New Digital Campaign Launched to Educate Florida Youth About Substance Abuse

(The Center Square) Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis has launched a new website and digital campaign to educate Florida youth about substance abuse:

The website, which provides information for schools, teachers, parents, and others, is a continuation of a campaign she first launched in December 2019.

“Governor [Ron] DeSantis and I want to see all of Florida’s youth reach their full potential. Today’s announcement is the latest development of our ‘The Facts. Your Future’ initiative, which is redefining the way substance abuse prevention is taught in our schools to ‘Just Say No …and Here’s Why’,” Casey DeSantis said.

The first video featured on the homepage describes how drugs and alcohol alter the teenage brain.

“Drugs interfere with the way your brain processes information,” the video states. “Changing how you feel, think and act.” It explains the process of withdrawal and the negative physical, emotional and mental reactions associated with addiction.

“The State of Florida is focusing on supporting students statewide to ensure they receive prevention instruction and encouragement to protect and maintain their health, avoid substance misuse, and discourage risky behaviors so they can thrive and flourish for life,” the website states. “This campaign is an interactive approach to ensure students are informed and can make safe decisions as they grow.”

The website features a downloadable version of the School Assemblies Toolkit, which DeSantis launched in January. It includes fact sheets and a planning guide for interactive school-based assemblies.

The website also includes downloadable images and videos to share on social media. And Florida teens will start seeing more “The Facts. Your Future” ads and videos on social media channels to increase their awareness about the negative consequences of substance abuse.

“We need to reach teens with important information related to substance abuse where they are spending their time – on social media – to help them lead long, healthy, and productive lives,” DeSantis adds.

“The Facts. Your Future” campaign is in partnership with the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education. The website also includes contact information for a crisis call center, crisis text line, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, SAMHSA’s Helpline, and other resources.

According to a 2021 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey published by the Florida Department of Children and Families, “students have reported dramatic long-term reductions in alcohol and cigarette use.”

One of the bigger causes for concern is vaping, according to a Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. Vaping “has emerged as one of the most prevalent forms of substance use among youth,” the Florida Department of Children and Families says.

The past-30-day rate of for vaping nicotine, the survey found, is nearly 10 times the rate of cigarette use. The past-30-day rate for vaping marijuana is also substantially higher than past-30-day cigarette use.

However, there is a silver lining, the agency notes. “The vaping epidemic appears to have peaked;” past-30-day rates for vaping nicotine and marijuana decreased between 2019 and 2021.

When it comes to alcohol use, between 2010 and 2021, the prevalence of past-30-day alcohol use declined by 15%; binge drinking declined by 7.4%, the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey found. Past-30-day cigarette use also declined by 7.6%.

“While alcohol use is down, high-risk drinking behavior is still too common,” it states. According to the survey, 9% of high school students reported binge drinking, 12.3% reported blacking out on one or more occasions.

“In addition to the long-term decline in alcohol and cigarette use, Florida students have reported long-term reductions in the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana,” the report notes. Past 30-day use of illicit drugs other than marijuana dropped by more than half: from 9.3% in 2010 to 4.5% in 2021.

Last 30-day use of marijuana also dropped among Florida students, from 12.4% in 2014 to 9.2% in 2021.