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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Revolutionary policy change on psychoactive drugs by New Zealand Government

The Psychoactive Substances Bill was submitted this month to the New Zealand Parliament. It has sparked international interest by trying to regulate rather than simply ban. The bill enjoys wide support. It would license the importation, manufacture and sale of all new psychoactive products. Manufacturers would be required to test these drugs and prove they are low-risk. Products would have safety warning labelling and a minimum age restriction of 18 years, with fines or prison sentences for manufacturers and vendors breaking the rules. Much smaller fines would apply to consumers caught using unlicensed psychoactive substances. When the legislative plan was presented earlier to the UN Commission in Vienna, a number of countries expressed interest including the USA, Hungary, Ireland, UK, Australia and Canada. Coincidentally, 2013 is the start of an 'intense preparatory process' before the UN General Assembly holds a special session in 2016 to 'review the current policies and strategies to confront the global drug problem'.


Teen marijuana smokers also likely to be big tobacco smokers

Many studies have described a 'gateway' effect whereby smoking tobacco may lead to marijuana use. This US longitudinal study concentrates on the relative use of both substances as adolescents enter college, finding support for the gateway effect. Somewhat surprisingly, researchers also found that students who smoked both tobacco and marijuana were more likely to smoke significantly more tobacco than those who smoked only tobacco, thus increasing health risks. Dr Megan Moreno an investigator at Seattle Children's Research Institute and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, commented on potential dangers from the legalisation of marijuana in two US states. She also highlighted the need for targetted educational campaigns highlighting the increased risks of using the two substances together. The research was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, DC.


Swedish youth festivals targeted by alcohol industry

A report from Swedish moderation movement IQ finds that even though alcohol vendors are not overly represented at Swedish festivals compared to other kinds of sponsors, they are 'frequent and active' at events aimed at people under 25 years of age. Unsurprisingly, beer brands are the most prominent. The findings are particularly worrying given the evidence linking youth binge drinking with alcohol advertising. The report is based on a telephone survey with 27 Swedish festival organisers.


Moves to ban outdoor alcohol marketing in Finland

Outdoor alcohol adverts may soon become a thing of the past in Finland as the Government is planning to introduce a total ban on alcohol advertising in public places. The ban would also affect advertisements in media such as radio and the social networking site Facebook. Radio ads for alcoholic beverages would only be aired after 9.00 pm. Alcohol branded sports sponsorship would remain unaffected, however.


Survey shows school students' reasons for misusing prescription drugs

This survey investigated American high school students' reasons for misusing prescription drugs. Top-rated reasons were to help relax, have fun, to feel high and to forget troubles. Other reasons include friends using, home problems, feeling better about myself, looking cool, and it being a habit. Surprisingly, 70% of those contacted failed to respond compared with only 28% not responding to an earlier survey on alcohol use.


The most abused substances in US high schools are...

Even though President Obama signed legislation to ban synthetic drugs in July 2012, synthetic marijuana is in the top three substances used by US 14-18 year-old, behind alcohol and marijuana, according to this report by the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR). Unsurprisingly, drug makers continually change the drug formulas to evade these laws. As a result, 'youth who report using synthetic marijuana likely have no idea what specific synthetic cannabinoid they are using or what the effects will be', according to Eric Wish, Director of CESAR.


European Research Area Network on Illicit Drugs (ERANID) launched

The European Research Area Network on Illicit Drugs, a four year project funded by the European Union, was launched on May 7th 2013. The aim is to share priorities for research on illicit drugs and fund joint research projects. ERANID is a network of eleven funding organisations from six different EU-member states. The project will also collaborate closely with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe.


School smoking prevention worldwide: what works best?

Smoking by young people in developing and poorer countries is increasing. This latest Cochrane review of smoking prevention in schools assessed effectiveness in 49 randomised controlled trials across the world, involving over 140,000 school children. The most effective programmes were those which combined a 'social competence' with a 'social influence' approach and ran for more than one year. This might, for example, involve education in areas such as understanding others, self belief, communication skills, peer influence and socialisation rather than alternative approaches, such as courses highlighting information only. Programmes led by adults may be more effective in the long term than those led by young people, and there is no evidence that delivering extra sessions makes the intervention more effective.


The crucial role of parents in shaping teen behaviour

Parental influence can be more powerful in shaping teen decision to use tobacco and alcohol or engage in other risky behaviours than advertising, marketing or peer pressure. Less effective are parenting strategies that employ negative reinforcement such as belittling a teen, threats or physical discipline, a new US study has shown. The research also suggests that parents could have a positive impact on discouraging their children from using tobacco by sharing their own experiences, although we recently published work questioning this particular strategy. Lead researcher Zhiyong Yang hopes to partner with local school districts to teach parents a battery of parenting strategies that can be used to curtail teen misbehaviours.



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