Iceland’s Strategic Insights into Teens

Here is a question – how long have western societies fretted over teen abuse of alcohol and drugs? As far as I can tell, it has been at least a half century, if not longer.

So how do we develop strategies to counter this disturbing trend? Many countries have tried education. The presumption is that teens lack information about the negative effects of what they are doing. This has had marginal results at best.

You might reflect why this has been so. It may be that the presumption is wrong. Teens may be attracted to this behavior by other factors. And if so, giving them information about health risks may be a futile gesture.

Folks in Iceland have taken this view. And they have gone further. They are using an evidence based approach to find out why teens are abusing alcohol and drugs, and developing strategies that directly confront those causes.

They have discovered something that many would not like to admit.  Teens drink because of “angst”. They need to cope with their angst. Drinking etc. is nothing more than the best available —  if less than perfect — coping strategy. From a strategic point of view, you might call this a “foundation decision” on the part of policy makers .They can test it by providing alternative structures — including reducing freedom and offering activities — that help teens use other strategies to cope. The tests provide a path towards more efficient tools to deal with the problem, and so far, it is working — at least in Iceland.

That raises an interesting question which is posed in the above linked article – is this strategy transportable? There certainly is interest in it. That leads to an exciting ongoing story – learning from best practices!

Stay tuned!

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