26 Jan Shattering the Myths: National Drug Facts Week 2015
With it being National Drug Facts Week, which was started in 2010 to counteract the myths that teens often hear from the Internet, TV, movies, music, or friends, we thought we would go over some of the common myths we hear about youth drug and alcohol use.
Myth: Drinking is a rite of passage
Only 37.4 percent of high school seniors said they used alcohol in the past 30 days. Since we work in prevention, we won’t be happy until that number is 0, but the silver lining is that 62.6 percent of those seniors aren’t frequently drinking. So not everyone is doing it.
Myth: Marijuana use isn’t harmful since it’s legal in some states
Science tells us that marijuana use by teens may negatively affect brain development and impair school and athletic performance. Teen use of marijuana is up compared to five years ago, perhaps because fewer teens consider marijuana to be a harmful drug. Even in the states that marijuana use is legal, marijuana use is illegal in all states for those under 21 because of the harmful effects.
Myth: Underage drinking is okay as long as the kids don’t drive
Alcohol has a severe, negative impact on adolescent brain development. The hippocampus, involved in learning and memory, suffers the worst alcohol related brain damage in teens. Long-term, heavy drinking causes teens to have a 10% smaller hippocampi. In addition, short-term or moderate drinking impairs learning and memory far more in youths than adults. Frequent drinkers may never be able to catch up in adulthood since alcohol inhibits systems crucial for storing new information. For more information on how drugs and alcohol affect the teenage brain, click here.
Also, Children who begin drinking at age 13 have a 45% chance of becoming alcohol-dependent. A person who starts drinking at the legal age of 21 has only a 7% chance of becoming addicted. The brain rewards positive actions with feelings of pleasure so we want to repeat them. Alcohol and drugs hijack the brain by producing those “feel-good” brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, from a harmful chemical, instead of a real experience. If teens continue drinking, they will build a tolerance and have to consume a larger quantity of drugs or alcohol to produce the “feel-good” chemicals. Teens can begin to crave the high from the “feel-good” chemicals and become addicted.
Myth: Prescription drugs are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a healthcare professional
This is only true when the drugs are taken properly by the person they are prescribed too. It is not safe to take prescription drugs incorrectly or that aren’t subscribed to you. In 2009, there were nearly 4.6 million drug-related emergency department (ED) visits of which about one half (49.8 percent, or 2.3 million) were attributed to adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals and almost one half (45.1 percent, or 2.1 million) were attributed to drug misuse or abuse.
Also, experts say the increase in heroin use is linked to prescription opioid abuse. Young people often become addicted to pain pills and progress to heroin — which provides the same euphoric high — when pills are hard to come by.
It’s vital that we communicate these realities with our teens so they are getting the correct information about drug and alcohol use. We must work together to keep the youth in our community drug and alcohol free.