February 2020

The use of alcohol and tobacco by young people and children is closely linked to the use of illicit drugs, a UN-backed narcotics control body warned on Thursday.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) annual report cites studies which reveal that, in young people aged between 16 and 19, early use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis leads to an increased likelihood of the use of opiates and cocaine in adulthood.

The report also shows that substance abuse and associated health consequences are highest among young people, with cannabis being the most widely used substance. The highest rate of use, in young people aged 15-16, is in Europe (13.9 per cent), followed by the Americas (11.6 per cent), Oceania (11.4 per cent), Africa (6.6 per cent), and Asia (2.7 per cent).

The decriminalization of cannabis in some countries is criticized by the INCB, whose President, Cornelis P. de Joncheere, said that, of internationally controlled substances, the drug continues to play the most prominent role amongst adolescents and adults.

 “We pay special attention to this development and highlight our concern over the situation in a few countries that have moved to permit the use of controlled substances, namely cannabis, for non-medical use contrary to the provisions of and their obligations under the drug control treaties”, said Mr. de Joncheere.

Prevent, treat, educate

The report sets out several recommendations for countering the problem, based on international standards drawn up by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Prevention programmes should include a focus on family and parenting skills, setting rules and limits for young people; school support for the development of personal and social skills; the availability of screening, assessment and counselling in schools; and strict enforcement of regulations related to the access to medications with psychoactive qualities, and to tobacco, alcohol and cannabis.

To improve the effectiveness of prevention programmes, governments, says the report, should monitor changing trends in the use of psychoactive drugs amongst young people, and invest in the development of national expertise.

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Bieber revealed that he first tried marijuana when he was just 13 after rocketing to fame as a child when he was discovered on YouTube.

After becoming dependent on weed, Justin began to drink lean — a narcotic substance often called purple drank or sizzurp — as well as taking pills, doing Molly, and trying mushrooms.

Justin eventually decided to get sober because he was 'dying', and said people aren't aware of how 'serious' his addictions were.

He explained: 'I was, like, dying. People don't know how serious it got It was legit, crazy scary.

'I basically said to myself, 'God, if you are real, you get me through this season of stopping these pills and stuff, and if you do, I'll do the rest of the work.' I never did the actual work. I got off the pills but never went to the root of everything so I just circled back around which most people do.'

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Family dinners build relationships, and help kids do better in school.

Eating together was a small act, and it required very little of us—45 minutes away from our usual, quotidian distractions—and yet it was invariably one of the happiest parts of my day

Using data from nearly three-quarters of the world’s countries, a new analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that students who do not regularly eat with their parents are significantly more likely to be truant at school. The average truancy rate in the two weeks before the International Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test administered to 15-year-olds by the OECD and used in the analysis as a measure for absenteeism, was about 15 percent throughout the world on average, but it was nearly 30 percent when pupils reported they didn’t often share meals with their families.

Children who do not eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week also were 40 percent more likely to be overweight compared to those who do, as outlined in a research presentation given at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria this May. On the contrary, children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

In her book Eating TogetherAlice Julier argues that dining together can radically shift people’s perspectives: It reduces people’s perceptions of inequality, and diners tend to view those of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds as more equal than they would in other social scenarios..

How then do we eat better, not just from a nutritional perspective, but from a psychological one as well?

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art,” said the 17th-century writer François de La Rochefoucauld. What “intelligence” means in the context of eating is debatable. There are those who obsess over their food—where it is sourced, if it is organic, the nebulous desire for culinary “originality”—who are known in the U.S. as “foodies” and in France as generation Le Fooding, both of which are the hipsters of cuisine, moneyed and sometimes picky. But this doesn’t seem quite like “intelligence” as de La Rochefoucauld meant it.

Perhaps to “eat intelligently,” one needs only to eat together. Although it would be nice to eat healthily as well, even take-out makes for a decent enough meal, psychologically speaking, so long as your family, roommates, or friends are present.

It’s incredible what we’re willing to make time for if we’re motivated. (Although we often end up just a bit too squeezed to make it to the gym in the morning, we can still find time to go to the movies after work.) Perhaps seeing eating together not as another appointment on a busy schedule, but rather as an opportunity to de-stress, a chance to catch up with those whom we love then, could help our children do better in school, get in better shape, and be less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Eating together also led children to report better relationships with their parents and surely relationships between adults can similarly benefit.

CODY C. DELISTRATY is a writer and historian based in Paris. He has worked for the Council on Foreign Relations, UNESCO, and NBC News. (July 2014)

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Research also shows that “Effective modulation of the stress response is an essential component of resilience and is dependent on a complex interplay of neurobiological and behavioral factors.”11 We may come to find that reducing significant stress among vulnerable groups is one of the most important behavioral, prevention, and public health goals. Stress is certainly a major cause of drug and alcohol craving.12 It also causes a drive for relief, which is often seen as the proximal event in relapse. Prevention efforts focused on high-stress system risk individuals (e.g., trauma, early life adversity, psychiatric co-morbidity, PTSD, genetic, family history) may be a way to make these otherwise arcane dopamine-pleasure system data useful to people today. 

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