Not too long ago the only way kids were given mass warnings about the dangers of experimenting with drugs was through radio and TV spots or print ads in magazines.

One such effort in the 1980s was the ‘This is your Brain on Drugs’ commercial, that showed an egg being fried:

Today, things are different.

“Using social media is an essential part of this effort. Avenues such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are all part of what the partnership uses to get messages out to residents of the state, and in particular young people,” said Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey.

A musical competition for high school students, New Jersey Shout Down Drugs, is featured online. Online voting for featured musical numbers ended last week, but the finalists and their pieces are still featured on shoutdowndrugs.com.

Some are also featured on the partnership's Instagram feed:

Over the past several years “we’ve had hundreds of thousands of people from New Jersey, across the country and around the world actually access our website and vote for the music they thought was best representing their particular views,"V alente said. It’s been a great way to be able to use social media as a vehicle to get prevention messages out.”

The partnership is using social media in other ways as well.

“Last year we launched for the first time, an online fishing tournament, where we encouraged people to spend time with their children fishing together and then we asked folks to send us their pictures," Valente said. “Social media is not only a one way message, but it gives you an opportunity to be able to get people to interact with our organization and to participate actively with our organization.”

As far as when it’s appropriate to start talking to your kids about drugs, he said it's earlier than you might imagine.

“The partnership has always believed that there needs to be conversations, age-appropriate conversations, beginning in the second and third grade,” he said. “We have launched a program called the 3rd Grade Contract for a Healthy Life, which really encourages families to have that early conversation with their children.”

Valente said today's kids are very sophisticated, so parents need to discuss the dangers of drugs with them when their children are 7 and 8 years old.

“Many of these young people are getting different types of (social media and online) messages, messages that have a different opinion than those of their parents so I think it’s important for parents to be proactive at a very young age,” he said.

Eight years ago, the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey launched the Who Knew Grandma Kept a Stash campaign. It focused attention on the alarming trend of kids and even some adults abusing prescription drugs that could be found in their grandparent’s medicine cabinets. Although the campaign started in New Jersey, it went nationwide.

New Jersey 101.5 will present a special opiate town hall, live, this Thursday evening at 7 p.m. Watch the town hall live on NJ1015.com and join our chat to get information on resources and treatment.  

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