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Article Summary

Substance Abuse Prevention

Family Involvement Is Key To Stopping Substance Abuse!

Families play the most important role in determining how children handle the temptations to use alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal drugs.

Typically, substance abuse prevention programs for youth are part of school efforts, public television campaigns, or local police initiatives.

But a new effort is starting in many communities. It focuses on preventing substance abuse by helping families. Be a part of it from the very first step!

Everyone Should Work Together

  • Parents who want to protect their children from experiences that may lead to substance abuse
  • Teachers, social workers, nurses, and others worried about children who are under stress and have troubles at home
  • Community members who want to build a neighborhood that helps families keep their children drug free
  • Public health and substance abuse prevention practitioners who can bring the latest knowledge of what works and what doesn't-along with some money to help the community develop a plan of action

Why Focus on Families?

School and community programs to prevent substance abuse are essential-but they are not sufficient. Frequently, schools do not begin addressing the problem of substance abuse until the high school years. Yet substance abuse often begins in the elementary and middle school years.

If families are to succeed in preventing substance abuse by children, many parents and children need to develop new behaviors and skills. Family-centered programs like the ones described here offer training and support for families as they face the challenge of keeping their children free from drugs.

How Big Is the Problem? What Are the Facts?

Many adolescents say they began experimenting with substances when they were children. Unfortunately, we don't have much information on the extent of drug abuse among children. But surveys of youth tell a frightening story. For example, according to the Federal Government's 1997 Monitoring the Future Study, by the time they reached the eighth grade:

  • Alcohol-More than 54 percent of the children surveyed had tried alcohol.
  • Tobacco-Forty-seven percent had tried cigarettes.
  • Marijuana-Twenty-three percent of eighth graders had smoked marijuana at least once and 10 percent smoked it within the past 30 days-up from 3 percent in 1991. Also, kids find it's easy to get and think it's safe to use.
  • Inhalants-Twenty-one percent had experimented with inhalants. Inexpensive and easily found in products such as glue, aerosols, and solvents, these dangerous substances are most often abused in early adolescence.

The patterns of substance abuse become worse in the high school years. And those who begin using alcohol or tobacco when they are very young are more likely to use them later in life.

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