Our interest in Youth in Iceland stems not only from its dramatic success in reducing Iceland’s teen substance abuse problem, but also from the central role that investment in high-quality after-school programming – with sports and arts as the focus – played in the country’s success. 

In substance abuse prevention terms, after-school sports and arts programs favorably shift the balance of risk and protective factors; in physiological terms, they can induce brain activities that mimic the neurological “high” that can come from drug use; in common sense terms, they provide fun, healthy activities for kids to do instead of engaging in drug/alcohol use and associated risky behaviors. The success of such programs as implemented is Iceland is based on a very simple yet powerful premise: rather than telling young people to “just say no” to drugs, we must give them things to say “yes” to. 

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