Friday, August 23, 2013

Are alcohol & marijuana social host laws right for our community?

Thursday, September 19, 2013
Noon-1:15 p.m.

To register, click here.

Since the 1990’s local and state governments have passed laws designed to hold those who provide alcohol, or enable the consumption by providing an environment in which a minor can consume alcohol, responsible for their conduct. These “social host” laws are often different and unique to the communities they serve.  (In fact, WA communities may want to consider social host laws for marijuana as well as alcohol.) 

This webinar will take a retrospective look at the different social host approaches used by cities, counties and states. Laws that have survived as well as those that have been struck down by the courts will be examined and the challenges proponents of social host legislation face in the future will be discussed.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The public health approach to preventing underage drinking

Earlier this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a webinar: The Role of Public Health in Preventing Underage and Excessive Drinking by Adults.  During the webinar, national experts examined new research findings on the relationship between alcohol policies and underage drinking and provided recommendations for policy and community prevention strategies.  

What works to prevent underage drinking?
Recommended interventions for preventing underage drinking include:
  • Increasing alcohol taxes.
  • Limiting the density of alcohol retail outlets.
  • Commercial host liability laws that hold businesses that serve alcohol liable for serving minors.
Two of the challenges to promoting a public health approach to preventing underage drinking include:
  • Lack of attention to policy and community factors that influence underage drinking.
  • Limited public health capacity to inform communities about prevention strategies.

Policies that affect adults also affect youth
When a state has strong policies to prevent excessive alcohol consumption among adults, youth in that state tend to drink less than youth in states with weak adult-related policies.  "Youth-drinking is not simply an age-specific problem, and optimal approaches to prevention include policies that address excessive drinking in the general population."

Barriers to implementing strong alcohol control policies include the commercial interests (alcohol businesses including retailers) that have the capacity to lobby against regulations.  However, communities are finding success in getting local alcohol control ordinances adopted.

Learn more!
Another free webinar about preventing underage drinking will be offered this fall.

September 18, 2013, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

This webinar, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, will explore prevention research that strongly supports the use of comprehensive, integrated programs with multiple complementary components to address underage drinking.

For more information and to register, visit

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Adolescent brain development & preventing risky behaviors

"OMG, What R They Thinking?: The Adolescent Brain: Risk Assessment and Decision-Making" was the topic of the August 15 Grand Rounds at Seattle Children's Hospital.  Dr. Douglas Diekema discussed the newest research about brain development and what it means for approaches to guiding teen decision-making and injury prevention.

Dr. Diekema provided examples of how peer pressure and just being with friends influences the social-emotional part of the teenage brain to the extent that the rational part, which understands the consequences of participating in risky behaviors, is overruled.   Therefore, it is important for teenagers to be in a larger environment that supports healthy and safe decisions.  Laws that decrease access to things (guns, alcohol, drugs) or situations (driving with friends) associated with unhealthy risk-taking are important.  These kinds of laws are consistent with what we know about the teenage brain.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Community laws & norms favorable toward drug use

Risk and protective factor-focused substance abuse prevention theory is based on the idea that to prevent youth drug use communities need to identify the factors that increase the risk of drug use starting and find ways to reduce that risk.  "Community laws and norms favorable toward drug use" is one risk factor identified by prevention researchers.

Community laws & norms
Community norms are the attitudes and policies that a community holds about drug use and are communicated to teens through laws and written policies, through social practices, and through the expectations adults have of young people.

"Another concern is conflicting messages about alcohol/other drugs from key social institutions.  An example of conflicting messages about substance abuse can be found in the acceptance of alcohol use as a social activity within the community.  The 'Beer Gardens,' popular at street fairs and community festivals frequented by young people, are in contrast to . . . the messages that schools and parents may be promoting.  These conflicting messages make it difficult for children to decide which norms to follow."  (From: Substance Abuse Prevention: The Intersection of Science and Practice, page 18.)

From this science-based approach to preventing teen marijuana use (which is still illegal despite I-502), let's think about Seattle Hempfest.

Here is a picture from a Tweet from the Seattle Police Department (a key institution in our city):

The young person  in the photo is holding a bag of chips that SPD handed out to Hempfest participants that included this sticker:

While SPD handed out chips to educate people about the law, KOMO News took photos of people who appear to be minors smoking pot in public.  

(Joshua Lewis / KOMO News)
Some argue that the stickers affixed to the chips is a good way to teach minors that marijuana use is still illegal for them (even though minors apparently ignored the SPD warning).  Others say that it is another example of community laws and norms favorable to marijuana use.  That SPD's approach to educating the public about the new marijuana law provides conflicting messages to teenagers making it difficult for them to decide which norms to follow.

NE Seattle
What does NE Seattle data say about community laws and norms favorable to drug use?  One of the Healthy Youth Survey questions that provides an answer asks students if they will be caught by police if they use drugs.  Since 2006, the percent of Eckstein 8th grade students who report that they would be caught by police if using marijuana decreased.  

Not surprisingly, the overall risk factor of laws and norms favorable toward drug use increased within that time, jumping by almost 10 percentage points between 2010 and 2012 among Eckstein 8th graders.

Friday, August 16, 2013

National campaign includes toolkit for providing parents with information about preventing underage drinking

Talk. They Hear You." is a national campaign launched by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) earlier this summer.  The campaign aims to reduce underage drinking among youth ages 9 to 15 by providing parents and caregivers with information and resources they need to start addressing the issue of alcohol with their children early.

The campaign provides an online toolkit that includes public service announcements, posters, and other materials that communities and organizations that promote healthy youth development can use to educate parents.

Last month, SAMHSA hosted a press conference featuring national leaders and youth who talked about why preventing underage drinking is important.

Prevention WINS offers a few locally-developed underage drinking prevention resources for parents, as well.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Parents underestimate teen abuse of ADHD drugs

Taking ADHD medication such as Ritalin and Adderall seems to be increasingly popular amongst young people wanting to improve their academic performance.

To examine parents’ awareness about this emerging issue, the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked anational sample of parents about their teens’ use of “study drugs” and their level of concern about the misuse of “study drugs” in their communities.

Among parents of 13- to 17-year-olds who have not been prescribed such medicines, 1 in 100 say their teens have used a “study drug” to stay awake to study for an exam or to do homework.  At the same time, 1 in 8 high school seniors report using “study drugs”.   

Learn more:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Designing healthy communities for children

Earlier this summer, Dr. Richard Jackson spoke at Seattle Children's Hospital about "Designing Healthy Communities for Children".  Many examples of the connection between health and the physical design of communities were discussed.

Though Dr. Jackson mostly spoke about health problems related to obesity, his presentation can be used when thinking about preventing youth substance abuse.  What can we do in our community to support healthy choices when it comes to teen drug use?  Are there a lot of stores selling alcohol, tobacco, and soon marijuana?  How about advertising?  Are youth exposed to ads for these substances?  Are there easy to access pro-social activities for youth?

He noted that we are all living in environments imagined by the people from previous generations.  He stressed that is is important for us to imagine healthy environments for future generations and work together to turn that imagination into reality.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why preventing underage drinking is important

Earlier this year, Prevention WINS launched a video for parents about how to prevent underage drinking.  Excerpts from that video, featuring Dr. Leslie Walker, are now available on YouTube.  Here is one of them.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Prevention programs most effective when offered early and part of a comprehensive strategy

The Prevention Hub website recently posted a review of research about the effectiveness of substance abuse prevention programs.  The two main findings were that multiple prevention programs implemented simultaneously are most effective and that prevention needs to start early.  Here’s an excerpt from the report:

On the evidence to date, the most promising interventions for reducing several risk behaviours simultaneously are those which address multiple domains of risk and protective factors, perhaps because they match the multi-faceted nature of the causes of risk behaviour. Such interventions largely aim to bolster young people's resilience, supported by promoting positive parental/family influences and/or healthy school environments which foster positive social and emotional development.

Timing is likely to be very important, particularly in relation to periods of transition in young people's lives. Programmes were commonly implemented at ages 11–12, during transition into adolescence, or at ages 13–14, when risk behaviours, or experimentation with them, may already have started. The Seattle Social Development Project was the only identified programme implemented in the pre-adolescent early years of primary school. Its success, especially in reducing sexual risk behaviour, suggests that intervening in early mid-childhood can have an impact on later risk behaviour. It may not be too late to intervene during teenage years, but addressing underlying determinants of risk behaviour early in childhood may have a greater impact than only intervening in adolescence.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Short video highlights questions about marijuana businesses in Seattle

A medical marijuana dispensary in the University District is featured in a Seattle Channel short video about the development of a legal marijuana market in our city.  The 4-minute video highlights the tensions between medical and recreational marijuana businesses.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New video provides clarity about what new marijuana law means to teens

Check out the new video created by the Mercer Island Communities That Care Coalition that provides some clarity about what Washington's new marijuana law means for teens.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Prevention WINS launches short videos for parents

This summer, the Prevention WINS parent outreach & education workgroup has been preparing for the upcoming school year to increase awareness among NE Seattle parents about how to prevent underage drinking and marijuana use and prescription drug abuse.

In collaboration with Roam Editorial, the workgroup developed short video clips featuring Dr. Leslie Walker, Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital.  Here's one of them.

Eventually, all six brief videos will be posted to the Prevention WINS YouTube page, making it easy for community members and organizations to share them on their Facebook pages, websites, and blogs.

Public hearing about proposed marijuana rules tonight at Seattle Center

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is hosting public hearings about their proposed rules for a commercial marijuana marketplace in our state.  Tonight they will be at Seattle Center from 6-9:00 p.m..  These hearings are open to the public and provide citizens with a chance to make comments about the proposed rules.

Prior to the release of the proposed rules, the Prevention WINS coalition submitted comments to the Liquor Control Board about youth substance abuse prevention-related policies that could help with preventing underage marijuana use.  They included:

1. Limit marijuana retail outlet density.
2. Limit hours of marijuana sales.
3. Ban marijuana advertising.
4. Ban Internet and mail order sales and home delivery of marijuana.
5. Ban products attractive to youth.
6. Establish a Responsible Vendor Program.

While the Board did strengthen language about restrictions on advertising and reduced the hours of sale, most of the coalition's recommendations were not included in the proposed rules.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Seattle City Council briefed about new marijuana law

Mark Kleiman, whose company (BOTEC) provides the Liquor Control Board with advice about implementing I-502, briefed the Seattle City Council today.

He started by noting that Washington now has three marijuana systems: the I-502 recreational market, the medical marijuana market, and the illicit market.  All three systems play by different rules.  The question he posed is: How much of the marijuana consumed in our state will be obtained through the I-502 system?  Several times during the briefing Dr. Kleiman made it clear that he thinks only one system should exist.

Dr. Kleiman went on to point out that there is no money set aside in I-502 for state and local enforcement of the new marijuana law.  While in the long-run less enforcement of marijuana laws may be needed, in the short-run more enforcement is needed.  If consumers are to buy taxed marijuana, people selling un-taxed marijuana need to be pushed out of business.  The main way they will be pushed out of business is if police enforce the law.

Minors will continue to obtain marijuana under the new law, just like they now get alcohol.  Dr. Kleiman seemed to suggest that minor in possession laws should not be enforced because he says that kids are then thrown in jail.  However, in Washington, youth who are cited for minor in possession are not thrown in jail.  The majority of them enter into diversion agreements which require that they receive a drug assessment.  After the assessment youth are usually either referred to a few hours of drug education or referred to treatment.  In the end, the enforcement of minor in possession laws can provide an important pathway for youth who need help to get that help.

If unable to view the video above, the briefing may be seen through the Seattle Channel's website.