'Talk. They Hear You.' is a new under-age drinking prevention campaign that has recently been launched by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Its aim is to reduce under-age drinking among youth ages 9 to 15 by providing parents and caregivers with information and resources they need to start addressing the issue of alcohol with their children early. The campaign materials can be easily downloaded on the SAMHSA website and tailored to everybody's under-age drinking prevention efforts.
The Second Regional Conference on Harm Reduction organised by MENAHRA (The Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association) will be held in Beirut, Lebanon, on 12-15 November 2013. The event will aim to create a platform where professionals, activists and researchers from the region may gather and exchange experiences and latest developments in the field of harm reduction. The conference programme will include major, parallel and workshop sessions as well as exhibitors and poster presentations. The abstract submissions system will open soon.
This interesting study critically reviews the research literature on social networking and alcohol marketing, and the on-line alcohol content on social networks. Despite some obvious benefits from social networking, the authors see the sites as 'quintessentially commercial platforms' providing huge opportunities for alcohol marketing. Apart from bringing producers and consumers close together, site owners have access to vast amounts of valuable data on preferences and habits, providing a 'bonanza for alcohol-marketing dataminers'. The recent deal between Facebook and a multi-national drinks company illustrates the value of such data. Informal manipulation of 'friending', tweets and wall posts, also allows alcohol producers and sellers intimate access to young people. Furthermore, young people themselves often post alcohol related activity, thus normalising drinking behaviour.
We frequently publish news on research using the latest brain scanning techniques to investigate workings of the adolescent brain, with implications for the prevention of substance abuse by young people. This latest longitudinal study aims to scan 300 young people aged between 14 and 24 to see how their brains change as they grow older. Evidence from brain scans will be linked with results from saliva and blood samples, interviews, questionnaires, and a range of mental tasks.
The Psychoactive Substances Bill was submitted this month to the New Zealand Parliament. It has sparked international interest by trying to regulate rather than simply ban. The bill enjoys wide support. It would license the importation, manufacture and sale of all new psychoactive products. Manufacturers would be required to test these drugs and prove they are low-risk. Products would have safety warning labelling and a minimum age restriction of 18 years, with fines or prison sentences for manufacturers and vendors breaking the rules. Much smaller fines would apply to consumers caught using unlicensed psychoactive substances. When the legislative plan was presented earlier to the UN Commission in Vienna, a number of countries expressed interest including the USA, Hungary, Ireland, UK, Australia and Canada. Coincidentally, 2013 is the start of an 'intense preparatory process' before the UN General Assembly holds a special session in 2016 to 'review the current policies and strategies to confront the global drug problem'.
Many studies have described a 'gateway' effect whereby smoking tobacco may lead to marijuana use. This US longitudinal study concentrates on the relative use of both substances as adolescents enter college, finding support for the gateway effect. Somewhat surprisingly, researchers also found that students who smoked both tobacco and marijuana were more likely to smoke significantly more tobacco than those who smoked only tobacco, thus increasing health risks. Dr Megan Moreno an investigator at Seattle Children's Research Institute and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, commented on potential dangers from the legalisation of marijuana in two US states. She also highlighted the need for targetted educational campaigns highlighting the increased risks of using the two substances together. The research was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, DC.
A report from Swedish moderation movement IQ finds that even though alcohol vendors are not overly represented at Swedish festivals compared to other kinds of sponsors, they are 'frequent and active' at events aimed at people under 25 years of age. Unsurprisingly, beer brands are the most prominent. The findings are particularly worrying given the evidence linking youth binge drinking with alcohol advertising. The report is based on an October 2012 telephone survey with 27 Swedish festival organisers.
Outdoor alcohol adverts may soon become a thing of the past in Finland as the Government is planning to introduce a total ban on alcohol advertising in public places. The ban would also affect advertisements in media such as radio and the social networking site Facebook. Radio ads for alcoholic beverages would only be aired after 9.00 pm. Alcohol branded sports sponsorship would remain unaffected, however.
We have covered a number of studies emphasising the importance of family meals in preventing youth substance abuse. Here is an interesting resource aiming to help parents make the family mealtimes count.
This survey investigated American high school students' reasons for misusing prescription drugs. Top-rated reasons were to help relax, have fun, to feel high and to forget troubles. Other reasons include friends using, home problems, feeling better about myself, looking cool, and it being a habit. Surprisingly, 70% of those contacted failed to respond compared with only 28% not responding to an earlier survey on alcohol use.