A simple solution to prevent youth drug use is to reduce the availability of drugs they might abuse, including alcohol unsecured in our home, electronic vaporizers sitting around for kids to find and use, and even gas and paint in our garage.
When I was about seven years old, my cousin introduced me to a weird, interesting (and unhealthy snack). We would climb up onto a kitchen counter and access the top cupboard where his mom always stored packs of ramen noodles. He would open a pack, remove the seasoning packet, and then put the opened package of dried noodles back in place. Then we would walk around dipping our wet fingers into the seasoning and licking it off of our hands.
I know, you’re thinking that sounds both gross and delicious, and you’d be correct. Our undeveloped seven-year-old brains never stopped to consider how mad my aunt would be when she inevitably went to make some ramen and found a half-dozen opened packages with no seasoning packets. So our wonderful afternoon snack break was short-lived. One day we climbed up on the counter, accessed the cupboard, and ramen was gone. Shrugging, we went back out to play.
This prevention method works on me as an adult as well. At a recent family reunion, my teenage nephew was dismayed when he found me eating a handful of Taki’s he had purchased himself. Winking, I took another handful and walked away. Later, I came back looking for more, but he had wisened up and hidden them from me.
Throughout the weekend, he continued changing their hiding place so I wouldn’t ever find them. So I found a different snack. Seems simple, because it is. Cut off the source, and a percentage of kids (and adults) will opt for a different choice.
Regular alcohol consumption among 6th graders in Utah increased by 40% from 2019 to 2021. Use of inhalants among 6th graders has increased every year for the past six years, and is 46% higher in 2021 than it was in 2017.
Availability is a huge risk factor for kids sucking ramen seasoning from the packets, uncles stealing their nephews Taki’s, and adolescents using drugs, like drinking alcohol, breathing in tobacco from a vaporizer, or huffing paint or gasoline from a can in your garage. By risk factor, I mean, if the ramen packets are available, seven- year-old me is more likely to eat them. If you simply hide the Taki’s from me, I’m not going to go buy my own, I’ll just do without. When adolescents have access to alcohol, they are more likely to drink it. If they have access to a vaporizer, they are more likely to inhale its contents. If gasoline or paint is easily accessible in the garage, they are more likely to huff it. (If you want some research to prove the link between availability and adolescent drug use, see the sampling of sources below to get started).
We are seeing the results of this link have a negative impact on our youth here in Utah, particularly among younger students. Regular alcohol consumption among 6th graders in Utah increased by 40% from 2019 to 2021. The most common source of alcohol for Utah youth who reported drinking was getting it from someone they know, and the most common place youth reported drinking was at their own home.
The most common place kids reported vaping was also in their own home. We are also seeing an increase in the number of youth who report using inhalants, (like glue, paint, gas, aerosol sprays, etc.). Use of inhalants among 6th graders has increased every year for the past six years, and is 46% higher in 2021 than it was in 2017. Among 12th graders, (a population that doesn’t typically use inhalants), inhalant use increased 150%. It should be noted that use of these substances to get high is not common, but the rates are increasing. And these tend to be products that are easily accessible in our homes.
What’s the solution? Make them less available. It might seem overly simple, but the research is clear. Just like hiding the ramen and Taki’s reduces my likelihood to eat them, locking up alcohol, tobacco products and inhalants reduces likelihood that kids will use them.
Article submitted for Uplift Families by:
Logan B. Reid, P.S., M.S., M.H.W
Director of Prevention & Education Services
Southwest Behavioral Health Center
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