Friday, May 23, 2014

MADD offers Power of Parents facilitator training June 6

From MADD Washington:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) provides a Power of Parents program which includes tips and tools for parents to be able to have lifesaving conversations with their teens before prom, graduation and summer celebrations. With this program, thousands of Washington’s teens will have the real facts around underage drinking and understand what the expectations are around alcohol during the most dangerous time of year for them and their peers. MADD offers free 30 minute Power of Parents workshops, explaining the research, tips and tools around underage drinking prevention and giving parents the opportunity to meet and support one another. These workshops further the impact on the community and garner support for the prevention of underage drinking.

MADD is excited to be offering an upcoming training for individuals to become certified in facilitating our Power of Parents workshop. The training will be held on Friday, June 6,th from 9 AM -3 PM at the Seattle Public Library downtown (1000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104), and lunch will be provided. The library has parking available and the early bird price is $14 for the day if participants arrive before 9:30 AM. Once trained and certified, faciliators will have access to MADD's evidence based prevention materials for facilitating presentations to parents.

Space is limited.  RSVP by contacting MADD's Program Coordinator.

Enforcement of laws important for youth drug use prevention

If laws and regulations are going to deter people and businesses from illegal behaviors, they must be enforced. In this video, Jessica Hawkins from Oklahoma's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services describes some steps her state took to enforce penalties for social hosts who allow underage drinking on their premises.  

Though she talks about the social host law, she provides good examples of how the enforcement of all laws regarding teen access to and consumption of drugs can be implemented and supported by the community.  This is a timely topic here in Washington considering our new marijuana laws and the rules that were adopted to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors.  Those underage marijuana use prevention rules are only effective if actually enforced.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

National Prevention Week: Suicide prevention

From the Youth Suicide
Prevention Program
This week is National Prevention Week and today's focus is suicide prevention.  While this blog usually focuses specifically on preventing teen drug use, today's post is about suicide because drugs often play a role.  

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Several factors can put a young person at risk for suicide. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Stressful life event or loss
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
  • Incarceration"
King County overall has a lower rate of suicide when compared nationally; however, it has recently seen an increase in the number of suicides. In 2010, there were 226 suicide deaths, approximately 25% more than in 2001. The most frequent suicide methods include:
  • Firearms (38%)
  • Poisoning (24%)
  • Suffocation (21%)
  • Cut/Pierce (4%)
Of poisoning-related deaths, drugs and alcohol make up 75% of them nationally.

The local Youth Suicide Prevention Program can provide additional information about prevention, intervention, and links to resources.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

National Prevention Week: Preventing underage marijuana use

This week is National Prevention Week and preventing youth marijuana use is one focus area.  With recreational marijuana retail outlets expected to open this summer, many people are looking for information about how the drug affects teenagers and what parents can do to prevent their children from using.  

Last fall, local experts Drs. Leslie Walker and Kevin Haggerty developed a pamphlet for parents about preventing underage marijuana use. 

This week, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released two updated booklets about marijuana for teens and their parents.
  • Marijuana Facts for Teens discusses the health consequences of marijuana use in this age group, its effect on the developing brain, its addiction risk, and what we know about its potential as a medicine.

Both NIDA publications provide information about marijuana and its impact on adolescent health.  Missing from the parent booklet is information about marijuana concentrates and vaporizing.  Prevention WINS coalition members report that vaporizing marijuana products has become an increasingly popular way for teenagers who use marijuana to consume it.  

Since Washingtonians voted to create a legal commercial marketplace for marijuana, many people have been asking questions about what it means for those under the age of 21.  The Mercer Island Communities That Care Coalition created this video which answers many common questions. 

Key points:
  • Marijuana laws did not change for adolescents.  It is still illegal for anyone under 21 to use "recreational" marijuana.  Minors can still obtain "medical" marijuana.    
  • It is illegal for minors to drive under the influence of any amount of marijuana.  
  • It is illegal for adults to supply minors with "recreational" marijuana.  
Like laws regarding alcohol, WA marijuana laws will change over time.  To keep abreast of marijuana policy, visit the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention's website.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

National Prevention Week: Preventing prescription drug abuse

This week is National Prevention Week and today’s focus is preventing prescription drug abuse.

This video is from the Partnership at Medicine Abuse Project:

Among NE Seattle teenagers, the abuse of prescription drugs has steadily increased over the past six years.  While the Prevention WINS Coalition is currently conducting a community assessment to determine what local conditions are contributing to this rise in abuse, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “multiple factors are likely at work:

Misperceptions about their safety. Because these medications are prescribed by doctors, many assume that they are safe to take under any circumstances. This is not the case. Prescription drugs act directly or indirectly on the same brain systems affected by illicit drugs. Using a medication other than as prescribed can potentially lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including overdose and addiction.

Increasing environmental availability. Between 1991 and 2010, prescriptions for stimulants increased from 5 million to nearly 45 million and for opioid analgesics from about 75.5 million to 209.5 million.

Varied motivations for their abuse. Underlying reasons include: to get high; to counter anxiety, pain, or sleep problems; or to enhance cognition. Whatever the motivation, prescription drug abuse comes with serious risks.”

Individuals and organizations have roles to play in addressing these factors.  Everyone can: 
  • Educate their students, clients, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and families about the harms that are associated with the mis-use of medicines. 
  •  Lock up personal medications to prevent theft and the misuse by others in their home.
  • Dispose of unused medications either at a Group Health or participating Bartell pharmacy.  Some other pharmacies sell medicine return envelopes and the Drug Enforcement Administration hosts semi-annual medicine take-back days. 
  • Recognize and address anxiety, pain, and sleep problems that teenagers may be facing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

National Prevention Week: Preventing underage drinking

This week is National Prevention Week and today’s focus is on underage drinking. 

While a lot of local underage drinking prevention activities focus on youth and parents, to be most effective underage drinking prevention activities should be conducted by individuals and organizations throughout the community.  The United States Surgeon General’s report about preventing underage drinking provides examples of what can be done on the community level.

For communities: Adolescents generally obtain alcohol from adults who sell it to them, purchase it on their behalf, or allow them to attend or give parties where it is served. Therefore, it is critical that adults refuse to provide alcohol to adolescents and that communities value, encourage, and reward an adolescent's commitment not to drink. A number of strategies can contribute to a culture that discourages adults from providing alcohol to minors and that supports an adolescent's decision not to drink. Communities can:

Invest in alcohol-free youth-friendly programs and environments.

Widely publicize all policies and laws that prohibit underage alcohol use.

Ensure that community events do not promote a culture in which underage drinking is acceptable.

Increase awareness of the latest research on adolescent alcohol use and, in particular, the adverse consequences of alcohol use on underage drinkers, and other members of the community who suffer from its secondhand effects. An informed public is an essential part of an overall plan to prevent underage drinking and to change the culture that supports it.

For the criminal and juvenile justice systems and law enforcement: 

Enforce uniformly and consistently all policies and laws against underage alcohol use and widely publicize these efforts.

Gain public support for enforcing underage drinking laws by working with other stakeholders to ensure that the public understands that underage drinking affects both the public health and safety.

For governments and policymakers: 

Focus as much attention on underage drinking as on tobacco and other drugs, making it clear that underage alcohol use is an important public health problem.

Increase the cost of underage drinking: The “cost” of underage drinking refers not just to the price of alcohol but to the total sacrifice in time, effort, and resources required to obtain it as well as to penalties associated with its use. Research indicates that increasing the cost of drinking can positively affect adolescent decisions about alcohol use.  In addition to price, the cost of underage drinking can be affected by a variety of measures:

Enforcement of minimum drinking age laws and other measures that directly reduce alcohol availability.

Enforcement should target underage drinkers, merchants who sell alcohol to youth, and people who provide alcohol to youth.

Holding adults accountable for underage drinking at house parties, even when those adults are not at home.

Any measure that decreases the availability of alcohol to youth and so raises the cost of getting it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

National Prevention Week: Communities are the key to preventing teen drug use

Next week is National Prevention Week, an annual health observance sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

What is prevention?  It is more than school-based programs and media campaigns.  This first video highlights organizations, programs, and communities that are working to prevent teen drug use and promote mental health in a variety of ways.

The video ends with a person defining "prevention" as "Community with a capital 'C'."  What does that mean?  This video provides an overview of how community-based prevention involves many people from a variety of backgrounds and addresses specific local conditions.

Prevention WINS receives funding from SAMHSA and members implement prevention activities based on community needs in NE Seattle.  Teen drug use prevention is a community problem that requires individuals and organizations throughout our community to provide support for healthy youth development.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Local pediatrician talks about marijuana and teenagers

Last week, one edition of KING 5's New Day Northwest focused on marijuana and several people were interviewed on a variety of related topics.  Here is the segment about marijuana and teenagers.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Partnerships strengthen activities to prevent underage drinking in NE Seattle

A recent KOMO story highlights how Nathan Hale High School, Raiders Against Destructive Decisions, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving collaborated to educate parents about how to prevent underage drinking.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Marijuana, teenagers, and the law

This week I am taking a closer look at the many misperceptions about teenagers and marijuana that are included in a recent Seattle PI Pot Blog post.  Today, let’s look at the statement that teen marijuana use prevention has been stymied by “Fear of the law.  Fear of the consequences." 

Marijuana is still illegal for teenagers.
First of all, the law hasn’t changed for people under the age of 21.  If "fear" of the law decreases among teenagers post-legalization it will be because the law regarding minors is not enforced. 

Most teenagers think they will not get caught by police.
Among Seattle 10th grade students, 29% report that they think they would be caught by police if they used marijuana, according to the 2012 Healthy Youth Survey.  Statewide, 33% of 10th graders report that they’d be caught. Most Washington high school students do not fear getting caught by police if they use marijuana. 

Teenagers don’t go to jail for marijuana possession.
In King County, teenagers caught with marijuana are referred to a juvenile diversion program.  They do not go to jail.  In fact, Seattle Police cannot bring them to the precinct.  The diversion program requires that teenagers obtain an assessment from a community agency and that they follow assessment recommendations.  Most of the time, teenagers are referred to a one-day drug education class.  Sometimes, when the assessment identifies a chemical dependency problem, teenagers are referred to treatment to get the help they need.

The enforcement of laws affect teen drug use.
Community norms are the attitudes and policies that a community holds about drug use and are communicated to teens several ways including through laws, policies, and their enforcement.  When underage marijuana laws are not enforced, teenagers hear conflicting messages.  While parents and school-based prevention programs may teach them that marijuana use is to be avoided, key institutions may teach them that the community thinks teen marijuana use is acceptable by turning a blind eye.  These conflicting messages make it difficult for teenagers to decide which norms to follow.

Therefore, to be most effective, youth substance use prevention must include multiple activities conducted by multiple individuals and organizations.  We know that parents are the primary influence on their children, so they have a significant role to play.  We know that schools can provide evidence-based prevention programs.  But it is also important for law enforcement and juvenile justice systems to back what parents and schools are doing and send clear messages to teenagers that marijuana and other drug use will not be tolerated by the community.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Marijuana use is not "prolific"

This week, I am taking a closer look at statements made in a recent Seattle PI Pot Blog post about teenagers and marijuana post-legalization.  Today, let’s look more closely at the statement that marijuana prohibition “has kept the very prolific use of marijuana hidden in plain sight.”

Data readily indicate that marijuana use is not “prolific” in Washington.  According to research about the marijuana market, about 10% of Washingtonians 12 years old and older used marijuana within the past month.

Source: RAND Drug Policy Research Center, 2013

Even in King County, less than 10% of people 12 and older currently use marijuana. Among 10th grade students, 16% in King County and 23% in Seattle report current marijuana use according to the Healthy Youth Survey.   

The perception that marijuana use is “prolific” or normal among adults and teenagers is a barrier to youth marijuana use prevention.  According to local researchers, perceived peer and adult norms favorable to marijuana use contribute to teenage marijuana use.  If teens perceive that adult marijuana use is widespread and socially acceptable (normal), they may view marijuana use as a way to project a desirable adult image. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Learn about laws that hold parents responsible for underage drinking in their homes

Free webinar:

Social Host Policies From Theory to Practice
May 19, 2014
11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Learn from the experience of national, state, and community-based underage drinking prevention experts about how to develop, promote passage of, and encourage public compliance with effective social host legislation.  The effectiveness of state laws andlocal ordinances will be discussed, as well as challenges to their passage and enforcement.  A question-and-answer session will be included.

For more information about this webinar or the speakers and to register for the webinar, visit:

SAMHSA is conducting this webinar as part of National Prevention Week, which is from May 18 to 24, 2014. 

The Washington State Liquor Control Board's website includes information about social hosting.  Here are videos about social host laws adopted in Maryland and South Carolina:

As perception of risk decreases underage marijuana use increases

Yesterday, I started to address common misperceptions about adolescent marijuana use included in a recent Seattle PI Pot Blog post.  Today let’s take a closer look at the statement that recent media stories “. . . give the impression that marijuana will suddenly become a big issue for kids.  Well, maybe legalization will have the opposite effect, even with kids’ attitudes about the dangers of marijuana slipping toward the ‘not so dangerous’ side." 

As the author recognizes, perception of risk is associated with marijuana use among teens.

While local data about teen marijuana use and perceived risk post-legalization won't be available until next spring, current Healthy Youth Survey data indicate that NE Seattle teens decreasingly think that marijuana use is risky.  Prevention WINS coalition members and others concerned with teen drug use report that teenagers increasingly hear from adults in the community that marijuana use is not risky.  Unless it turns out that trends dating back to 1975 are poor predictors of future youth use rates, it is reasonable to expect that more Washington teenagers will report regularly using marijuana in the years to come.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Students say alcohol is easier to get than marijuana

Last week, the Seattle PI’s Pot Blog included an opinion entitled “Why legal marijuana will be good for Washington kids.”  It starts by stating that most kids say marijuana is easy to get.  Let’s turn to data from the 2012 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey for a closer look at this statement.

“Most” students do not report that marijuana is easy to get.
Among 8th grade students attending Seattle Public Schools, 27% reported marijuana is easy to get.  Meanwhile, 31% reported that alcohol is easy to get.  Forty-seven percent of Seattle 10th grade students reported that marijuana is easy to get and 52% reported that alcohol is easy to get. 

High school students get marijuana from friends.
Most Seattle high school students who use marijuana get it from friends according to the 2012 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.  Alcohol, which is more widely used by high school students, is primarily obtained from friends as well.

This is supported by national data which indicate that marijuana is the primary drug sold by students who sell drugs.  According to the survey, 44% of high school students know of a student who sells drugs and overwhelmingly the drug being sold is marijuana.  

Legal drugs are easier for youths to get than illegal drugs.  
The same survey reports that students in schools where drugs are easy to get say that within an hour they can get alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs more easily than marijuana. 

Legal drugs are used more than illegal drugs.
Even when marijuana is sold by peers, alcohol is used more according to the national survey cited above. Of the students who can identify a classmate who sells drugs, 55% use legal, regulated, and taxed alcohol and 35% use marijuana. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Learn how to use social networking to develop underage drinking prevention strategies

Free webinar:

The Digital Age: Leveraging Data Sources to Address Underage Drinking
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Noon to 1:00 p.m.

In a time when people of all ages are living in the electronic age, this presentation will share how to use social networking platforms to both gather data and use that data and information to develop strategies that can reduce youth access to alcohol. The webinar will identify different sources of relevant data that can assist participants in identifying trends and developing effective community-level prevention strategies.  It will also look at examples of what different states and organizations are doing to educate the public with regard to the latest data and trends.

More information and to register: