You Make a Difference!

You really do hold a great deal of power to reduce the odds that your kids will begin to use drugs or alcohol. And let's be honest, not all kids will choose not to use drugs. In fact, our local data shows that in 2012, 38% of Gunnison County High School students chose to use alcohol at least once in the past month. So, in actuality, we know kids will choose to drink, use marijuana, tobacco, prescription drugs and other substances -- we just hope to educate them and you, parents, about the consequences and to promote people so each individual is empowered to make their own choice. Why do we do this? Because of one statistic in particular.
"9 out of 10 Adults who have drug problems began using drugs when they were teenagers."
If our efforts can help a student and you, parents, prolong the age of first use, even by a few months, if not years, that can make a huge difference in the life of a person. The teenage brain is in such a dynamic transition until the age of 22-27. Introducing any substance can shift the way brain's connect and develop which can have lifelong effects.
This is not to say we don't want kids to engage in risky behaviors. We want them to engage in risk behaviors. Listen to this:

Risk and Protective Factors

Research shows there are a number of factors that make us more or less likely to use substances. These are known as risk and protective factors. 

Risk factors
are conditions that increase the likelihood of a young person becoming involved in drug use, delinquency, school dropout and/or violence. Risk factors can be found in all spheres of our lives. Here are a few spheres and examples within each:

Community – availability of substances, favorable norms (such as numerous community events that include substance use), low attachment to community.
Family – history of problem behavior, family conflict, favorable parental attitudes and involvement in problem behavior.

School – academic failure beginning in elementary school, lack of school commitment (as shown by lack of product quality or even high absences or tardies.)

Individual/Peer – early and persistent delinquent behaviors, friends who engage in the problem behavior, early initiation of the problem, favorable attitudes towards the problem.

Kids who learn about drug risks from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use. As a parent, you do have power. Here is a document showcasing six research supported parenting practices.

Brain Development

Brains develop from back to front. And the frontal cortex (our last piece to develop in our 20's) is responsible for our abilitiy to think long-term, to think about consequences - both immediate and sequential, and our ability to problem solve. When substances are introduced during our adolescent years (12 - 22 years old) we introduce many variables that could have unintended consequences. Some studies show how people can lose IQ points! When we realize that the brain is pruning and altering its connections drastically during this time period, as parents in hindsight, we can understand how risky drug and alcohol use can be for our young adults. Yet, how do we talk to our kids when they (at least our impression is) don't care?

Here is Kari again, talking about what is going on in there during adolescents.

 And would you like a few ways to keep that communication open?