Editorial: Drug, alcohol abuse fight gets boost

Jun. 25, 2013 @ 06:52 PM

Helping our youth survive adolescence got a million-dollar shot in the arm earlier this week.

The Center for the Study of Adolescent Risk and Resilience will soon open at Duke University. The school’s Center for Child and Family Policy received a five-year, $6.7 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Leaders of the project are seeking to enhance efforts already in place, build on smart people coming together creating bigger and better research ideas, and they’ll focus on biology and behavior with teens’ drinking and drug use.

There’s no shortage of test material, and that’s an unfortunate fact.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly half of all U.S. students have used an illicit drug by their senior year of high school. That’s every other kid.

Alcohol-related deaths among young people number about 5,000 annually, with another 200,000 visiting emergency rooms.

Campaigns with catchy slogans, grassroots local efforts and well-funded national awareness has helped in the fight to keep our youngsters healthy. And those efforts should not stop.

But awareness alone never figured to be enough. At some point, the proverbial “next level” has to be sought, followed by another “next level.”

This is one of the “nexts.”

Some of the toughest follow-up questions educators have posed to students for generations is “Why?” An answer isn’t good enough without explaining it, and researchers in this new endeavor hope to have more of the “why” answers that can help save lives.

Rick Hoyle, a professor with the center at Duke, believes knowing what brain activity causes people to use will help bring to light how to intervene. Policy may be a by-product. The in-depth study will generate data from the brain’s areas involved in self-control.

With any research project, there is no guarantee of what can be found. Similarly and with great hope, there is also no limit for the gains.

This is an area of society that begs for gains. Alcohol and drug use not only have fatal consequences, they also have long-lasting impairments for the living.

We won’t see quick-fix answers, but we do believe progress in the fight against drug and alcohol abuse will be made. And that’s something we can use.