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The Latest Thinking on Substance Abuse Prevention

Randy Robertson via flickr/CC

Scare tactics and catchy slogans don't work, many experts now say.  But if that's the case, then how best to keep people from becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol?  We find out what works, what doesn't, and where most efforts take place: While many look to schools, our guests say it requires a much broader approach.

This program is part of NHPR's Crossroad project, a station-wide look at the addiction crisis and its impact on the state. 


Zachary Brewster -  Resident life supervisor and outreach coordinator for Teen Challenge, New Hampshire, a 15-month faith-based program for addicted teens.  He is in recovery from addiction and helps arrange presentations to high school students on  drug-abuse prevention. He is in an undergraduate pre-med program and plans to pursue a degree in medicine. 

Mary Forsythe-Taber -  Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator for the Greater Manchester Region Public Health Network and executive director of the Makin' It happen Coalition for Resilient Youth, Inc. 

Timothy Lena - He has worked as a Student Assistance Program Coordinator for more than 30 years and currently works for the Timberlane Regional School District.  He also directs the Southern Rockingham Coalition for Healthy Youth and is chair of the prevention task force of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery. 

Timothy Rourke - Director of New Hampshire Tomorrow, a New Hampshire Charitable Foundation program focusing on partnering with hundreds of organizations and businesses with the goal of increasing opportunities for children and youth in New Hampshire.

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The newly released N.H. data associated with the Youth Risk Behavior Survey reveals some heartening news about substance abuse among teens.   

Our most recent survey data is out, and it shows that from 2011 on we've actually had an ongoing reduction in youth substance misuse across all substances that we track, which includes the misuse of prescribed opioids. And we think that is really about all of the efforts across the state through our public health network system in schools and others to really make sure that we're providing young people access to the kind of evidence- based programs and strategies that we know we need. -- Timothy Rourke.

But some data is worrisome: 

The increase of young people who report feeling sad or helpless and an increase in the number of youth who report actually feeling suicidal. And we know that stress, anxiety, and depression are the key drivers for adolescent substance misuse, because that makes you temporarily feel better. And so that's why sometimes prevention is about drugs and alcohol and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's about how you manage stress; how do you find safe people who can support you when you're going through a tough time; how do you reach out for help and know it's OK to ask for help if you're feeling sad. Some of those very basic things are behind adolescents choosing to use substances. -- Timothy Rourke.

New Hampshire's Congressional delegation is hoping a significant increase in federal fundsfor fighting the opioid epidemic will boost state spending on prevention, as well as treatment, recovery, and law enforcement. 

The 2017 annual report of the N.H. Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery includes a breakdown of spending on addiction services, among other information. 

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