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What do today’s youth know and think about substance use?

A revealing video

Monitoring the Future (MTF) is an annual survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Here are answers to the questions about substance use most frequently asked by youth and teens.

Standard Drink GraphicA. The body can typically process one standard alcoholic drink per hour. If you make the decision to drink, know what you’re consuming.

A. Teens’ brains and bodies are still developing; alcohol use can cause learning problems or lead to adult alcoholism. For example, people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin after age 20.

It's easier to refuse than you think. Try: "No thanks," "I have to wake up early," or "I don’t drink." Remember that the majority of teens don't drink alcohol.

A. YES. For most, addiction to alcohol and drugs is a process -- not an event. Most people who use alcohol and drugs do so with an intention of only using once or “once in a while.” No one decides that they want to become addicted to alcohol and drugs. But, we are dealing with addictive drugs that directly affect the brain. It is easy for occasional use to change to frequent use or constant use -- that is addiction. The only thing we know for sure: if you don't drink alcohol and don’t do drugs, you definitely won't become addicted.

A. Risk factors for becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs, like other conditions and diseases, vary from person to person. But, the common risk factors include:

  1. Genetics--your family history.
  2. Age when you start using alcohol or drugs.
  3. Family (including abuse, neglect and traumatic experiences in childhood) and Social Environment (including access to alcohol and drugs).
  4. Types of drugs used.

A. As a teen you should be concerned about alcohol and all of the other drugs, legal and illegal. Recently there has been a significant increase in the non-medical use of prescription pain drugs among young people. In fact, after marijuana, the next three most commonly used drugs are the non-medical use of prescription pain medications: Vicodin, OxyContin and Adderall.

A. No. And, research and experience show that the younger someone starts using alcohol and drugs, the greater the chance that they will become addicted.

A. Yes, marijuana is a plant but it has very real health consequences, including drug addiction. While some people think marijuana is a “harmless drug,” actual experience and the real science show a different reality. More teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined.

Tips for you to use if you want to avoid drinking alcohol or using substances

You are not alone! Most teens aren’t drinking alcohol or doing drugs. Research shows that 60% of Cape Cod teens choose not to drink alcohol, and 70% don’t smoke marijuana.

Sometimes friends will try to pressure you to drink or to try substances when you don't want to. Below are some strategies used by young people to justify not participating:
  • Say you don’t like the taste of alcohol, or the way substances make you feel.
  • Say you’re on medication.
  • Say you’re taking on the task of being a designated driver.
  • Make your own drinks without alcohol.
Keep your edge

Instead of drinking or doing drugs to manage your mood temporarily, try taking a walk in your neighborhood or beach to tackle stress and anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant, or downer, because it reduces brain activity. If you are feeling sad or depressed before you start drinking, alcohol can make you feel worse.

Don’t do anything you wouldn't want posted on the Internet

With the constant evolution of technology, any picture taken can be on several social media sites, and seen by thousands in a matter of minutes. There is no way to remove this photo from cyberspace, and many have gone on to regret pictures, or videos that were taken of them without their consent.

Talk to others who want to avoid substance use.

You can hashtag #MyChoiceMatters on Instagram, to join all the others on Cape Cod that are working towards a healthier alternative.

Portrait of mixed race girls smiling and looking at camera

Tips for keeping yourself safe when drinking alcohol or using substances

Be in control

A fraction too much can make for a scary experience. Avoid overdose or dangerous situations by understanding safe levels of use.

Avoid impulse drinking and substance use

Drinking or using substances in reaction to anger is particularly likely to lead to a bad drinking episode.

Don't try to keep up with other drinkers, and avoid drinking games

As your night goes on, think about how you are feeling as you drink and slow down or stop if you're starting to feel like you're not in control

Don't let other people top up your drinks - and finish one before starting another
Drink alcohol only in the company of good friends
Never leave your drink or your friend unattended

Create a Safety Net

Stick together. Always go out with another person, and plan your transportation ahead of time.
Only get in a car with drivers who are not under the influence of alcohol or other substances

Decide who will be the designated driver before you go out.

Keep an eye out for each other - intervene if you see a friend becoming excessively drunk

Go to parties with positive people that have your best interests in mind. Choose companions who will make sure to keep an eye out, and not let anyone wander off with people no one knows, especially if there appears to be drinking or drugs involved.

If a friend is about to do something especially stupid, you’ll stop them, and vice versa. Handstand dance off? Alright, go for it. Underage drinking and driving? Not a chance.

Send an Emoji!

Have a code word with a friend, parent or sibling to let them know you need a ride without explaining yourself. It could be a word, phrase, the crying cat emoji

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