According to the 2019 New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, nearly 30 percent of Los Alamos High School (LAHS) students reported being current alcohol users and answered that the most common place to drink alcohol was in private homes. Nearly 47 percent had vaped and 30 percent had used marijuana.
All of these products are readily available and the alcohol, vape, and cannabis industries have had great success using colorful designs, fruity flavors, high alcohol or THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis products) content, sleek packaging, and targeted advertising to attract young consumers.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Talk. They Hear You. Campaign offers information and resources for parents, caregivers, and educators to discuss alcohol and substance use with children and youth.
A more effective message than “Just Say No” is the evidence-based approach of encouraging children and adolescents to delay use past the time period when their brains are still developing and they are less susceptible to addiction.
Developed in Marin County, Calif., the ‘Be the Influence’ program seeks to delay adolescent substance use and prevent harmful consequences associated with underage use. Additional conversation tips, harm reduction information, and ideas for collaborating with other parents to keep youth safe can be found on their website.
Adults can help by discussing decisions around substance use early and often and by reducing easy access to alcohol, cannabis products, and prescription drugs in the home. Since many products are now available online, holiday gift cards offer an easy way for young people to purchase them.
A brief search of recent national news events highlights increasing instances of students overdosing on highly concentrated THC vape products or edibles often without knowing what they inhaled or ingested. Students may think experimenting with prescription pills is safer than street drugs without realizing that counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl are another strategy drug dealers utilize to hook users on more potent substances. Read more about how #OnePillCanKill here and on the Drug Enforcement Administration website.
Los Alamos Public Schools’ Prevention Support Specialist Kristine Coblentz emphasizes that local students are not immune to these trends. On the positive side, being connected to supportive adults is a significant protective factor and predictor of positive outcomes for students.
“We can be part of the solution and play it safe by talking with young people about the risks of substance use and keeping substances secured,” Coblentz said.
For more information or to offer suggestions to the LAPS Prevention Program, Coblentz can be reached at email@example.com or 505.663,2575.