NIDA National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week

Safe Communities Coalition Partners with Local Schools To Help Teens Shatter the Myths about Alcohol and Drug Use

There are so many myths out there about drugs and alcohol that it's hard for a teen to determine what is true and what is false. Many teens believe certain myths that are perpetuated on the Internet and even in the media, such as marijuana is not addictive or prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs. Using any drug alters the brain, especially with repeated use or abuse.

"The Safe Communities Coalition has partnered with Hunterdon County high schools and local middle schools for NIDA's National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week," said Cathy Canterino, Coalition Associate. (NIDA stands for the National Institute on Drug Abuse). "Each school has agreed to include a drug or alcohol fact during morning announcements or presented in Health class, each day this week starting on Monday, January 25, 2016. Their participation and support is appreciated, as our partnership with county schools allows us to reach a large number of our youth."

The facts have been provided to the schools by the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/Somerset on topics that are currently affecting our communities and are of immediate concern to parents of tweens or teens, such as heroin, prescription drugs, marijuana, underage drinking, e-cigarettes. Information on these topics can be found at the Coalition website at or call us at 908-782-3909.

"Educating the youth to the facts about the dangers and risks to their bodies and brains from underage drinking and drug use is of the utmost importance," said Paige Meade, Chair of the Underage Drinking Workgroup for the Coalition. Added Amy Menes, Chair of the Prescription Drugs Workgroup, "To understand how a person becomes addicted, and how quickly addiction can happen, is not something that teens think will happen to them. The sad truth is that it does happen, and too often."

The Coalition, which is managed by Hunterdon Prevention Resources (HPR), would like to thank the administration and staff of the following schools for their continued support of our initiatives:

  • Bernards High School
  • Bound Brook High School
  • Bound Brook Middle School
  • Clinton Township Middle School
  • Delaware Valley High School
  • Ethel Hoppock Middle School
  • Hillsborough High School
  • Hillsborough Middle School
  • Hunterdon Central High School
  • JP Case Middle School
  • Middle Earth
  • Montgomery High School
  • Montgomery Upper and Lower Middle Schools
  • North Hunterdon High School
  • Raritan Flemington Intermediate School
  • Somerville High School
  • Somerset County Vo-Tech
  • South Hunterdon High School
  • Voorhees High School
  • Watchung Hills High School

Drug Facts shared with the schools included:

Heroin: Heroin use has increased in Hunterdon County, among youth and adults. In 2015, there were 40 overdoses reported by law enforcement, as compared to 12 in 2014. This represents a 333% increase in just one year. Of those 40 overdoses, 12 resulted in deaths and 16 others were administered the life-saving drug Naloxone to reverse the effects of their overdose. (Source: Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office)

One reason for this increase in heroin use is due to the abuse of prescription opioid painkillers, like OxyContin and Vicodin. Users may turn to heroin since it produces a similar high but is cheaper and easier to obtain. Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. (Source: NIDA for Teens)

Marijuana: After smoking marijuana, the decrease in a teen's cognitive abilities can last longer than that of an adult, as long as several weeks. With regular use (daily or near daily), the changes in the brain caused by marijuana become prolonged, which can lead to lowered learning capabilities, a shortened attention span, and weakened verbal communication skills.

Marijuana can be addictive. It affects the brain's reward system in the same way as all other drugs of addiction. The likelihood of addiction increases the earlier you start using. With daily, or near daily, use, the alterations to the brain can actually lead to a person not being able to perceive the negative impact that marijuana use is having on them. (Source: Above the Influence)

Is Marijuana Addictive? Yes, marijuana is addictive. A user may feel the urge to smoke marijuana again and again to re-create the "high." Repeated use could lead to addiction-which means the person has trouble controlling their drug use and often cannot stop even though they want to.

  • An estimated 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent.
  • People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are 4-7 times more likely to become addicted than adults.
  • It is estimated that about 1 in 6 people who start using as a teen become addicted to marijuana.
  • And 25% to 50% of those who smoke marijuana every day will become addicted to marijuana.

(Source: NIDA for Teens)

e-Cigarettes: E-Cigarettes are increasingly popular among adolescents. Their easy availability (online or via mall kiosks), in addition to their wide assortment of cartridge flavors (such as coffee, mint, candy, and fruit flavors), may make them particularly appealing to this age group. In addition to the unknown health effects, early evidence suggests that e-cigarette use may serve as an introductory product for youth who then go on to use other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.

A recent study showed that students who have used e-cigarettes by the time they start 9th grade are more likely than others to start smoking traditional cigarettes and other smokable tobacco products within the next year. (Source NIH)

Abuse of ADHD Prescription Drugs: Stimulant medications such as Adderall or Ritalin are often prescribed to treat children, adolescents, or adults diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). People with ADHD persistently have more difficulty paying attention or are more hyperactive or impulsive than other people the same age. Prescription stimulants have a calming and "focusing" effect on individuals with ADHD.

A growing number of teenagers and young adults are abusing these prescription stimulants to boost their study performance in an effort to improve their grades in school, and there is a widespread belief that these drugs can improve a person's ability to learn.

Prescription stimulants do promote wakefulness, but studies have found that they do not enhance learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not actually have ADHD. Also, research has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don't. (Source NIH)

Alcohol Fact 1: Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.

  • 88,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use
  • Alcoholism is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation
  • Up to 40% of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption

(Source: NCADD)

Alcohol Fact 2: 90% of Americans with a substance abuse problem starting smoking, drinking or using drugs before the age of 18. Each year, about 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. This includes:

  • about 1,900 deaths from car accidents
  • 1,600 homicides
  • 300 suicides
  • and hundreds of other deaths due to accidents such as falls, burns and drowning

(Source Above the Influence)

DXM: DXM is a safe cold medicine. When abused at higher doses, DXM can be lethal. A single dose of DXM can completely distort your vision and make you dizzy, agitated and paranoid. Hallucinations are another side effect of DXM intoxication. DXM can also affect your body. Taking large doses of DXM can make you vomit, lose your coordination, and impair your judgment. When abused at high doses, DXM can suppress the central nervous system and result in death. (Source: Above the Influence)

Methamphetamines: Like cocaine, even small amounts of meth can cause a rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and an elevated body temperature. Meth works by severely changing the way the brain functions. First, it increases the release of the brain chemical dopamine. At the same time, it blocks the brain from absorbing the dopamine that is being released. Studies show that alterations in the brain's dopamine system are associated with reduced motor skills and impaired verbal skills.

Meth abuse can cause extreme weight loss, dental problems (known as "meth mouth"), and sores or scabs on skin and face. Chronic meth users can become anxious and violent. Meth users often display a range of psychotic behaviors, including paranoia, hallucinations and delusions. One of the most common meth delusions is the feeling of insects crawling under the skin. (Source Above the Influence)

Drugged Driving: The effects of specific drugs differ depending on how they act in the brain.

  • Marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, and decrease motor coordination.
  • Drivers who have used cocaine or methamphetamine can be aggressive and reckless when driving.
  • Certain kinds of sedatives, called benzodiazepines, can cause dizziness and drowsiness, which can lead to accidents.

Research studies have shown negative effects of marijuana on drivers, including an increase in lane weaving and poor reaction time and attention to the road. Use of alcohol with marijuana made drivers more impaired, causing even more lane weaving. (Source: NIH)


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