Every year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) creates initiatives to raise awareness about drug and alcohol abuse in the US. Today, until January 29, is officially “National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week,” an annual health observance that links students with scientists and other experts to offset false information about drugs and alcohol that is widely circulated from the internet, social media, TV, movies, music, and friends. Among the many events taking place this week, Thursday the 26th is Chat Day, where students can go online and ask NIDA scientists about drugs and drug abuse.
On December 13, the 2016 results of NIDA’s “Monitoring the Future” (MTF) were released. The annual survey has been tracking drug, alcohol, and cigarette use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders nationwide since 1975. According to the study:
Only 4.8 percent of high school seniors said they smoked tobacco on a daily basis. That’s way down from 1996, when 22.2 percent of high school seniors said they smoked every day. Since tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease, this downward trend is great news for teens’ health today and in the future.
The survey results reveal that teens who smoke are now more likely to use e-cigarettes. When asked their opinion on what is being inhaled from an e-cigarette, 62.8 percent of high school seniors answered “flavoring,” while only 24.9 percent believed it was nicotine.
Nora D. Volkow, director of NIDA and a Dana Alliance member, shared a keynote address at last year’s Aspen Brain Forum on adolescents as the single group most at-risk for drug and alcohol problems. In our article, “Seeking Answers to Addiction,” she says:
We know that those vulnerable to start using drugs are also those more vulnerable to transition from drug experimentation to compulsive drug taking, which is the loss of control we call addiction…Based on imaging studies, we have a pretty clear idea of why adolescents are at greatest risk of drug experimentation and addiction.
With almost daily reports detailing the rise of newly classified synthetic drugs and opioid misuse, this is a vital time to educate teens and young adults on the dangers of substance abuse. Events for National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week are being held throughout schools, nonprofits, state and local health departments, clubs, and more; and NIDA offers a wealth of resources for those interested in organizing their own activities. Tips on promoting events, activity ideas, games, videos, and updates on the latest news for the awareness campaign can all be found on their site.
– Seimi Rurup