WHAT WORKS: LEARNING FROM ICELAND

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. 

Iceland graph.PNG