Tippecanoe County, we have encouraging news! Data collected by Purdue University’s Student Wellness Office and by the Drug Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County suggest that the rate of abuse for most drugs is declining. The reported abuse of non-prescription stimulant medication on Purdue’s campus in 2012 has dropped from 11.4% of all students to 2.4% of students. When it comes to cigarettes, 90.5% of students report not smoking a single cigarette within the last 30 days. Data from the Drug-Free Coalition’s most recent profile show that minor consumption, OWI, and public intoxication arrests have all decreased over the past four years. This is all encouraging!
However, our work is not done. While these are positive results, they are in no way ideal. In 2009, 431 people were admitted to St. Elizabeth Regional Health hospitals for alcohol-related health issues, and there were 773 drug-related arrests in Tippecanoe County in 2010. Those numbers are too high. In 2012, 14% of Purdue students reported smoking marijuana, and the frequency increases as students progress through their college career. This is why we are recognizing National Drug Facts Week to counter the misinformation that youth receive from the media, the Internet, and from peers about drugs.
This fight against the myths surrounding drug use and their consequences is challenging. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), of the most popular songs in 2005, 1 in 3 mentioned alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use, and 3 in 4 rap songs mentioned these substances. Of the top 90 movies over the last twenty years, 7 in 10 showed characters smoking, and 1 in 3 showed characters getting drunk. These are the messages that youth are viewing and internalizing, and these different media sources are often the basis for harmful misinformation concerning drug use. Having substance abuse normalized and the harmful consequences minimalized in music and film leads to ignorance and poor decision-making. This is why National Drug Facts Week is about “working to encourage teens to get factual answers from scientific experts about drugs and drug abuse.”
One of our biggest challenges is that we are up against billion-dollar industries that advertise tobacco, alcohol, and other drug products with glamorous and highly-technological messages. Our budgets are nowhere near as large. This makes our messages even more important, and there are many ways we can empower youth to make good decisions. We can:
· Provide them with accurate information about the negative consequences of drug use.
· Teach them about media advocacy and encourage them to become involved in healthy activities.
· Work with legislators and councils to enact policies that hold people accountable for their behavior and policies that promote a safe and healthy environment for our community.
· Support access to mental health services for those who need it.
Together, we can make a difference. For more information about National Drug Facts Week, visit http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/
-Miriam Brown, ATOD Education Coordinator
Purdue Student Wellness Office