This week, communities across the country are observing National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. It’s an opportunity to talk and learn about the science of drug use and addiction. Having these conversations is essential to stem the tide of substance use disorder (SUD) and overdoses among young people.

The facts are startling: In Maryland, more than 8% of 12- to 17-year-olds report using drugs in the last month, while more than 9% report drinking alcohol, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. In D.C., young people in that age group are more likely to use harder drugs and to suffer from alcohol use disorder than their peers in other states and jurisdictions.

We’ve all seen the disturbing news reports about local teens becoming intoxicated, overdosing or even dying because of drug and alcohol misuse. Knowledge is power, so sharing information about drug and alcohol use early and often is the key.

Here are five facts to get the conversation started with the young people you care about:

  1. Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018)
  • No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. Drug addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018)
  • Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the world. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with approximately 144,000 deaths per year. It is used by young people in the U.S. more often than tobacco or illicit drugs. (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, 2015-2019)
  • Opioids are narcotic, painkilling drugs produced from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes, among others, heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, fentanyl and oxycodone. Some people who have used opioids over a long period of time may need physician-prescribed temporary or long-term drug substitution during treatment. (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S. There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is distributed through illegal drug markets. (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, 2022)
  • Club drugs are commonly used at clubs, concerts and parties. Examples include methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also called MDMA, ecstasy or molly, and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, known as GHB. Other examples include ketamine and flunitrazepam or Rohypnol ? a brand used outside the U.S. ? also called roofie. These drugs are not all in the same category, but they share some similar effects and dangers, including long-term harmful effects. (Mayo Clinic, 2022)

If you or someone you love is suffering from drug or alcohol use disorder, there is help available 24/7. Contact the Recovery Centers of America at 1-844-5-RCA-NOW.

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