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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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.


Prevention work may overcome genetic influence on adolescent smoking

Here's further research on the role of genes in young people developing a smoking habit. This thorough and long term study of over 1,000 New Zealanders found that genetic makeup was not related to youngsters starting to smoke. However, those at higher genetic risk were indeed more likely to move to more regular and heavier smoking and to become more dependent. Genes do help predict smoking, but not consistently. Factors such as adolescent peer influence are also crucial. The authors conclude that prevention work may overcome any higher genetic risk of adolescents developing adult smoking problems.


Horrifying statistics on impaired teen driving in the US

The fast approaching end of the school year and summer holidays are exciting times for teens, but also the most dangerous. This survey of 1,708 16-18 year old Americans finds that teens are more likely to drink around relatively unsupervised events, such as during the summer vacation, than during heavily supervised activities like proms or graduations. Worryingly, 23% of teens admit they have driven under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs or marijuana and 1 in 5 say that alcohol has no impact or even improves their driving. Ironically, 91% of teens consider themselves to be 'safe/cautious' drivers. The survey highlights the vital role of parents in keeping teens safe behind the wheel. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the USA.


SAMHSA launches a new under-age drinking prevention campaign

'Talk. They Hear You.' is a new under-age drinking prevention campaign recently launched by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The aim is to reduce under-age drinking among youth ages 9 to 15 by providing parents and caregivers with the information and resources they need to start addressing the issue of alcohol with their children early. The campaign materials can be easily downloaded from the SAMHSA website and tailored to everybody's under-age drinking prevention efforts.


MENAHRA Second Regional Conference on Harm Reduction

The Second Regional Conference on Harm Reduction organised by MENAHRA (The Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association) will be held in Beirut, Lebanon, on 12-15 November 2013. The event will aim to create a platform where professionals, activists and researchers from the region may gather and exchange experiences and latest developments in the field of harm reduction. The conference programme will include major, parallel and workshop sessions as well as exhibitors and poster presentations. The abstract submissions system will open soon.

Frightening analysis of youth drinking and social media

This interesting study critically reviews the research literature on social networking and alcohol marketing, and the on-line alcohol content on social networks. Despite some obvious benefits from social networking, the authors see the sites as 'quintessentially commercial platforms' providing huge opportunities for alcohol marketing. Apart from bringing producers and consumers close together, site owners have access to vast amounts of valuable data on preferences and habits, providing a 'bonanza for alcohol-marketing dataminers'. The recent deal between Facebook and a multi-national drinks company illustrates the value of such data. Informal manipulation of 'friending', tweets and wall posts, also allows alcohol producers and sellers intimate access to young people. Furthermore, young people themselves often post alcohol related activity, thus normalising drinking behaviour.


New research uses brain scans to plot workings of the adolescent brain

We frequently publish news on research using the latest brain scanning techniques to investigate workings of the adolescent brain, with implications for the prevention of substance abuse by young people. This latest longitudinal study aims to scan 300 young people aged between 14 and 24 to see how their brains change as they grow older. Evidence from brain scans will be linked with results from saliva and blood samples, interviews, questionnaires, and a range of mental tasks.



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