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,”
We 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
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:
- Give Their Brain a Break | Underage Drinking Prevention
- How Teens Can Become Alcoholics Before Age 21
- Secondhand Drinking Prevention
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