One Choice — no use of any alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other drugs under age 21 for health.
Why One Choice? The teen brain is uniquely vulnerable to substance use
The adolescent brain is actively and rapidly developing until about age 25, making it particularly vulnerable to the effects of substance use. The earlier substance use begins, and the heavier the use, the more likely a person will develop addiction, also known as substance use disorder. Preventing or delaying all substance use by teens reduces the risk of later addiction as adults.
In these MRI images of the developing brain, areas of green, yellow, red, and blue are still undergoing significant development into the early 20s. Only the small areas of purple are fully mature.
Why One Choice? All Teen Substance Use is Related
Youth prevention efforts often focus on avoiding specific substances or risky substance use behaviors like binge drinking or drunk driving. But a recent new analysis of the SAMSHA National Survey on Drugs and Health showed that among young people aged 12-17, the use of all substances is related:
If teens do not use any one substance (alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana), they are much less likely to use the other two or to use other illegal drugs.
If teens do use any one substance, they are much more likely to use the other two and other illegal drugs.
Because all youth substance use is closely related, the One Choice message is not substance-specific. One Choice promotes a daily health choice of no use of any substances and is compatible with and supports all other prevention messages.
Click on any graph to view full size.
All graphs based on nationally representative data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reported in DuPont, R. L., Han, B., Shea, C. L., & Madras, B. K. (2018). Drug use among youth: national survey data support a common liability of all drug use. Preventive Medicine, 113, 68-73.
Why One Choice? It is a Myth that all teens experiment with substance use
Many parents, teachers, and even leaders in prevention mistakenly believe that it is inevitable that teens will “experiment” with drugs. Teens may also think that most of their peers are using drugs or that not using any drugs is a rare choice. In fact, there has been a steady, 40-year trend of teens in the US making One Choice to not use any alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other drugs.
As this graph shows, 26% of high school seniors have not used any alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes or other drugs in their lifetime and 52% have not used any substances in the past month:
Teens and the adults that care about them need to know that the One Choice of no use is a realistic goal and that many teens are already making that choice.
Why One Choice? Reducing Adult Addiction must Begin with Youth Prevention
The United States is confronting a public health crisis of substance use disorders and overdose deaths while at the same time facing a growing commercialized for-profit marijuana industry and vaping as a new nicotine and marijuana delivery system. Now more than ever we must - as individuals and as a nation - renew our efforts to improve prevention with a specific focus on youth.
Most addiction is rooted in the teenage years: 9 in 10 or 90% of all adults with substance use disorders began using one or more drugs like alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana before the age of 18. A key reason for this is the unique vulnerability of the still-developing teen brain to substance use. The earlier substance use is initiated, the more likely an individual is to develop a substance use disorder. And if teens use one substance, they are far more likely to use others as well.
Promoting and encouraging the One Choice Message of preventing and delaying all adolescent substance use - can have a direct impact over time on the number of adults who develop a substance use disorder.
One Choice for Health Webinar
In this webinar developed for the Southeast Prevention Technology Transfer Center, Robert L. DuPont, MD and Caroline DuPont, MD of the Institute for Behavior and Health present the One Choice message; review the biology of addiction and the “hijacked brain;” and underscore the importance of youth prevention.