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Youth Substance Abuse?What’s easier:  Building quality children & youth or repairing damaged adults?

Substance abuse of most substances used most often begins during adolescence – the average age of the onset of tobacco addiction is near 14 years, (U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, 1994).

When young people are better educated and informed of the consequences of substance abuse, the probability of this negative behavior and norm adaptation drops dramatically.  For example, data indicates that 75% of all first time smokers in 1995 and 66% of all new daily users in 1996 were under 18 years of age. (CDC -1998c)  As with any other drug of abuse, the best course of action is to never start using tobacco so use will not become a problem.   Ref:  Prevention and Intervention Services Program -1999 Technical Report

 We make valiant efforts to advocate for youth substance abuse prevention and education, to encourage anti-ATOD (alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs) norms and environments, but many of these strategies fall short unless we have strong awareness and support in the adult community and a viable number of individuals deciding to discontinue their own substance use.

A possible strategy for combating this issue would be to determine what causes our youth to even consider ATOD use.  With or without positive community (adult) intervention for limiting this behavior, research shows that the majority of individuals that use any substances started before 18 years of age.  They were all doing something illegal!  We have state and federal laws that tell us who may and may not use, possess or purchase all legal substances.  We might consider directing the efforts used in preventing those that may legally use tobacco and alcohol to those that should not be gaining access to or using the products at all.

Concerned Marine Corps spouses and their children .

They know it’s easier to raise a child than repair an adult.

  (Camp LeJeune, NC)

To use tobacco as an example, most researchers and professionals addressing this issue all initiate their work with similar philosophy.  “Tobacco use is a major preventable cause of premature death and illness”.  Most of them will continue with information addressing the age of onset.  Is it really that difficult to “prevent” those that are not supposed to have tobacco from having it?

I guess it’s time to do one of two things.  Change our laws to allow our youth to become “legal substance abusers” or begin enforcing the laws and strategies we have in place to protect our future generations.  Our youth will do whatever we allow them to do.

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