Prevention Update

A unique update on what is happening in the world of drug abuse prevention.

Welcome to Prevention Update, Mentor International's daily summary of and comment on latest news, research, statistics, policy updates, information on resources and events. It is relevant in particular to practitioners and policy makers but equally valuable and interesting to all who form the drug prevention community.

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Ireland to introduce plain tobacco packaging

It looks like Ireland will soon become the second country in the world, after Australia, to introduce plain tobacco packaging with the aim of reducing brand appeal, particularly among young people. All forms of branding will be removed from cigarette packets and health warnings will be given more prominence. It is expected that the plain packaging will be challenged by tobacco companies in the courts. However, according to the Minister for Health, Dr Reilly, 'such move would be a measure of their desperation and also of the effectiveness of the measure'. In 2012 the tobacco industry lost a challenge to plain packaging in Australia’s courts. The new laws are expected to come into force in Ireland next year.


More teens poisoned with adult prescription medication

The rise in adult prescription-drug use between 2000 and 2009 in the US has led to more poisonings among children, according to a recent study. Researchers found that children under age 5 had the highest risk of poisonings, followed by 13-19-year-olds. Not surprisingly, for young kids, medication poisonings were more commonly caused by unintentional consumption, but for teens, it was more likely from recreational use. The authors suggest that paediatricians talk with parents about how to safely store prescription drugs away from children of all ages to limit exposure. This is particularly important as previous studies show that most first time prescription drug abusers are supplied by family or friends.


37th National Conference of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse

The Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA) is organising its 37th National Conference entitled 'Innovations for Meeting New Challenges'. The event will aim to bring together researchers and health professional educators to learn about scientific advances and exemplary teaching approaches in the substance abuse field. On-line registration will open soon. Registration fees apply.


Video contest - share your ideas on living 'above the influence'!

'Made by Me' is a national contest that calls on American teens to share their ideas for the next 'Above the Influence' (ATI) commercial aiming to encourage young people to stay drug-free. The winning teen and their community will produce a commercial with a professional director that will premiere on the National Above the Influence Day on 17 October. A webinar sharing more details on the challenge will be held on 11 June. Deadline for video entries is 10 July. The challenge is organised by the Partnership at and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's 'Above the Influence' youth campaign.


Family Day 2013

Family Day - A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children™ is a national movement that aims to promote family dinners as an effective way to reduce substance abuse among American children and young people. This year's Family Day will be celebrated on 23 September and, as always, it will be a great opportunity to promote regular family activities in order to encourage parent-child communication and to show parents the power they have to keep their kids substance-fee.

Turkey: alcohol prevention moves cause political and religious storm

Against the current background of civil unrest, the Turkish Government has recently introduced a law that bans alcohol advertising, introduces mandatory health warnings on labels and prohibits vendors and producers from arranging and sponsoring festivals, events and campaigns. The legislation also imposes fines on those who violate the ban. Interestingly, as 99% of the Turkish population is Muslim, and Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol, critics argue that tighter rules on drinking could undermine the separation of state and religion. Officials, however, describe the initiative as an effort to protect children and youth from the harms of alcohol at an early stage, not an attempt to interfere in people's lives. The measure requires presidential approval before it can be put into effect.


Do 'negative' prevention messages work?

German research confirms findings published in some of our previous articles, that although emotionally arousing negative messages may have an immediate effect on adolescents, this does not last. Researchers from Heidelberg and Munich assessed the impact of different anti-smoking materials, including live video of a pulmonary endoscopy, interviewing 563 students from 18 schools after 2 weeks and 2.5 months. On the other hand, we have also reviewed work from around the world suggesting that some negative messages, such as cigarette packet warnings, do have an effect on young people. In the last issue of Prevention Update we discussed the latest Cochrane review of smoking prevention in schools. This found that longer term education in areas such as communication skills, peer influence and socialisation is more effective than courses highlighting information only.


Parents doubtful about their role in shaping teen behaviour

A new report from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that almost 1 in 5 parents do not think they can influence their children's use of alcohol, drugs or tobacco. Also 9% admitted to not talking to their teens about the dangers of substance abuse in the past year. According to SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde, 'parents need to initiate age-appropriate conversations about these issues with their children at all stages of their development'. Puberty is a particularly important stage, according to research we published recently. SAMHSA has recently launched the 'Talk. They Hear You' campaign aiming to show parents their crucial role in influencing childrens' perceptions of substance use, health and well-being.


'Snorting' booze - 'unbelievably dangerous' new trend

Doctors are warning against inhaling alcohol - an extreme way to get high for fewer calories. Pouring alcohol over dry ice or heating it and 'smoking' the vapours is increasingly popular among young people, particularly among young females who are conscious about their calorie intake before a night out (so called 'drunkorexia'). According to Dr. Harris Stratyner, from Caron Treatment Centers in New York, this is an 'unbelievably dangerous' trend as inhaled alcohol goes directly into the lungs and then straight to the brain, omitting the liver where alcohol is normally metabolised. Additionally, it can lead to deadly alcohol poisoning as the vapours do not go through the stomach, and therefore individuals do not have the ability to vomit, which prevents alcohol poisoning.


How to improve school as an environment for prevention

Will developing protective factors via 'school connectedness' reduce the need for specific prevention interventions? The idea is to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors in pupils' lives, leading to positive health and educational outcomes. This interesting US Government publication points to evidence for such an approach to tackle risk behaviours such as substance use, violence, gang involvement, and early sexual initiation. 'School connectedness' combines a good evidence-based curriculum with a protective school environment. Read a summary of six strategies below.


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