By Veronica Gala | RN, BSN Carson City Health and Human Services
This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
January 22 – 27 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. The purpose of this week is to present science-based facts about alcohol and drugs and to focus mostly on the drug and alcohol issues of our teens.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, alcohol is the most widely used substance among youth in the United States. About 2.3 million young people between the ages of 12-17 report drinking alcohol in the past month. While this number is staggering, what is happening in our own communities of Carson City and Douglas County? According to the most recent Nevada High School Risk Behavior Survey, 1 out of every 6 high school students in Carson City and Douglas County reported binge drinking in 2015. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks of alcohol in a row within a couple of hours on at least 1 day during the month prior to the survey. According to this same survey, high school students in our region also use marijuana (38.9%), abuse prescription drugs (20.2%), smoke tobacco (9.8%), and use vaping products (27%). These are significant health concerns that impact our entire community, not just our youth.
The desires to try new things, take risks, and strive for independence are normal parts of teen growth and development. However, there are many myths and misperceptions about drugs, alcohol, and the risk of addiction. Some youth think trying drugs and alcohol will improve their appearance, popularity, or athletic performance. Some youth use substances to feel better, out of curiosity, or because that is what their peers are doing. Through science, however, we know more about how drug and alcohol use affects the brain and behavior. Science has repeatedly shown that drugs and alcohol change the brain and how it works. Substance use and abuse negatively impact memory, learning, and decision making. Youth who abuse drugs often do poorly in academics and drop out of school. Additionally, they are at an increased risk for unplanned pregnancies, dating violence, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Our youth are the future of our communities. The more we know about drug and alcohol use, the better we are equipped to support our young people. Preventing our youth from using drugs and alcohol is the best strategy. To test your awareness, start by taking the drug abuse IQ challenge at https://teens.drugabuse.gov/quiz/national-drug-alcohol-facts-week/take-iq-challenge/2018 Follow up by taking a look at what science has discovered about addiction at https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-abuse-addiction.
For more information about services and programs available to you through Carson City Health and Human Services, please visit our website at gethealthycarsoncity.org, follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/cchhs, or call us at (775) 887-2190. You can also find us at 900 East Long Street in Carson City.