Creating Conditions That Reduce the Likelihood That Teenagers Will Abuse Drugs

Treating people with drug and alcohol addition is very difficult. Preventing many of them from becoming addicted in the first place is a good way to avoid many of the problems caused by drug and alcohol addition.

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening

In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years.

“We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.” The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.

At the same time, the recruits got life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. “The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says. Kids were told it was a three-month programme. Some stayed five years.

A few factors emerged as strongly protective: participation in organised activities – especially sport – three or four times a week, total time spent with parents during the week, feeling cared about at school, and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

Elsewhere, cities that have joined Youth in Europe are reporting other benefits. In Bucharest, for example, the rate of teen suicides is dropping alongside use of drink and drugs. In Kaunas, the number of children committing crimes dropped by a third between 2014 and 2015.

The solutions Iceland experimented with can’t be copied directly for elsewhere, cultures are different. But many of the concepts and practices can be adopted elsewhere. The idea of investing in helping teenagers live happy, engaged lives instead of locking up teenagers acting out is something we would all benefit from.

Related: The Causes of Drug Addiction are ComplexThe War on Drugs has been a Huge Failure with Massive Unintended ConsequencesFunding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused PolicyAlmost everything we think we know about addiction is wrong

Russell Brand’s Testimony on Dealing with Drug Addiction

Celebrity Russell Brand makes very intelligent comments to a UK government inquiry on how to deal with drug addiction problems. He was an addict and has been drug free now for years.

His main point seems to be that we need to take a pragmatic approach to what is a primarily a health problem not a criminal problem. Abstinence (all all drugs – including legal ones such as alcohol) based recovery is what he has succeeded with and he believes in. “I think what we need is love and compassion… because it deals with the problem and reducing crime”

Russell’s book, My Booky Wook, discusses this life including his drug use and recovery.

Related: Eminem’s ‘Relapse’ Explores His Drug Addition and RehabilitationPrinciples of Effective Drug Treatment and RehabilitationHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?