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Homeland Security

11 July 2003

Religious Faith Helps Keep Teens off Drugs, U.S. Officials Say

White House Drug Office urges faith communities to launch prevention programs

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is urging faith communities to become more involved in drug abuse prevention programs for youth, according to a July 10 announcement.

"We are urging youth ministers, volunteers and faith leaders to integrate drug prevention messages and activities into their sermons and youth programming and are providing them with key tools and resources to make a difference," said John P. Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy.

ONDCP cited research indicating that adolescents who considered religion a meaningful part of their lives were half as likely to use marijuana as youngsters who didn't consider faith a significant influence.

Representatives from the Islamic Society of North America, the United Jewish Communities and the National Council of Churches of USA joined Walters in a news conference for the announcement.

ONDCP is providing faith-based groups with a variety of media resources to support the anti-drug campaign. Further information is available at HYPERLINK "http://www.TheAntiDrug.com/Faith"

Following is the text of the ONDCP press release:

(begin text)

July 10, 2003


Studies Show that Religion Plays a Powerful Role in Preventing Teen Substance Use; New Resources Will Help Faith Communities Tackle Youth Drug Prevention

(Washington, D.C.)-Faith plays a powerful role in preventing youth marijuana use, yet few faith communities have active youth drug prevention programs. At a press conference today, the National Youth Anti Drug Media Campaign, in partnership with faith communities and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, released multi-denominational resources to encourage all religious communities to focus on youth drug prevention.

"Faith plays an important role when it comes to teen marijuana prevention," said John P. Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "We are urging youth ministers, volunteers and faith leaders to integrate drug prevention messages and activities into their sermons and youth programming and are providing them with key tools and resources to make a difference. Faith communities can help influence a teen's decision not to use marijuana and other drugs."

Most faith institutions have youth ministries; however, few incorporate significant teen substance abuse prevention activities. Drug and alcohol programs instead focus on adult substance abuse treatment. According to the 1998 National Congregations Study, funded by Lilly Endowment and a variety of other organizations, only 2 percent of congregations surveyed had participated in or supported substance abuse programs within the past 12 months.

Research shows that faith plays a critical role in preventing substance abuse and other risky behaviors. A study published in March 2003 by the American Psychological Association found that adolescents who viewed religion as a meaningful part of their life and as a way to cope with problems were half as likely to use marijuana than adolescents who didn't view religion as important.

More teens use marijuana than all other illicit drugs combined. Research shows that marijuana can lead to a host of health, social, learning and behavioral problems at a crucial time in young lives when bodies and brains are still developing. Marijuana can be addictive and more kids are in drug treatment for marijuana than for all other illicit drugs combined. Teens using marijuana are also more likely to take risks, such as having sex, engaging in violence, riding with someone who's driving high or using alcohol or other drugs.

"Religion plays a major role in the lives of American teens," said Jim Towey, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. "According to data from Monitoring the Future, ninety percent of teens in the U.S. are affiliated with a religious denomination and 43 percent of eighth graders attend religious services weekly. Churches, temples and mosques are well positioned to cultivate anti-drug values and teach effective coping tools to deal with negative peer pressure." "We know that drug use is a problem among our youth, and we know that faith communities are in a position to make a difference," said Reverend Eric Ovid Donaldson, Executive Director, One Church One Addict. "These resources provide the faith leader, lay person and local volunteer with much needed support."

The Nation's Drug Czar, John P. Walters was joined at today's press conference by Jim Towey, Director of the White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives; Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, Secretary-General of the Islamic Society of North America; Rabbi Eric Lankin, Director of Religious & Educational Activities, United Jewish Communities; Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Associate General Secretary for Public Policy, National Council of Churches USA; and other representatives from the faith and drug prevention community.

The new multi-denominational resources include the Pathways to Prevention: Guiding Youth to Wise Decisions 100 page drug prevention activity guide for youth faith leaders, the www.TheAntiDrug.com/Faith Web site, and an e-mail newsletter. These resources, in conjunction with the existing Four Ways to Include Drug Prevention in Your Religious Programs brochure, will help churches, mosques and synagogues incorporate youth drug prevention into their programming.
Pathways to Prevention was developed by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign in partnership with faith leaders nationwide. The activity guide was tested at Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith institutions in Washington, D.C., Tennessee, and Minnesota. It provides guidance on a range of issues from how to incorporate drug prevention into sermons, to how to integrate ready to use teen drug prevention activities into youth ministries and religious education classes.

To learn more about preventing youth marijuana and other illicit drug use, log on to www.TheAntiDrug.com/Faith for faith communities and www.TheAntiDrug.com for parents. Free copies of the activity guide and brochure can be ordered through www.TheAntiDrug.com/Faith or by calling the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information at 1-800-788-2800. Reference inventory numbers: PHD903 (activity guide) and PHD904 (brochure).

In 1998, with bipartisan support, Congress created the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign with the goal of educating and enabling young people to reject illicit drugs. Unprecedented in size and scope, the Campaign is a strategically integrated communications effort that combines advertising with public communications outreach to deliver anti-drug messages and skills to America's youth, their parents and other influential adults.

For more information on the ONDCP National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, visit www.mediacampaign.org

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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