As we all know, during recent years there has been an increase in the number of individuals who are addicted to prescription drugs. More people are dying as a result of the abuse of prescription drugs than from the use of illegal drugs. Many adolescents are involved in parties during which they consume, along with alcohol, prescription drugs that they have stolen from their parents, grandparents, etc. Many people never consider that their medicine cabinets might be the jumping off point for the young people they love and strive to protect. People who would never dream of leaving a loaded gun in the presence of a child will leave dangerous drugs within in their reach and never give it a second thought.
Now a new study sheds more light on this subject. Anxiety, depression, stress and social support can predict early alcohol and illegal drug use in young people, according to a study from Carolyn McCarty, PhD, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle University. Middle school students from the sixth to the eighth grade who felt more emotional support from teachers reported a delay in alcohol and other illicit substance initiation. Those who reported higher levels of separation anxiety from their parents were also at decreased risk for early alcohol use. The study, “Emotional Health Predictors of Substance Use Initiation during Middle School,” was published in advance online in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
Relatively few studies have examined support for youth from nonfamily members of the adolescent’s social support network, including teachers. “Our results were surprising,” said Dr. McCarty, who is also a University of Washington research associate professor. “We have known that middle school teachers are important in the lives of young people, but this is the first data-driven study which shows that teacher support is associated with lower levels of early alcohol use.” Middle school students defined teacher support as feeling close to a teacher or being able to talk with a teacher about problems they are experiencing.
The study also found that youth who initiated alcohol and other illicit drug use prior to sixth grade had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms. This suggests that depression may be a consequence of very early use or a risk factor for initiation of use prior to the middle school years. Depression was defined by asking youth about their mood and feelings, and asking them if statements such as “I felt awful or unhappy” and “I felt grumpy or upset with my parents” were true, false or sometimes true during a two-week timeframe.
“Based on the study and our findings, substance use prevention needs to be addressed on a multidimensional level,” said Dr. McCarty. “We need to be aware of and monitor early adolescent stress levels, and parents, teachers and adults need to tune into kids’ mental health. We know that youth who initiate substance abuse before age 14 are at a high risk of long-term substance abuse problems and myriad health complications.”
Dr. McCarty Offers tips for parents to help reduce early drug and alcohol use:
- Know where your child is, and check in with your child on a regular basis.
- Get to know your child’s friends, and who your child spends time with.
- Teach stress management skills.
- Help your child feel connected with adults at school.
Other tips for parents include: safeguarding and monitoring quantities of your medications, being a good role model yourself regarding drug use, setting clear rules about drug use, and asking family and friends to also safeguard their medications.
On Saturday, April 28th at various locations, the Dalton Police Department, the Whitfield Sheriff’s Department, and the Murray County Sheriff’s Department will be collecting old and unused medications between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. This will keep these drugs out of the hands of our young people and provide an environmentally safe disposal method. There will be more information about this important event closer to the time, but the locations are as follows:
· Dalton Community Center
· K-Mart Walnut Ave.
· Whitfield County Schools Central Office
· White’s Pharmacy
· Bi-Lo Maddox Parkway, Chatsworth