If you are “hip” then you might know this already. If you are a parent, teacher, or youth minister of adolescents or young adults, you might want to know about this. Employers might also want to know about this. Parents of young children might learn something here that can be useful for the future.
420 is a slang term for April 20, which this year is this Friday. And it is also a slang term for marijuana use. When someone says that he or she is “420 friendly” it means that they like smoking pot, want to smoke pot, want to buy some weed, or don’t mind if others smoke around them. Some users have deemed April 20 as annual National “Get High” Day. Some pot lovers say that pot is harmless and safe. Scientists have done quite a bit of research on marijuana in the past 30-40 years, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has compiled a good summary of the findings regarding marijuana’s impact on mental health, the body, the addictive potential, and most importantly…how marijuana affects the brain.
Also on the NIDA web site is a good list of tips regarding prevention of drug abuse. These are “lessons learned” from long-term research studies. Here is a summary, but I encourage you to read their full article. References for the items in this list are also with the main article.
1. Prevention programs should enhance protective factors and reverse or reduce risk factors.
2. Prevention should target not just one drug like marijuana, but all drugs. It should also focus on the use of legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol. Today we have a rampant problem with prescription drug abuse, and so this should be a target as well.
3. Prevention programs should particularly address the type of drug abuse problem in the local community. Some neighborhoods have a special problem with inhalants, while others it is heroin. Some high schools are heavy alcohol use schools, but others are heavy pot use.
4. Prevention programs should be tailored to address risks specific to population or audience characteristics, such as age, gender, and ethnicity, to improve program effectiveness.
5. Family-based prevention programs should enhance family bonding and relationships and include parenting skills; practice in developing, discussing, and enforcing family policies on substance abuse; and training in drug education and information.
6. Prevention programs can be designed to intervene as early as infancy to address risk factors for drug abuse, such as aggressive behavior, poor social skills, and academic difficulties.
7. Prevention programs for elementary school children should target improving academic and social-emotional learning to address risk factors for drug abuse, such as early aggression, academic failure, and school dropout. Education should focus on the following skills:
- emotional awareness;
- social problem-solving; and
- academic support, especially in reading.
8. Prevention programs for middle or junior high and high school students should increase academic and social competence with the following skills:
- study habits and academic support;
- peer relationships;
- self-efficacy and assertiveness;
- drug resistance skills;
- reinforcement of anti-drug attitudes; and
- strengthening of personal commitments against drug abuse.
9. Prevention programs aimed at general populations at key transition points, such as the transition to middle school, can produce beneficial effects even among high-risk families and children. Such interventions do not single out risk populations and, therefore, reduce labeling and promote bonding to school and community.
10. Community prevention programs that combine two or more effective programs, such as family-based and school-based programs, can be more effective than a single program alone.
11. Community prevention programs reaching populations in multiple settings – for example, schools, clubs, faith-based organizations, and the media – are most effective when they present consistent, community-wide messages in each setting.
12. When communities adapt programs to match their needs, community norms, or differing cultural requirements, they should retain core elements of the original research-based intervention which include:
- Structure (how the program is organized and constructed);
- Content (the information, skills, and strategies of the program); and
- Delivery (how the program is adapted, implemented, and evaluated).
13. Prevention programs should be long-term with repeated interventions (i.e., booster programs) to reinforce the original prevention goals. Research shows that the benefits from middle school prevention programs diminish without follow-up programs in high school.
14. Prevention programs should include teacher training on good classroom management practices, such as rewarding appropriate student behavior. Such techniques help to foster students’ positive behavior, achievement, academic motivation, and school bonding.
15. Prevention programs are most effective when they employ interactive techniques, such as peer discussion groups and parent role-playing, that allow for active involvement in learning about drug abuse and reinforcing skills.
16. Research-based prevention programs can be cost-effective. Similar to earlier research, recent research shows that for each dollar invested in prevention, a savings of up to $10 in treatment for alcohol or other substance abuse can be seen.
Some final thoughts: Healthy and positive parent-child relationships are very important. Keep the lines of communication open. Stay involved with your kids, even when they begin to request more freedom. Know who their friends are and know what they are doing.
Friday is the 20th. Today is Wednesday the 18th. Have a talk about this today. Don’t put it off. Start with open-ended questions. You could say: “I heard some stuff today about 420. What can you tell me about it?” Then be a good listener.
If you discover that your adolescent or college age young adult is mixed up with drugs, tell gets some professional help.