes at an annual cost of more than $44 billion.
  • An estimated 40,000 newborns each year are affected by FAS, or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or have FASD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, that range from major to subtle damage. One in every 100 babies has FASD, nearly the same rate as autism, says the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
  • Medscape reports that chronic liver disease and cirrhosis result in about 35,000 deaths each year in the United States. Cirrhosis is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for 1.2% of all U.S. deaths.

What Substances Teens Abuse, and When They Use Them

When it comes to teens and substance use, the CDC highlights some enlightening statistics:

  • Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco are the substances most commonly used by adolescents.
  • By 12th grade, about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol.
  • About half of 9th through 12th grade students reported ever having used marijuana.
  • About 4 in 10 9th through 12th grade students reported having tried cigarettes.
  • Among 12th graders, close to 2 in 10 reported using prescription medicine without a prescription.
  • People from 12 to 20 years of age consume about one-tenth of all alcohol consumed in the United States.

This usage pattern results in some pretty severe consequences, the CDC points out, including:

  • Affecting the growth and development of teens, especially brain development.
  • Occuring more frequently with other risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex and dangerous driving.
  • Contributing to the development of adult health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders.
  • And more alarmingly, the earlier teens start using substances, the greater their chances of continuing to use substances and developing substance-use problems later in life.

Those are numbers and issues that should shake any teen into wakefulness around drug and alcohol abuse. That said, they should not lead to despair, especially for those who are already dealing with addiction issues or know someone who is. If that’s the case, they should reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The SAMHSA helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. More information can be found at SAMSHA’s website.

A single week won’t solve all the issues around teen (and adult) drug and alcohol abuse, or is it mean to do so. What National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week does do well is put the issue front and center, forcing teens and those around them to have frank conversations about the issue, and how to seek help if it's needed.

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