Working Together to Prevent Teen Substance Abuse

This guest post was authored by Keisha Ormond of the Cambridge Prevention Coalition.

“It takes a village to raise a child” is a well – known African proverb that speaks to the importance of community.  Our youth are constantly bombarded with messages that glorify substance use and make it seem attractive.  These messages are in music, on television shows, and in advertisements, and are oftentimes reinforced by their peers and family members.   If you are a concerned parent or community member, through collective effort you have the ability to bring about the changes you would like to see in your community.  

It’s not enough for us to say, “Just say no!”  We have to create an environment that limits risk factors and promotes protective factors.  Creating changes in the environment that help to bring about widespread social change – is commonly known as environmental strategies.   The goal of these strategies is to:  limit access to substances, change culture and contexts within which decisions about substance abuse are made, and to reduce the prevalence of negative consequences associated with substance use.  Environmental strategies have been used by a number of community organizations with great success, and are reducing or preventing medicine abuse in teens.  Some effective strategies are:

  1. education about existing laws and policies,
  2. communication about the issue through forums and campaigns,
  3. social norms marketing to reinforce positive social norms or promote new and healthier ones,
  4. policy changes that ban and regulate substances,
  5. and the enforcement of laws and policies through compliance checks.

As parents and community members, you can connect with a local community organization that is focused on substance abuse prevention and mobilize for change in your community.  The collective voice and effort of many people working together on a problem, has a more powerful and lasting impact.  Community organizations are connected to other people and institutions – thereby increasing social support and community empowerment, and provide a means of organizing. 

If you want to get involved in the effort to prevent substance abuse in teens, here are some things you can do:

  1. In partnership with your local health department, police departments, pharmacies, and substance abuse prevention organization, organize a prescription take-back day.
  2. Propose a ban to restrict alcohol advertising in places where teens convene.
  3. Organize a forum to educate parents about how to limit teen access to alcohol and other drugs.

We are all in this together!

You can learn more about the Cambridge Prevention Center on Facebook and Twitter.