Just Say No Didn’t Work the First Time | Commentary on President Trump’s Opioid Crisis National Emergency Declaration

Just Say No Didn’t Work the First Time | Commentary on President Trump’s Opioid Crisis National Emergency Declaration

October 26, 2017 was a landmark day in the fight against addiction in America. It was the first time a President declared “drug demand and the opioid crisis” a national public health emergency. I commend and thank President Trump for this action. But I was concerned when he made these comments, which you can listen to at minute 19:19 in C-SPAN’s video linked here, and as reported in The White House October 26, 2017 Press Release, “Remarks by President Trump on Combatting Drug Demand and the Opioid Crisis,”

Just Say No Didn't Work the First Time | Commentary on President Trump's Opioid Crisis National Emergency DeclarationWe will be asking Dr. Collins and the NIH for substantial resources in the fight against drug addiction.  One of the things our administration will be doing is a massive advertising campaign to get people, especially children, not to want to take drugs in the first place because they will see the devastation and the ruination it causes to people and people’s lives….  

I learned, myself — I had a brother, Fred — great guy, best-looking guy, best personality — much better than mine.  (Laughter.)  But he had a problem.  He had a problem with alcohol, and he would tell me, “Don’t drink.  Don’t drink.”  He was substantially older, and I listened to him and I respected, but he would constantly tell me, don’t drink.  He’d also add, don’t smoke.  But he would say it over and over and over again.  

And to this day, I’ve never had a drink….  

But he really helped me.  I had somebody that guided me, and he had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol — believe me, very, very tough, tough life.  He was a strong guy, but it was a tough, tough thing that he was going through.  But I learned because of Fred.  I learned.  

And that’s what I think is so important.  This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs — just not to take them [Emphasis added]. When I see friends of mine that are having difficulty with not having that drink at dinner, where it’s literally almost impossible for them to stop, I say to myself, I can’t even understand it — why would that be difficult?  But we understand why it is difficult.  

The fact is, if we can teach young people — and people, generally — not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take them.  And I think that’s going to end up being our most important thing.  Really tough, really big, really great advertising, so we get to people before they start, so they don’t have to go through the problems of what people are going through [Emphasis added].       

Just Say No Didn't Work the First Time | Commentary on President Trump's Opioid Crisis National Emergency DeclarationJust Say No Didn’t Work the First Time

Granted, I have no idea what this kind of campaign might look like, but as someone who has studied, written about, given presentations on, and helped families and individuals understand the 21st century brain research that explains:

  • how the brain develops, wires and maps from birth through age 25;
  • the profound impact of puberty’s instinctual brain wiring on an adolescent’s brain functioning and “decision-making” processes and capabilities;
  • why an adolescent brain without the incredibly important brain functioning governed by the prefrontal cortex in place (which can take until well into one’s early 20s to fully develop) often cannot make “wise decisions” as a child or adolescent, like “just say no” to alcohol and other drugs;
  • why genetics, social environment, mental illness, and childhood trauma [aka adverse childhood experiences/ACEs] have such a profound impact on a child’s brain development and thus their decision making capabilities;

it is my opinion that another “Just Say ‘No’ Campaign” cannot work.

I absolutely agree with targeted advertising and teaching children the facts on important issues. I just hope the President’s campaign targets the kinds of brain-related scientific facts I’ve raised above as a means of helping children, teens, parents, and adults understand the brain’s role in “deciding” to drink or use other drugs, continuing to drink or use other drugs, and developing an alcohol or drug use disorder (aka substance use disorders).

These posts of mine help explain my position:

Please note: in the above posts I link to The Addiction Project, which was a collaborative effort by the NIDA, NIAAA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Until recently, it was a website with several pages and videos, which were the sources of many of my links in the above posts. That has changed. When you click on the links, you are taken to HBO / Addiction where you can still watch the nine segments that focus on case studies and cutting-edge treatments that challenge traditional beliefs about addiction featuring insights from experts on trends and treatments in the ongoing battle against drug and alcohol abuse.

And one more thing before I close, to better understand what is required to treat adolescent alcohol and drug use disorders (aka substance use disorders), please visit NIDA’s website, “Evidence-based Approaches to Treating Adolescent Substance Use Disorders.”

©2017 Lisa Frederiksen

Lisa Frederiksen

Lisa Frederiksen

Author | Speaker | Consultant | Founder at BreakingTheCycles.com
Lisa is the author of hundreds of articles and 11 books, including "If You Loved Me, You'd Stop!," "Addiction Recovery: What Helps, What Doesn't," and "Secondhand Drinking: the Phenomenon That Affects Millions." She is a national keynote speaker with over 25 years speaking experience, consultant, and founder of BreakingTheCycles.com. She has spent more than 14 years studying 21st century brain research in order to write, speak, and consult on substance use disorders prevention, intervention and treatment; mental disorders; addiction (aka substance use disorders) as a brain disease; adolescent addiction treatment vs adult addiction treatment; effective treatment for co-occurring disorders (having both a substance use and mental disorder); secondhand drinking | drugging; help for the family; and related subjects. In 2015, she founded SHD Prevention, providing training and consulting to companies, public agencies, unions, nonprofits and other entities to address the workplace impacts of employee secondhand drinking and alcohol misuse.

5 Responses to Just Say No Didn’t Work the First Time | Commentary on President Trump’s Opioid Crisis National Emergency Declaration

  1. Ron Calhoun says:

    I’ve never smoked pot. I’m going to wait until we learn what the program will be.

  2. Gabriella says:

    Lisa,
    I am sorry about what your brothe, you, your family and had to go through! I know first had the devastation this horrible adiction brings, and the way it changes the brain! I am here helping a very good friend regain some quality of live, after he has lots it all, family, work, friends, health and selfworth and credebility.
    He fell, hithis head, was paralized, had to relearn walking, talking, writing and to smily.he has Cirrhosis, diabetes, and many other health related issues. Needs bkood transfusions every two month, etc etc… I think you know what I am talking about…he still did not quit drinking after all that…simply because his brain had changed so much, its not a willpower thing..
    I ised to pick him up off the streets, laying next to dupers, sit with him on the parkbench, covering him with a blanket and just hold his had, so he would not be alone, who cares what people think!..lots and lots of hurrible moments…then I found the Sinclair Method! And he is now 7 mothns on this way of life/ treatment, medication( Selincro) . His life has changed!!! He cut his drinking nearly 80%! Has a job he holds, I dont find him in the streets any longer, his liver gets to have a break and even it will not restore, its not getting worse.
    We are working hard at getting even more stable, at changing behaviour through positive activities on the day is off Selincro..sure its not all good, but boy, what a change! The just say no will not work, ( unless you have someone close to you who is suffering from alcohol adiction, and one can see first hand what it does to a person. And I dont wish that on anyone! Education! And stop alcol ads, they make things look so much fun, when reality hits though, it will be hard to keep a healthy life.
    I am thankful for all you do! And yes, we learned sooooo much, so much!!!!
    The fight is not over, and we need to keep informing, educating and reaching our youth, who glorify drinking parties. I truly hope, the campaign, done in the right way, will reach many many people, and make a difference!
    Wishing you healing.
    Gabriella

    • Thank you for sharing what worked for your friend, Gabriella. He’s so fortunate to have had your support all those years and that it continues, today. Wishing you both all the best going forward! ~Lisa

  3. I feel adamant regarding the potential downfalls of a “just say no”-esque program. Yes, I’m sure some kids will say no. Great. What happens when they are woefully unprepared for what happens WHEN THEY SAY YES.

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