Some questions come up at every school we work with: from adolescents, families, and students around the world. Our seasoned FCD Prevention Specialists—all people in active long-term recovery from alcohol and other drugs—hear: How and when did you know you had a problem with alcohol or another drug? What were the signs? Could your parents, friends, or teachers tell you were becoming addicted? How do we help if we see these signs in a friend? Such concerns get to the heart of the many ways alcohol and other drug use can impact individuals and entire communities—and also what we can do together to sustain a healthy climate of prevention for our young people. In FCD's work in more than 65 countries, our one true passport is the perspective we lend to the topic of adolescent alcohol and other drug use, addiction, and most importantly, prevention. Our focus on this “health perspective” places prevention first and foremost: keeping healthy kids healthy. Prevention Perspectives that Keep Kids Healthy To help kids who may be in trouble, we need to start with an understanding of and belief in the power of prevention. Addiction is a preventable disease. In order to keep our kids healthiest, we need to prevent early, risky use before it happens! To do this, we can teach children about the risk and protective factors surrounding addiction, and how to live healthy lives away from alcohol and other drugs, full of substance-free alternatives and skills. Like other diseases—cancer, diabetes, heart disease—the earliest warning signs of addiction are often difficult to recognize. If we ever see these signs in the children we love, we must intervene quickly to prevent the early symptoms of risky use from progressing into the permanent brain changes that addiction is known to cause. In our prevention education with kids of all ages and their parents, we make sure to define addiction as a disease early in the conversation. The goal is to take away the stigma of addiction—the silence and tip-toeing around the topic—so we can come to understand addiction and stop it before it starts. By the time a teen progresses to addiction—the repetitive and compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences—her or his cognitions, physiology, and psychology will be dramatically altered. Addiction is also a pediatric disease. Delayed use is essential. Regardless of the laws in your state or country, or Mom and Dad’s rules at home—children, teenagers, and young adults who drink alcohol or use other drugs are by the very nature of their stage in human development at much higher risk for addiction than adults. FCD Prevention Specialists are all in healthy recovery from addiction. Whether we stopped using alcohol and other drugs in our teens, 20s, 30s, or later, most of us—and most people who progress to addiction—began using during adolescence. By talking about addiction as a health issue, we can spread awareness of the disease, so that we recognize it in our communities and support getting our kids help (as we would for any other health condition) as soon as possible. Delayed use prevents addiction. The earlier a person uses alcohol or another drug, the greater his or her risk for addiction. It is crucial that we encourage and support the delayed use of substances among young people in order to protect their health. We must reward and reinforce a young person’s healthy choice to live substance-free lives. Remember, the majority of kids choose not to use . Think of the plants you brought home from the nursery this past spring, a puppy or kitten you welcomed into your family last year, or a woodworking project or computer program you designed from the ground up. Careful nurturing, planning, and the successful journey through key steps of development were all critical to ensuring that these subjects grew up sound and ready to meet the demands of their environments. Children, teenagers, and even young adults in their twenties are still in these nascent and critical stages themselves. Young brains, bodies, and identities are still forming as you teach them and coach them to meet the demands of their world. Choosing not to use alcohol and other drugs at 12, 16, or 19 years of age prevents a large portion of the addiction risk a young person might otherwise face in his or her early life. Indeed, every year that one delays use is one more year that the brain is able to form mature connections without the presence of alcohol or other drugs interfering with healthy development. By contrast, every year earlier a person uses alcohol or other drugs, the more likely he or she is to experience negative health outcomes as a result of that use: now and into the future. Consider how protective the environment is against drug use by young people: How does our community present itself in regards to this issue? Do we make alcohol or other drug use accessible to our kids? Does our community environment reflect a strong non-use culture? How are we partnered with other stakeholders within the community to support delayed use by our kids? By looking for honest answers, we can take action and make our environment its own intervention against later problems with addiction. The social norms approach reduces risky use. Community-specific, regional, national, and global research reveals that—wherever they live in the world—young people overestimate unhealthy behavior by their peers and underestimate health . Kids are making healthy choices. We must stress this fact; it will support our young people's choice to remain healthy, through the common and acceptable choice not to use alcohol and other drugs during the growing years. We can learn a great deal about the signs of substance use and early warning signs of addiction from surveys that measure adolescent use and attitudes about use. Kids grossly overestimate substance abuse by their peers. The reality stands in stark contrast to the myths they believe. FCD Prevention Works™ is the leading international nonprofit provider of school-based substance abuse prevention services. For 40 years, FCD has worked worldwide to provide students and the adults who care for them with the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to make intelligent, healthy choices about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. FCD is part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.