Most of us would like to see our kids live healthy, successful, and addiction free lives. Youth substance use can put all of these hopes in jeopardy. Two of the most popular substances teens start using is tobacco and alcohol.
To some, these aren’t even considered to be drugs or substances. Tobacco and alcohol have been part of our culture for decades and have gained a level of acceptance. But in the eyes of youth, that level of acceptance translates to “these are no big deal.” But are these substances really that different from what we usually think of as “drugs?”
Tobacco and alcohol can both lead to addiction and they both show signs of withdraw, as do other drugs. The dependence on and use of drugs can destroy our health, limit our potential, and isolate us from the people we care about. There are those that would have us believe that the addiction is different even though the damage can be the same. Addiction is addiction, but how quickly it occurs or how intense it is may be different.
Research shows us how youth are influenced to use substances. Marketing, social media, entertainment, and being around people that use substances can all have a profound effect on youth. Because of this, youth often consider tobacco and alcohol use to be normal. In order to keep things in balance, it is important to limit the influences and talk with, not lecture, our kids. We need to make sure our kids know the facts about substance use and develop life skills that decrease the likelihood of substance use.
Tobacco and alcohol lead to more addictions, causing more deaths than all of the other substances combined. Some supporters of legalizing marijuana base their arguments on similarities to tobacco and alcohol while ignoring the differences. Do we really want to add to the problems that already exist with legal substances like tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs? In simplest of terms, we don’t put out a fire by adding fuel to it.
Policies can help to reduce the influences and begin to change what kids see as “no big deal.” Parents can partner with schools to stay informed and teach kids what they need to know in order to be prepared. Early education on how to care about themselves and others can be a great starting point. Further activities and education can advance these beliefs as kids grow. We can all play a role in providing our kids a better future, but it will require change.
For more information, contact the Area Substance Abuse Council at (319) 390-1884.