A new study of a group of teenagers found that they were much more likely to participate in destructive actions on the days when they witness substance abuse. While it has been known that active substance abuse occurring in the environment of young people can have a negative impact on their lives, this is perhaps the first set of data that was able to look at specific actions and record the evidence more precisely and efficiently.
“Past research has shown that children who grow up in families, schools and neighborhoods where alcohol and drugs are frequently used are at risk for behavioral problems later in life, but our findings demonstrate that these effects are immediate,” said Candice Odgers, associate professor in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy.
The full results of the study appear in the journal Development and Psychopathology. One of the interesting things about this particular study is how they collected the data – via mobile devices. Rather than doing and end-of-the-day recap like other similar research, they were able to have the adolescents record their thoughts, actions and events real time via their cell phones.
It was also noted that teens with the genotype most common for ADHD diagnosis were more susceptible to acting out following the influence. Impulsivity combined with the exposure made for a difficult situation for these kids to deal with, resulting in the antisocial behavior.
“A series of studies has shown that consuming alcohol before age 15 predicts a wide range of later problems including substance dependency, involvement in criminal behavior and health problems. Our findings suggest that we may also need to prevent exposure to others using substances during this period,” Odgers said.
Colorado is conducting a powerful campaign aiming to prevent teen marijuana abuse. The state has garnered a lot of recent press due to the fact that they have allowed recreational marijuana use and some people are concerned the new amendment would lead to an acceptance of drug use among teens. To help prevent this from happening, the state of Colorado hired Mike Sukle of Sukle Advertising & Design to put together a campaign that would speak to teenagers about the dangers of marijuana abuse.
Sukle explains that the campaign was tricky because of the widespread acceptance of marijuana in the state. He points out that you have to be careful about how you warn children against using marijuana. Oftentimes children are told things about drugs that are heavily exaggerated or simply aren’t true. When children see that they have been lied to, it is even harder to dissuade them from abusing the drug themselves.
Studies are showing that using marijuana at a young age can lead to schizophrenia, stunted brain growth and a lowered IQ. Armed with this information Sukle created a campaign that would reach out to teens and point out the inevitable. In a few years scientists would be studying their generation to determine the effects of early marijuana use. The campaign is called Don’t Be A Lab Rat and it shows giant rat cages with signs explaining the potential fallout from early marijuana use.
The signs say things such as: “What do the effects of lead paint, mercury, and weed on teenagers’ brains all have in common? We’re about to find out.” or “Congratulations. You’re the first teenage generation living in a state with legalized marijuana. Scientists can’t wait to see the negative effects it will have on your brain.”
The intention is not to scare or lie to teenagers, but to engage their curiosity and get them to realize that they are still developing. Ingesting drugs during such a crucial time in a person’s development can have long-lasting negative effects.
The Partnership at DrugFree.org has recently announced its plans to revive the anti-drug campaign called “Above The Influence,” which was award-wining and deemed successful.
As mentioned in the New York Times, the campaign used to receive funding from Congress, but the budget cuts continued to reduce the amount over the years to finally being deleted last year. Now The Partnership is seeking corporate sponsors to run a more cost-effective campaign through digital outlets and social media.
The project was previously run by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Director Gil Kerlikowske was quoted in a release as saying, “No one is better suited than The Partnership at Drugfree.org to ensure the continued success of Above the Influence. The Partnership has been there since the beginning of Above the Influence, and together, we have made a difference in the lives of teens.”
Above The Influence seeks to help put anti-drug messages into contexts that speak more to teenagers, noting that simply stating “Don’t Do Drugs” isn’t effective and “Drugs Will Kill You” isn’t an immediately real concept to them. Instead the messages usually show how substance abuse can pull someone off track in life and make them lose interest in activities that would otherwise be positive influences. It bridges the gap of what happens when someone first starts taking drugs and then what happens once they become addicted.
The campaign currently has a promotion going called “Made by Me,” which is an online advertising campaign created for free by New York agency Atmosphere Proximity. This new project encourages teens to submit their ideas for the next great Above the Influence public service announcement. Teens will vote on a winning concept which will be filmed by a renowned director and premiered in October 2013 to coincide with Above the Influence Day.
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