One in 10 Oklahoma residents struggle with addiction, White said. Also, one in 10 struggle with mental illness.
About 80 percent of youth who need help in Oklahoma cannot get it because of a lack of resources, White said.
Young people are especially susceptible to developing an addiction, White said. The prefrontal cortex in the brain isn't fully developed until a person is between 20 and 25, White said. That part of the brain is most susceptible to damage from alcohol and other drugs — and also is the part of the brain that controls a person's ability to pass judgment on decisions, she said.
“It's that part of the brain that's not quite fully developed yet, and when alcohol is introduced to it, it starts a chemical craving for alcohol,” White said.
It's critical that people are trained to provide appropriate evidence-based prevention, said Messiah, of Oklahoma City University.
“If you do it wrong, it's just wrong,” Messiah said. “It does the exact opposite of what you intend it to do.”
One of the examples given as a failure was the D.A.R.E. program, founded in the 1980s, which was popular in many schools nationwide.
Research has shown that the program didn't work, and it serves as an example of why it's important that the programs being used to educate youth are evidence-based, White said.