How Iceland Curbed Teen Substance Abuse

Twenty years ago, Icelandic teenagers were some of the heaviest drinking kids in Europe. People were even afraid to walk down the streets of Reykjavik on a weekend because “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.” Now, the streets are all but abandon because Iceland figured out how to help their youth population.

Iceland’s Drug Abuse Statistics

Currently, Iceland’s adolescents top the European list for cleanest-living teens. The numbers are almost unbelievable; in 1998, 42 percent of 15 and 16 year olds reported having been drunk in the previous month plummeted to 5 percent in 2016. The percentage who reported having ever used cannabis went down to 7 percent from 17 and those who smoked cigarettes every day fell to 3 percent from 23.

How Iceland Kicked Their Bad Habits

The country has achieved this astounding turnaround by studying the stress in the lives of teenagers. It was considered radical, but it showed that teenagers are so susceptible to becoming addicted to anything because of the stress their bodies and brains go through while developing.

In Denver, Co in 1992, Project Self-Discovery offered teens that had problems (but didn’t think they did) with drinking, drugs or petty crime “natural high” alternatives like dancing, music, art or sport. This idea was taken to Iceland and implemented to stop kids from drinking or using drugs in the first place.

Helping Teens All Over the World

Countries across the globe use programs meant to prevent drug use by giving warning. However, the flaw with this type of system is that there is nothing offered as an alternative. In US schools, children go through drug education classes (like D.A.R.E.) in elementary school but, when the threat is more real around age 13 +, there is no alternative outlet offered. Sure, kids can enroll in after school activities but the connection that the activity is a stress outlet isn’t there so teens already engaged in drinking or drug will not choose another activity.

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