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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European Drug Report 2013: 'progress towards evidence-based prevention in schools'

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has launched the European Drug Report 2013, designed to provide a detailed overview of the European drug situation. Positive trends noted include promotion of protective school climates and the development of school drug policies. The report also applauds a small shift towards universal prevention approaches, such as personal and social skills education, and a move away from simple provision of information, where supporting evidence for effectiveness is weak. Examples of successful prevention programmes include The Good Behaviour Game, EUDAP (Unplugged), Orebro and Preventure.


'Extraordinary push' to raise legal drinking age to 21 in Australia

A coalition of community groups and associations from Victoria, Australia, are leading 'an extraordinary push' to curb under-age alcohol abuse and change Australia's drinking culture by raising the legal drinking age to 21. Top health experts, sporting personalities and politicians have all backed the '21 Be There' campaign aiming to lead to legislative change. However, the campaign has also attracted criticism. Former Premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett said that 'the answer doesn't lie with prohibition. It lies in education and the acceptance of responsibility by individuals.' A study we covered earlier this year suggests that following America's lead and raising the legal drinking age to 21 is not necessarily the answer as the age of first use is the same in both countries.


No decline in teen use of smokeless tobacco in USA

Despite clear health risks associated with the use of smokeless tobacco products, there has been no decline in teen use of these products in the US since 2000, a new study found. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health noted a decrease in smokeless tobacco use among youngsters aged 9-14 but an increase among 15-17 year olds. The overall rate however, remained steady at about 5%. The study noted that the relatively low cost of smokeless tobacco, compared with cigarettes, might make the products more attractive to young people. The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on the 2000 and 2011 US National Youth Tobacco Survey.


The power of Twitter and promoting 'study drugs' - worrying statistics

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter play a growing role in shaping young people's behaviour. American researchers analysed college students' Twitter use promoting Adderall, a drug used in treatment of ADHD but also increasingly used by young people to aid studying. They found that over a six-month period Adderall-related tweets averaged 930 per day, and this number tripled around December exam period and more than doubled around April finals period. 'Adderall is the most commonly abused prescription stimulant among college students', according to lead researcher Carl Hanson. 'Our concern is that the more it becomes a social norm in online conversation, the higher risk there is of more people abusing it'. A number of US colleges are instituting stricter rules for diagnosing and medicating ADHD in order to combat the growing overuse of Adderall and other ADHD medications.


Australia: Urgent call for school education about performance drugs in sport

Following the recent doping scandal involving some prominent Aussie athletes, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has highlighted the need to educate every Australian school student about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). The Australian Medical Association reported that around 3% of teenage boys have used muscle-enhancing drugs. WADA president John Fahey stressed that 'so much of what has gone wrong in terms of doping in sports is not limited to people at the elite level'. This is why young people from 'suburban athletic fields' should be a target of the country's prevention efforts to curb teen use of PEDs.


World Drug Day

June 26 is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Health is the ongoing theme of the world drug campaign. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) invites everybody to organise events and campaigns to mark World Drug Day and send out a strong message against illicit drug use.


Are YOU aware of your teen misusing prescription drugs?

Recently, misuse of prescription stimulant medications such as Adderall and Ritalin used to treat ADHD has become increasingly popular amongst teens who want to improve their academic performance. This recent US report examining parents' awareness of their children's use of these drugs presents shocking results. Only 1% of parents believe their teens have used 'study drugs' while recent studies report that 10% of 15-16 year-olds, and 12% 17-18 year-olds have used these drugs. Over 75% of parents support school policies aimed at stopping abuse of 'study drugs' in middle and high schools. The report emphasizes the need for greater communication among public health officials, schools, parents, and teens regarding this issue. Mentor has covered a number of stories on the subject, including a shocking study showing that one-third of parents say they believe Adderall and Ritallin can improve a teen’s academic performance even if the teen does not have ADHD.


Puberty found to be key time for prevention work

The age that young people have their first drink has been shown to affect later alcohol problems. This latest research makes important qualifications to this association, finding that puberty is more significant than chronological age. Children taking their first drink between 12-14 years were found to be more at risk of later problems than other age groups, drinking more and more frequently. This long term study was able to make more precise estimates of the onset of puberty, a short period when key neurological developments occur and the brain is particularly vulnerable to rewards from substance use. Researchers then assessed risky drinking at ages 19, 22, and 23. They also compared results with a parallel study using rats. The authors conclude that puberty is a key period for prevention work rather than relying on general age brackets. The research was led by Miriam Schneider, from the University of Heidelberg, Germany.


How do tobacco laws and density of tobacco stores influence youth smoking?

Here is a study investigating the association between local tobacco policies, the density of tobacco sales outlets, and young people smoking. Researchers surveyed 1,491 US children (mean age 14.7 years) and found that those who lived in areas with many tobacco-licensed retail stores smoked more frequently. Interestingly, there was no relationship between the strength of clean air laws and teen smoking. However, clean air policies did affect the relationship between tobacco outlet density and youth smoking. In cities with weak clean air laws, young people smoked more frequently in areas with many tobacco outlets. In areas with strong clean air laws, there was little relationship between tobacco outlet density and youth smoking. Researchers are cautious about 'causation', however, noting that cities with more smokers may demand more tobacco outlets, not that high numbers of outlets cause more smoking. The results suggest both the control over the number of tobacco outlets and enforcement of the clean air policies as ways for preventing youth smoking.



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