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.

No comments: