Real Talk for Parents – Shattering myths around drugs & alcohol

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week®, or NDAFW, is an annual, week-long (March 21-27) health observance that inspires dialogue about the science of drug use and addiction among youth. It’s the perfect time to present the facts and start a conversation with your children.

Let’s remember the potential damage alcohol and substance use can have on our physical health and mental wellbeing.

Here are “just the facts” of what overconsumption of alcohol can do to a body!

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1. In the short term, alcohol abuse suppresses multiple aspects of the body’s immune system response, with particular effects on the lungs’ ability to fight off infections. If you drink every day or almost every day, you might notice that you catch colds, flu or other illnesses more frequently than people who don’t drink. This is because alcohol can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections.

2. Drinking gives your body work to do that keeps it from other processes. Once you take a drink, your body makes metabolizing it a priority — above processing anything else.

3. Abusing alcohol causes bacteria to grow in your gut, which can eventually migrate through the intestinal wall and into the liver, leading to liver damage.

4. Too much is bad for your heart. It can cause the heart to become weak (cardiomyopathy) and have an irregular beat pattern (arrhythmias). It also puts people at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

5. Regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in the brain that are vital for good mental health. So while we might feel relaxed after a drink, in the long run, alcohol can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, and make stress harder to deal with.

6. Alcohol is linked to suicide, self-harm, and psychosis.

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Start a conversation with your child about the risks of alcohol abuse. Need some conversation starters? Click here.

Substance use at a young age is always a gamble since the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. With that thought, let’s switch the topic to marijuana. Marijuana contains mind-altering chemicals, which makes addiction and other long-term consequences more likely.

IS THERE AN INCREASED RISK OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES?
Marijuana use has been linked to depression and anxiety, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.

WHAT IF MARIJUANA IS USED ONLY ONCE OR TWICE A MONTH? STUDENTS ARE:

  • 4x more likely to skip class
  • 4x less likely to complete their homework
  • Less likely to graduate
  • More likely to have lower grades
  • More likely to have lower satisfaction with life
  • Less likely to enroll in college if they do graduate
  • More likely to be unemployed

DOES IT INCREASE THE CHANCE OF DRIVING ACCIDENTS?
YES! Driving under the influence of marijuana can DOUBLE the risk of an automobile accident in young drivers.

Sources: 2017 Journal of School Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Cannabis effects on driving skills. Cli Chem. 2013; 59(3):478-92.

For more resources and conversation starters, visit wywetalk.org/cannabis.


Let’s be real with our kids. The more they know, the more equipped they are to make good decisions. And don’t forget our Sources of Strength wheel. It is an excellent tool for showing youth the power of connection, hope, help and strength. 


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