On Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Broadmeadow School, the Needham Coalition for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention will be holding its second annual community prevention forum. The focus will be to understand the effects of alcohol and other drug use on the adolescent brain through scientific research, said director Carol Read.
“The goal is educational,” said Read. “The goal is not to preach or make any kind of a moral judgment but to present the science and the research.”
Knowledge of the facts is essential to making informed decisions, whether you’re an adolescent or a parent of one. At the forum, Dr. Marisa Silveri of McLean Hospital Brain Imaging Center will give a presentation on the science of how substances affect adolescent brain development. Another speaker, a young Needham High School alumnus, will share his personal experience of substance abuse and recovery. The two speakers’ presentations will be followed by a question and answer session with members of the Needham community.
An important part of the coalition’s aim is to involve Needham youth in the discussion rather than just talking about or around them. The question and answer panel will include student members of R.A.D.D. (Rockets Against Destructive Decisions), a social club at Needham High School that sponsors substance-free events.
“We’re hoping we’ll have some youth attendance,” said Read.
The forum, made possible by a direct federal grant from Drug Free Communities, will be the second in a series of five over the course of five years. Youth substance abuse is a reality all across the country, and Needham is no different. Self-reported rates of youth drug and alcohol use in Needham are about the same as those of the other Metro West communities, Read said.
Research shows that kids who start drinking before the age of 15 are 40% more likely to have problems with drugs or alcohol later in life. Because the brain is not done developing until around age 23, young people are more prone to making high-risk choices before then.
Read hopes the panel will provide parents with facts and insight and encourage them to open a conversation with their teenagers if they haven’t already.
“Hopefully parents will be able to share this information with their kids,” she said.