While Halloween offers many opportunities for fun and celebration, it can also be a time when substance misuse can pose a risk to individuals, particularly young people. Here are four ways to prevent substance misuse during Halloween in order to make the holiday safe and enjoyable for all.
1. Talk to Your Kids about Substance Misuse
Parents, caregivers, teachers, and other community members play a crucial role in ensuring children’s safety during the Halloween season. Consider using the holiday as an opportunity to have open and honest conversations with the kids in your life about substance misuse. Start by discussing the risks associated with alcohol and drug use. Tell them you care about their health and success and that you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug misuse. Encourage your children to reach out if they ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe. These conversations help youth make informed decisions when faced with potentially risky situations.
2. Find Alternative Activities for Teens
Adolescents may find themselves at a crossroads during Halloween—too old to go trick-or-treating but not old enough to attend Halloween-themed parties or other adult-oriented events. Offering substance-free alternatives for teens can help them stay safe while still taking part in Halloween festivities. Consider hosting or seeking out teen-friendly Halloween events that include activities such as pumpkin carving, costume contests, dancing, or screenings of scary movies. By providing engaging and age-appropriate alternative activities, you can help teenagers celebrate without feeling the pressure to use substances.
3. Support Community Events for Halloween
Navigating Halloween can present unique challenges for people of any age. For many, Halloween has a strong association with alcohol and parties, and the pressure to partake in festivities can be daunting. Making substance-free activities available to all on Halloween can help individuals celebrate the holiday while prioritizing their well-being. In many communities, local organizations and leaders come together to create substance-free Halloween events such as haunted houses, fall festivals, or pumpkin patches dedicated to substance-free fun. These events emphasize the importance of responsible and safe celebrations, and ensure that everyone can enjoy the holiday without the risks associated with substance misuse.
4. Prioritize Safety
Although research consistently shows that such occurrences are rare, there have been few documented cases of drugged Halloween candy. It is possible that certain drugs—marijuana edibles, for example—could be mistaken for candy by children or adults unfamiliar with them. This may be more likely to occur around Halloween, when kids may be on the lookout for candy laying around. Be sure to lock up or otherwise safely secure all medications in your home, particularly those that could be confused for treats.
Halloween is a time for spooky fun, creativity, and community togetherness. It is also a season when the risks of substance misuse can be heightened, especially among young people. Initiating conversations with youth about responsible choices, offering fun and safe alternatives for teenagers, supporting community-led substance-free events, and prioritizing safety are all essential steps to ensure that Halloween remains a fun and safe occasion for all.
For more information and resources for how to talk with children about alcohol and other drug use, check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s “Talk. They Hear You.” campaign.
|Jessica Goldberg, a certified and experienced prevention specialist and skilled trainer, designs and delivers learning events, consultation, and coaching support. Her areas of expertise include preventing youth substance use; promoting cross-sector collaborations; addressing health disparities; and supporting strategic planning, logic model development, and sustainability planning.|