National Drug Facts Week is a great opportunity to learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Often, young people have false perceptions about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking and drug use, which can lead them to think that these substances are not very harmful.

Research shows a low perception of harm about alcohol and drug use is linked to increased likelihood of first use or more frequent use among adolescents. In East Texas, the average age of first use of alcohol is 13, and approximately one in four have used alcohol within the past 30 days, according to the Texas School Survey.

Since its launch in 2010, National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week continues to be an opportunity for teens all over the U.S to dispel these myths and learn about the real dangers and consequences of underage drinking and drug use. It is especially important for teens in East Texas to learn about the facts because our average first-time drinking age is three years younger than the nation.

The age of first use is important because research has shown that teens who drink by 15 are five times more likely to become alcohol dependent as an adult, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“It is never too late to talk to your teens, whether they are in fifth grade or high school,” said Brandon Davidson, program director of Next Step Community Solutions. “The key is to be consistent, and communicate a strong disapproval message.”

“Teachers, parents, guardians, families and communities must come together to prevent underage drinking, and we can begin by learning the facts ourselves and having more conversations with teens with the intention to shatter the myths,” said Davidson. “National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is a great opportunity to do so.”

This year, National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is January 23-29.

In an effort to dispel myths about underage drinking and drug use, the East Texas Substance Abuse Coalition partners with community organizations, local law enforcement, health providers, businesses, schools, colleges, parents and youth. Together, the coalition works to educate the wider community about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking and drug use.

To get involved in local prevention efforts, or to find out more information about the work of the coalition, contact Susan Anderson, coalition coordinator for the East Texas Substance Abuse Coalition at susan.anderson@nextstepcsi.com.

For more information about the consequences of underage drinking and tips on talking to kids about alcohol, go to www.nextstepcommunity

solutions.com.

Editorial written by Susan Anderson, Coalition Coordinator for the East Texas Substance Abuse Coalition, a program of Next Step

Community Solutions.

About: Next Step Community Solutions is a Tyler-based nonprofit and has coalitions that work to prevent adolescent drinking, marijuana use and prescription drug abuse in 13 East Texas counties.