Side Event: Beyond Prevention: Empowering Youth to Build Up Their Future

Organized by Italy, and Drug Free America Foundation, EURAD, Movendi International, San Patrignano Foundation, Turkish Green Crescent Society and World Federation Against Drugs.

Stig Erik Sorheim, Europe Against Drugs (EURAD): We make choices within our available options. Prevention aims to reduce exposure to risk factors and equip youth to handle risks they are exposed to. Focus on creating opportunities for young people.

H.E. Alessandro Cortese, Italy: Reflecting on how to empower our youth with effective prevention efforts. Importance of prevention cannot be underestimated. Young people are particularly vulnerable. Younger a person experiences drugs, more likely they are to develop a substance use disorder. Age of first use is decreasing, particularly for cannabis. Detrimental impact on future generations. Public policies should aim to reinforce protective factors, promote healthy lives, and protect them from abuse, neglect, and exploitation by keeping them in school, engaging them in volunteering, and creating bonds in communities. Contribute to the well-being of young people and support drug prevention efforts. Training teachers.

Amy Ronshausen, Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF): Focus is primary prevention. Started a campaign called, “Marijuana Know the Truth.” Conducted youth outreach to understand their concerns. Older youth wished that when they were younger, they had more communication with their parents. Not sure how to talk to them. Wanted to educate their peers on how to speak with their parents, and parents on how to talk with their kids. Ran ads in movie theaters and across digital platforms. Materials created in response to their concerns. Wanted to create a social movement around this issue, like plastic straw bans. Impact on the environment of particular interest.

Sara Evli Ozhan, Turkish Green Crescent Society: Activities in Turkey and internationally. Believe prevention models are the most cost effective. Different training modules for different ages. Life skills program aims to improve interpersonal relationships, critical thinking, and decision making. Targets people who have tried or are using problematically and found it was effective. Empowering youth with many activities to build a drug free society. Organize volunteer, social, cultural, and sport activities. Youth camps are very popular. Young volunteers are an important part of prevention work. Young volunteers train peers or younger students in schools. Make presentations and speak to communities. Being informed by peers is more positive and efficient than other methods. UNODC Youth Forum has two of our volunteers. Want to empower youth to take an active role. Interns are often former volunteers.

Swedish Youth Temperance Organization (UNF): Create conditions so young people do not have the need to use drugs. Members actively come to the organization. Make a commitment to living a life free of alcohol and drugs. Demonstration of solidarity with people beyond Sweden. Focus is democracy, solitary, and sobriety. Young people involved in the functioning of the organization from the beginning. Many children growing up in families with alcohol problems. Often do not have anywhere to go. Organization provides alcohol free environments for these kids. Creating their own activities. Has to be fun for young people. Opinion building campaigns. Mystery shopping to identify outlets that are selling alcohol to youth. Believe that a better world is possible and should not be dictated by where you are born.

Monica Barzanti, San Patrignano Foundation: In 2018, created a project called, “We Free.” Young people have so many issues that they deal with daily such as bullying, identity crises, eating disorders, and parenting conflicts. Often alcohol and drug use are a form of self-medication. Suicide is the second cause of death for young people. Prevention should address this. Project is called “Tutor for Orientation and Prevention.” Program for developing soft skills mandatory and merged with prevention of drug use programs for youth. Peer-to-peer education. Develop technical, professional, and soft skills. Structure is complex. Staff take care of the project. Impact of the project is teachers are provided with tools to decode student behaviour so they can take action to discuss together and act on specific problems faced by students. Increase social commitment and capacity of students and teachers. Empowerment is an intentional, ongoing process focused on each person’s needs in the local community involving mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation.

Questions & Answers:

  • How do you manage people that break the pledge?
    • Swedish Youth Temperance Organization: No enforcement of the pledge. Youth really like taking the pledge. If they do not uphold it any longer, they naturally leave. Direct them towards other services. Youth are good at identifying issues.
    • Amy Ronshausen: Huge sober movement. Helping promote activities that they might be doing.
  • Thoughts on secondary prevention?
    • Sara Evli Ozhant: For youth who tried using substances, we consider reasons for use. Try to reveal problems behind it.

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