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At Home With Your Kids: Perfect Time to Talk About the Risks of Underage Drinking and Drug Use

With schools and extracurricular activities canceled around the nation and many adults working at home, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and national presenting sponsor Nationwide are encouraging parents to take this extraordinary time of family togetherness to talk to their children about the risks of underage alcohol and drug use.

Every year, as part of MADD’s Power of Parents program, Spring is designated “PowerTalk 21” — a time for parents to initiate or revisit conversations about upcoming events where alcohol or drugs may be more prevalent. This year, MADD is expanding the online availability of PowerTalk 21, “Weed Out Fact from Fiction,” to reach the many families who are at home and social distancing. New research on the effects of marijuana use and teens, in addition to the well-known facts about the dangers of underage drinking, are featured in this year’s program.

“Traditionally, this has been a crucial time to start having conversations or to renew them. The spring months are filled with milestone events like spring break, prom and graduation, occasions that can increase the presence of alcohol and other drugs,” said MADD National President Helen Witty. “We recognize that many of these events have been canceled or could be canceled in the coming weeks. We also recognize that in time, our children and grandchildren will return to school. Local businesses will reopen. And the risks of underage alcohol and drug use will remain.”

Witty will provide a free, Facebook Live presentation of the latest research and tips for parents to start conversations with their underage children on Wednesday, April 1 at noon Eastern on MADD’s Facebook page @MADD.Official. The following week at the same time and location, Dr. Robert Turrisi, PhD, Penn State professor of Biobehavioral Health and Prevention Research Center, will discuss “Coping with Stress” during this challenging time and how that ties in to preventing underage drinking and drug use. He will return April 15 with a Q&A on new research about teen marijuana use. The series will continue every Wednesday at noon through April 29. Local MADD offices across the country, which typically hold in-person programs within their communities, will also host presentations via video conferencing to ensure parents are still able to access this crucial support. In addition, a free download of the Power of Parents Handbook for parents of middle school and high school students is available at www.madd.org/powerofparents.

“Studies show that parents are the leading influencers of their children’s decisions about whether or not to drink or use other drugs,” Witty said. “We want to help parents with these sometimes uncomfortable conversations because they are so vitally important to preventing bad decisions that can lead to tragedy.”

MADD is grateful to presenting sponsor Nationwide for supporting MADD’s mission to prevent the consequences of underage drinking and impaired driving.

“At Nationwide, we exist to protect people, businesses and futures with extraordinary care,” says Martha Frye, Senior Regional Vice President at Nationwide. “Part of being a trusted, caring and customer-focused protection company is educating young people on the dangers of underage drinking and drug use. We’re proud to continue to partner with MADD to equip parents and teenagers with the resources they need to have these critical conversations and to ultimately prevent senseless tragedies from occurring on our roadways.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year and can lead to early addiction as well as many other dangerous outcomes. In addition, marijuana is the leading cause of substance dependence other than alcohol in the United States.

According to new research, 1 in 3 middle school students have consumed marijuana by the time they finish middle school, and 1 in 8 middle school students reported consuming marijuana in the past month.

This new research also shows:

  • By the age of 20, approximately 50% of youth have used marijuana in their lifetime.
  • When recent marijuana use is examined, 1 in 5 reported using in the past month.
  • 1 in 3 youth who drink alcohol have also combined alcohol with marijuana. This combination resulted in 2 to 3 times more problems than when alcohol alone was consumed.

MADD’s Power of Parents program wants to help parents “weed out” fact from fiction. Some of the common myths about marijuana:

  1. “Marijuana is safer than alcohol.”
    • Both are drugs and are associated with serious problems especially if used by those under the age of 21 while the brain and body are still in a rapid period of development.
  1. “Marijuana makes me a better driver.” It is not safer to drive after marijuana consumption.
    • Studies have shown that, of seriously injured drivers admitted to trauma centers, more than 1 out of 4 tested positive for marijuana. In another study of fatally injured drivers, more than 1 in 10 tested positive for marijuana.
  1. “You cannot get addicted to marijuana.”
    • Marijuana is currently the leading cause of substance dependence other than alcohol in the United States. Studies show that marijuana accounts for over 50 percent of the 7 million people aged 12 or older who are dependent on or abusing a drug.

For more information or to download free Power of Parents handbooks for parents of middle school and high school students, visit www.madd.org/powerofparents.

About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 390,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

About Nationwide®
Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com . Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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