National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) is an annual observance focused on helping teens understand drug and alcohol use based on facts rather than myths. It is common for teens to have opinions about substance abuse that are influenced by social media, movies, TV, music and friends — sources that may or may not be truly knowledgeable.
To give teens a more factual perspective on this issue, scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) created this observance in 2010. In 2016, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism became a partner.
Informational Events and Powerful Partnerships
It comes as a surprise to many parents and others who interact with teens that despite how “worldly” and experienced they may seem, they often don’t fully grasp the negative impact that drug and alcohol use and abuse can have on them and those around them. That’s why NDAFW is about sharing information and educating teens. Locally planned school and community events encourage teens to get the scientific facts they need to make smart decisions.
To help spread the word on NDAFW, organizers partner with other government agencies, media organizations and leading organizations around the country. This collaboration makes the observance more impactful and better able to achieve the stated goal: “Shatter the Myths.”
Addiction is a Treatable Illness
One of the most damaging myths that NDAFW seeks to dispel the idea that drug addiction is a choice or a character flaw. The scientific fact is that while a teen may choose to start using drugs or alcohol, once addiction has taken hold, it is no longer a matter of choice. At that point, what is driving the teen’s behavior is a diagnosable illness. Thankfully, they can beat addiction through counseling and substance abuse treatment.
However, it generally takes significant time and effort to recover from addiction. This is because addiction actually creates changes in the brain. The normal “reward” system that humans have, where the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in response to certain positive behaviors, is effectively rewired by the substance. The chemical creates a shortcut to the brain’s pleasure centers along with other changes that ultimately make it very hard to kick an addiction. Consequently, a teen’s belief that they can give up drugs or alcohol whenever they choose to is fundamentally flawed.
Further – from a well-being perspective – numerous studies indicate that psychoactive substances can alter or damage brain development in teens. The substances can affect neurotransmitters, or messengers to the brain, and damage developing functions in a way that can stay with a person throughout his or her lifetime. For some teens, this type of scientific information can be what really compels them to the utmost in healthful lifestyles.
The More We Learn
Thanks to the efforts of researchers, each year we know more about how addictions develop, what makes certain people more susceptible and how to make substance abuse treatment more effective. And thanks to NDAFW, each year that information is shared in order to better equip teens with the facts that bust the myths. There is much more work to be done, but it is encouraging that the programs that have been put in place in recent years are having a positive impact.
We Help Teens and Families Beat Addiction
At Community Reach Center, we understand the challenges of beating drug and alcohol dependence and have excellent evidenced-based treatment programs. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday to learn more about our substance abuse treatment programs. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.