Alcohol and other drug abuse is the root cause of many of the most serious problems facing our communities today. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse estimates the United States spends more than half a trillion dollars each year responding to the consequences of substance abuse and addiction.
In Washington State, our share of that cost exceeds more than $5 billion dollars annually. It is a problem that strains our health care, social services, educational and justice systems, and one that takes an immeasurable emotional and financial toll on families.
What We’re Doing About It
Your Snohomish County Alcohol and Other Drugs Risk & Resilience Program is dedicated to putting strategies and practices into action that are proven to significantly reduce these costs.
Our goal is to stop drug use before it starts, or to delay the age of first use for as long as possible (since the earlier a person first uses substances, whether they are legal or illegal, the more likely they are to develop lifelong addictions and health problems).
What You Can Do
If you want to focus your attention on local solutions, or just want to find out what’s happening to prevent underage drinking and other drug use in your community, consider contacting one of these coalitions:
- Connect Casino Road
- Darrington Prevention Intervention Community Coalition
- Granite Falls Community Coalition
- Marysville Together!
- Sky Valley Youth Coalition
- Monroe Community Coalition
If you just want to focus on your kids, you should know that you are the most powerful influence in their life. In fact, you have more influence over your child than friends, music, television, the Internet, and celebrities. Research shows that kids who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use.
Check out a few of these websites that can give you some excellent insight and coaching around starting these important conversations:
Not all prevention strategies are created equal. Unfortunately, many common strategies being used by well-meaning parents, schools, and communities across the country have been shown by careful research to be ineffective, or even to cause harm. Knowing what works, and what doesn’t, is critical to keeping kids off drugs.
Strategies to Avoid
You should avoid using any strategies that include:
- Scare tactics or scary images: You may think these worked on you when you were younger, but really you may have been born with a natural resilience to avoiding drugs. Kids who are truly at-risk won’t connect their current behavior to those future images. In fact, they may actually rebel against your message and start using in order to prove you wrong.
- Testimony from former drug addicts: Even if their story is powerful, testimony normalizes drug use by sending the message that everybody uses. More than that, youth see the positive attention this person is getting, plus the fact that this person was able to stop using, and it causes the message to backfire.
- Moralistic appeals: Although we would like to believe our teens share all of our family values, they are developing their own set of core values as they mature. Appealing to morality as your child is finding their own path to adulthood may have the opposite effect of what you desired.
- One-time assemblies or motivational speakers: Assemblies and motivational speakers are great for adults, but are wholly ineffective for youth. At best, youth will relate to the emotion of an assembly for a short time, but it will not change their behavior.
- Grouping at-risk youth together: It might seem like a great idea to have a class just for the most at-risk youth you have influence over, but research shows grouping at-risk youth together reinforces at-risk behaviors.