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Don't Underestimate What Youths Know

December 23, 2010
by Gary Enos, Editor
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Youths have a lot of questions about drugs, but many young people appear more perceptive than they’re given credit for. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) gets a firsthand look at this when it sponsors its Chat Day in classrooms across the country; this year’s event took place Nov. 9.

The questions in the online chat range from the matter-of-fact (“Can you please tell me why people do drugs?”) to the unusual (“Does Ecstasy have a little bit of every drug in it?”). Often the youths zone in on discussions that still occupy the time of the field’s most accomplished experts. Typical questions include “How many times do you have to take a drug before you are abusing it?” and “If a child lives where the parents are addicted, how will it affect the child’s development?” That last question earned this from an impressed NIDA panelist: “Maybe you could become a scientist one day.”

Above all, the chat transcript shows that many youths are aware of drugs’ harmful effects and want to help their affected friends and communities. Many this year asked for advice on how to help someone stop using; the replies focused on educating the person about drugs’ harms, enlisting a trusted adult’s help, and exposing the person to treatment options.

The range of questions offers a window into the minds of young people, as well as into opportunities for sound prevention strategies. To view the transcript, visit


Gary Enos


Gary Enos

Gary A. Enos has been the editor of Addiction Professional since its inception. He also...

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