Alcohol Awareness Month Position Paper: Despite Progress, Each Teen Generation Faces Renewed Threat of Substance Use

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NACoA/NCADD/IBH experts focus on need to avoid backsliding on teen substance use.

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The risk of addiction to alcohol and other drugs and addiction's serious lifelong consequences is entirely eliminated by a single decision -- not to use alcohol or other drugs. The most vulnerable period for the initiation is before the age of 21.

Early use of alcohol, tobacco or marijuana for teens can begin a path toward adverse brain and life consequences. Sis Wenger, President and CEO of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, notes that "delayed use of addictive substances can be especially life-saving for teens who come from families with a history of alcohol and drug problems."

During April’s Alcohol Awareness Month, three leading national organizations want policy-makers and candidates to know the critical importance of enforcing and strengthening policies to discourage alcohol and tobacco use by teens. States that have allowed the use or sale of marijuana should also ensure that use by teens is restricted.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics, the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the Institute for Behavior and Health have joined forces to recommend specific policies that can make an immediate difference. They also call upon presidential candidates and candidates at all levels to commit to programs that prevent the initiation of alcohol, tobacco and drug use for youth as well as intervention and treatment for adults. According to Robert L. DuPont, M.D., President, Institute for Behavior and Health, and the first Director of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), "The risk of addiction to alcohol and other drugs and addiction's serious lifelong consequences is entirely eliminated by a single decision -- not to use alcohol or other drugs. The most vulnerable period for the initiation is before the age of 21."

The most important recommendation is that teens and their families learn more about the potential damage alcohol, tobacco and drugs do to the teenage brain development. Candidates and policymakers must also be educated and called upon to provide more funding for prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery programs including those that are demonstrated to work for youth. A number of the joint recommendations focus on tobacco including calling on businesses to follow the lead of CVS by halting tobacco sales altogether, giving the Food and Drug Administration authority over electronic cigarettes and the development of national standards for the design and content of tobacco products. Another recommendation is that programs and policies should incorporate the two-generation strategies endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics that focus on helping both parents and the children who suffer from their parents' addictions.

The joint recommendations also note the importance of House passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) which provides up to $80 million in funding for prevention, treatment, and recovery of addiction. Much of the funding provided under CARA would be targeted to evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention programs. The Senate has already passed CARA, and President Obama has indicated he will sign the measure.

Lastly, the joint recommendations recognize that reauthorization of the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking (STOP Act) is needed. STOP authorizes $5 million for community coalition enhancement grants of up to $50,000 for up to four years to Drug Free Communities (DFC) grantees to enhance their underage drinking prevention efforts.

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Sis Wenger

Mary Beth Collins
@NACoA_USA
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