FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2017
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391
Make Each Day Count – National Prevention Week,
May 15-20, 2017
By Vicki Turner
DPHHS Prevention Resource Center Director
Alcohol and drug use by young people is extremely dangerous, both to themselves and to society. It is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors, even for those who may never develop a dependence or addiction.
Adolescence is a time of heightened risk-taking and as alcohol and drugs enter the picture, parents are faced with a unique set of challenges. They can simply sit back and hope their kids will ‘get through it,’ or they can take an active role in learning about alcohol and drugs and helping their kids do the same.
It can be daunting for parents to talk with children about drinking and drug use, but there is evidence that it does pay dividends. In fact, research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use these substances than those who don’t have such conversations.
Parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child connect the dots and make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs.
Relaying the importance of preventing underage drinking can be difficult without understanding the dynamically developing adolescent brain. Not everyone who misuses alcohol or other drugs becomes addicted but, ‘priming of the brain for addiction’ can occur when youth misuse tobacco, alcohol or marijuana - all gateway drugs.
No other substance is more widely used and abused by America’s youth than alcohol; making alcoholism and alcohol-related problems the number one public health problem in the United States.
If you think your child is drinking just to ‘have a good time,’ think again: many kids drink alone because they are bored or depressed. This puts them at greater risk for developing alcohol-related problems later in life. So, talk to your kids – most youth want to hear from their parents!
It is important to connect the dots that lead to awareness and recovery from underage alcohol and drug use. Fostering healthy and responsible attitudes, talking openly and honestly, encouraging supportive relationships, and showing children that their opinions and decisions matter, are all ways to help prevent the use of alcohol and drugs.
It can be challenging to develop the communication skills needed to talk with your children about drinking and drugs, but it will be well worth the effort you put into it, as you get to know your children a little better and help them build the coping skills they need to handle the anger, stress, peer pressure, loneliness and disappointment that are part of being an adolescent.
Young people may drink to ‘check out’ from family problems, issues with school, loneliness or everyday pressures of social situations. Parents and caregivers can be a primary source of positive influence and, with simple, every day conversations can reduce chances of drinking underage.
Here are a few resources to prevent underage drinking.
Download a free app, ‘Talk. They Hear You’ at https://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking/mobile-application and acquire new skills in a fun way, engaging youth and learning positive steps to recognize teachable moments to prevent underage drinking.
Visits www.parentpower.mt.gov and follow this site to remain updated on preventing underage drinking.
Visit http://www.letsfaceitmt.com/ to join other Montana parents uniting to prevent underage drinking.
National Prevention Week takes place May 15-20 and is a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) -supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.
Vicki Turner is the Director of the DPHHS Prevention Resource Center and is part of the Montana Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) for State Prevention programs. The Montana Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) for State Prevention programs is partnering with this effort. The ICC is charged with developing, through interagency planning and cooperation, comprehensive and coordinated prevention programs that will strengthen the healthy wellbeing and safety of children, families, individuals, and communities – particularly families that are deemed to be at risk. The ICC is comprised of the following agencies: Attorney General’s Office, Public Health and Human Services, Office of Public Instruction, Montana Children’s Trust Fund, Board of Crime Control, Labor and Industry, Department of Corrections, Department of Revenue, Office of Indian Affairs, Military Affairs, Department of Transportation, Higher Education, and two community members, Diane Cashell of Bozeman and the other position is currently vacant.