Traditionally, the work had focused on individual behavior change: getting teenagers to abstain from alcohol or drugs.
But the campaign leaders in Iceland believed that the focus on “saying no” missed the big picture… What if drug and alcohol use came to feel abnormal in their world rather than normal?
In the mid-90 s, Icelandic teenagers were among the biggest drinkers and smokers in Europe.
Today, Iceland is top of the European countries where the lifestyle of teenagers (13-year-olds) is the healthiest!
How has this evolution been done?
Icelandic scientists have tried to discover the biochemical process that causes addiction.
Harvey Milkman, American Professor of Psychology, now lecturer at Reykjavik University, has come to the conclusion that choosing the type of alcohol or drug depends on how the human body is used to dealing with stress.
Turned out there are many different chemicals that cause biochemical process in the brain, whose body then becomes dependent.
Scientists then looked for actions that stimulate the same process in the brain.
Selon Milkman: ′′ You may be dependent on tobacco, alcohol, coca-cola, energy drinks and some foods….
We decided to offer teenagers something better.
We found that dance, music, drawing or sport also caused biochemical process in the brain that made everything possible, but was also a harmless solution to stress, and that in terms of emotional effect, these actions should have the same effect on teenagers as stimulants, alcohol or tobacco.
From there we offered them free masterclass programs in any sport or art they would like to study.
Overtime, three times a week, has been specifically funded by the state.
Every teenager was asked to participate in the program for three months… but finally, many of them continued these programs for more than five years. ′′
To solve adolescent nicotine and alcohol dependence problems, authorities also had to amend the law.
Iceland has banned advertising for cigarettes and alcoholic beverages and has created special organizations for parents who, in collaboration with the school, help students solve their psychological problems.
Because of this, Iceland has managed to reduce the number of teenagers for the past 20 years who regularly drink from 48 % to 5 %, and those who smoke 23 % to 3 %.
Icelandic scientists suggest using similar methods in other countries.
The question is: who will allow this to happen?
This will be a huge loss for multinationals. They have no interest in adolescents becoming self-conscious and avoiding the path of dependence on alcohol, cigarettes and human stimulants until they die.
They want users.