Prevention and Intervention
For the first time since 2002, substance use is on the rise in the United States. Possible reasons for the percentage increase are discussions about legalization of illicit substances, pro-drug messages in the media, easy access to substances, and other misinformation.
The nature of the community in which youth live – and their relationship to this community – can have a profound effect on whether they become involved in substance abuse and violence. Prevention activities carried out in communities can help ensure that the community is a positive influence that helps adolescents and young adults resist pressures toward risky behaviors. Consistent enforcement and reinforcement are needed to enhance the effectiveness of community policies on substance abuse. Communities must have an understanding of a problem if they are to accept and support efforts directed at that problem.
The community must address young people's perceptions about the pervasiveness of substance abuse by providing messages that correct misconceptions about the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse among peers. Students are more likely to drink alcohol if they believe most of their peers drink and more likely to refrain from drinking if they believe most of their peers choose to not drink.
Parents, what can you do to reduce underage drinking and other drug use?
• Talk Early and Often – It’s never too early to talk to your child about the dangers of underage drinking. Make time for conversations about this issue.
• Get Involved – Talk with your child about their activities and interests. Keep your child involved in positive activities and show them that you care about reducing risky behaviors.
• Be a Role Model – Think about what you say and how you act in front of your child. Show them what is appropriate and acceptable in your family. Teach your child to choose friends wisely. Youth whose friends don’t use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
• Monitor Your Child’s Activities – Trust but verify the information your child is telling you. Know where your child is and get to know friends and friends’ parents.
• Set Clear Rules – Tell your child what your household rules are and what behavior you expect. Be consistent and be specific. Don’t assume they know what you are thinking.
Awareness, Education & Prevention
Underage drinking and other drug use cannot be successfully addressed by focusing on youth alone. Youth obtain alcohol and other drugs– either directly or indirectly – from adults. Therefore, efforts to prevent substance use must focus on adults as well as youth, and must engage society as a whole. Additional efforts on the part of schools, families, other adults and the community at large will be necessary to reduce the use of alcohol by youth.
Schools – Monitor substance abuse and risk and protective factors among students. Engage in school improvement efforts, and develop and enforce strict “no use” policies for all students. Participate in the Kansas Communities that Care Survey to obtain data that can be used for school improvement efforts.
Parents – Educate yourselves and talk to your child about underage drinking – The more parents talk with their youth about underage drinking, the less likely they will become harmfully involved. Unfortunately, less than half of Kansas’s students (46.9%) report they have talked to their parents about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in the past year.
Adults - Reduce access and do not provide alcohol to youth–Nearly 22.4% of Kansas students report alcohol is “very easy” to get. Nationally, 65% of youth report that they get their alcohol from friends and family. Get involved in a local coalition to reduce underage drinking, financially support local efforts and advocate for funding for effective substance abuse prevention programs, practices and policies.
Government Funded Programs – Screen for substance use disorders and offer effective interventions to every person entering a government funded health service, criminal justice or social welfare setting. Screening, brief interventions and referral to treatment (SBIRT) reduce the long-term costs of addiction and have shown reductions in hospitalizations.
Community Involvement – Our words and our actions define what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to our youth. Educating all sectors of the community (business, community agencies, community coalitions, faith community, health agencies, law enforcement, media, parents, schools and youth) about the impact of underage drinking and building local support for effective programs, aggressive enforcement, and prosecution of underage drinking laws will reduce underage drinking and create healthier communities.
Support Enforcement - State and localities should implement enforcement programs to deter adults from purchasing alcohol for minors such as the routine compliance checks or other prevention programs targeting adults who purchase alcohol for minors; as well as high visibility enforcement of laws against selling by retailers and furnishing or hosting by other adults.