Today marks the start of National Drug Facts Week, a nationwide event dedicated to arming families, communities and young people with the information they need to help teens say no to drugs. While there has been some good news in recent years about declining rates of teen smoking and prescription drug abuse, we still face significant hurdles.
Messages romanticizing the effects of these substances are nearly impossible to avoid in popular media. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which funds National Drug Facts Week, three out of every four of the most popular rap songs in 2005 mentioned drug, alcohol or tobacco use. Out of the top 90 movies during the past two decades, seven out of 10 show characters smoking. Combine these messages with peer pressure and the availability of drugs and alcohol, and you get a public health disaster.
Our nation’s teens are still not adequately informed about the dangers of drug abuse. A 2013 NIDA survey of about 50,000 teens showed that 22.7% of all 12th graders reported using marijuana in the prior month, an increase from 19.4% in 2008. At the same time, fewer teens think that marijuana use is risky, even though studies show that 1 out of every 11 people who use marijuana become addicted. Plus, recent research suggests that marijuana use during the teens may cause lasting brain damage that can impact learning and memory years after stopping use.
Similarly, fewer teens think that trying the strong pain-reliever Vicodin occasionally is risky, even though in 2007, prescription pain relievers like Vicodin and OxyContin caused more deaths from overdose than both heroin and cocaine combined.
It’s crucial that we bust these myths as early as we can.
The success of media campaigns and interventions from families, friends and doctors on lowering teen rates of smoking goes to show that our nation’s teens will respond to the facts. National Drug Facts Week is all about getting these facts into your hands. There are more than 700 local events planned this year to help get the truth out – check out the National Drug Facts Week website and click on the USA map to see if an event is planned near you. In addition, this booklet, Shatter the Myths, is a great resource for teens, and the 2014 IQ Challenge is an interactive quiz to test knowledge about drug use.