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How well do you know about the myths vs. realities of substance use and addiction among teens? It is a prevalent issue. And regardless of what you may or may not believe, it is an issue that is more widespread than you could ever imagine. One of the things that I will always remember is when my oldest daughter was entering her freshman year of high school, and I attended the initial freshmen meeting. During their welcome to the parents in the audience, two high school seniors added to their address: “If your kids are looking for great and educational activities, they will find lots of them here. If they’re looking for drugs, they will find those here, too.” Taken totally aback, I left the meeting feeling very uneasy about my child (and younger children later on) attending the high school.
I had done my research, and thought that I was placing them in one of the best school districts in the area. It was not until I dug deeper that I discovered that their statement was not to indicate that the school was a bad one, but rather to help parents be aware that when it comes to students who suffer from substance use and addiction, the school was no different than anywhere else. The difference came in the awareness of the issue, and how it is handled.
Just like parents, teens are bombarded with myths about substance use and addiction, too. That is why the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) host National Drug & Alcohol Facts WeekSM (NDAFW), an annual, week-long observance that brings together teens and scientific experts to SHATTER THE MYTHS about substance use and addiction. Held this year the week of January 25-31, 2016, the mission of National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week is to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens often hear from the Internet, TV, movies, music, or friends. Since its inception, the number of community-based events held to SHATTER THE MYTHS has grown dramatically, with more than 1,500 held last January throughout all 50 states and several international sites. Events link teens with scientists and other experts, creating a safe place for teens to ask questions about drug and alcohol use, without judgment or lectures.
One of the key resources for NDAFW is the National Drug & Alcohol IQ Challenge – a 12-question multiple choice quiz that teens and adults can take to test their knowledge about drugs. Parents can take the IQ Challenge and use the results to start a conversation with their teen about drugs and alcohol.
Every parent everywhere can benefit from taking this important quiz. In fact, I took it, and my results show that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to drug and alcohol facts.
. . .
I have already put two children through high school without any issues involving substance use and addiction. However, times are changing. As my teen daughter prepares to enter high school in the fall, I think that I should prepare myself too by becoming more familiar with the facts on substance use and addiction. One tool that I will most definitely be using throughout her high school years is the ‘Family Checkup’ resource from the NIDA website. Referring to it often and continuing to have open and honest communication with my teen about the dangers of substance use and addiction will help her to get through high school successfully. There’s no question that it is much harder to be a teenager now than it was when I was in high school. With all that is going on the world and the temptation of drugs and alcohol being ever-present, I am comforted in knowing that there are resources available to not only help me SHATTER THE MYTHS and sort out fact from fiction, but to also be properly prepared with what to do should a drug or alcohol problem arise and how to address the issue in a positive way.
National Drug & Alcohol Facts WeekSM (NDAFW) is January 25-31, 2016, and is sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), both part of the National Institutes of Health. To learn more, visit the website here. While you’re there, take a closer look at all of the tools and resources available to help you talk to your teens about drugs and alcohol.