Some Good News for this Holiday Season...

Too often, we find ourselves over the course of the year reporting a lot of bad news. Prescription drug and heroin abuse continues to dominate the headlines in New Jersey and sadly, we are still losing loved ones to this devastating epidemic. But it’s the holiday season and the new year is rapidly approaching. It’s about time we had a reason to be hopeful as we gather together with family and friends over the course of the next few days.

Monitoring the Future is an annual study conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug abuse and the National Institute of Health. About 50,000 students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade are surveyed every year in regards to substance abuse and their perceptions of the issue. This year, I’m happy to report that, according to the latest information, use of alcohol, cigarettes and a number of other illicit substance has gone down, nearly across the board. Here are a few highlights from the report:

- Pain killer abuse is down from 5 years ago

- While marijuana continues to be abused at a high level, 2014 saw no increase in use among high school students, which is particularly notable considering the new legislation in Washington and Colorado and concerns of a decreased perception of risk. 

- Cigarette smoking continues its 10 year reduction trend. Dr. Lloyd Johnston of the University of Michigan reported that the levels of reported cigarette use among high school students is the lowest in Monitoring the Future’s 40 year history

- Heroin has had a trending increase over the last few years but 2014 saw no increase and rates of use remain low

However, it wasn’t all positive. Monitoring the Future also reported a marked increase in e-cigarette use, which are being used twice as much as traditional cigarettes. Parents need to be aware that e-cigarettes pose a threat to children who might not normally be exposed to drug use, because of their ease of use and a lower perception of risk.

The largely positive reports are indicative of an increase in awareness among parents across the country. We’ve said it before and we’ll continue to say it: parental involvement is the key to keeping your kids drug-free. Parents who speak to their kids about the dangers of substance abuse and about their values on the issue really can make an impact on their lifestyles. While this is great news for the holiday season, we recognize that as long as there are still kids abusing drugs, there is still work to be done. We ask that parents and families across the country use this time of togetherness to continue to have conversations with their kids. This year’s Monitoring the Future report is proof that it works and we are heading in the right direction.

From all of us here at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, we wish you a Happy Holidays!

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