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Educating youth and their families

Education is the key to preventing addiction before it starts. Programs need to be implemented in both school and community settings

To find a fix to this problem, people need to be willing to talk about addiction and educate those around them about the dangers drugs and alcohol can have. Created by: Emily Rowan

Education is the Solution

“If you have ever seen the impact of drug and alcohol abuse on a family, on a community, you know it really has a negative impact on all qualities of life,” Pedro Rivera, the secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, said.

There are many misconceptions across the United States about the scale and seriousness of substance abuse. Many believe the problem has no effect on them.

“You’ll even have schools say, ‘we don’t have that problem [addiction] in our school,’” Thom Duddy, executive director of communications and public relations for Adapt Pharma, said.

It is important that people begin to accept the fact that addiction can touch anyone. Students, parents, elderly, educators, doctors, public health workers and law enforcement officials need to come together in order to start talking about addiction and in order to try and find a solution to this growing epidemic.

To solve this problem from its roots, we need to begin to talk about the problem and educate communities about drug addiction and the factors that lead to it, in order to prevent future onset of addiction. In order to put a stop to behaviors connected to substance abuse, we need to educate all people, especially younger generations, in order to provide them with the resources and tools that they need to make choices that will deter them from a life of addiction. Education can, and needs, to be everywhere— in the home, in schools and among friends.

The conversation is beginning in many communities but the question becomes how do we get more people, even those who do not believe addiction has an effect on them, involved in that conversation? Communities are holding seminars and programs that speak on addiction but attendance is often low. Pennsylvania, under Mayor Jim Kenney, recently mandated that every county try to figure out how to stop this epidemic.

Deborah Motika, head of quality assurance at Drugscan, has been put on a opioid task force to get the conversation started among her community.

“It’s probably 24 different individuals from every aspect… we have everyone from physicians who treat suicide prevention in the community, to pastors in the community, district attorney, judges and individuals from Council on Chemical Abuse,” Motika said. “So, it’s an interesting group of people and we’re going to be working very hard to try to come up with a plan to put some kind of a dent in this [epidemic].”

Being open to talk about addiction and being honest within a community can put things into perspective and give people the information they need to combat the problem.

“A lot of times it’s very difficult to really get a handle on an issue when people are not open and honest about what’s happening,” Dennis Williams, principal at Hatboro-Horsham High School, said. “I’ve always been one who is very clear with our community, ‘look, there are certain parts of our community where there is a drug use problem, you know I could say everything is great and Hatboro-Horsham is the greatest place in the world, nobody gets in trouble’ but that’s not accurate.”

Stating the facts, having honest conversations and working to educate communities are the solutions to stopping the problem from growing and beginning in the next generation. A solution is possible if people are willing to see that drug addiction directly or indirectly touches everyone in society.

Written by: Emily Rowan

Programs and Ways to Educate

School and community based prevention programs have been established across the country in order to raise awareness about the dangers of substance abuse and addiction. Created by: Jaclyn Labes

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, individuals are most likely to begin abusing drugs during adolescence and young adulthood.

There is not one, but many reasons, for why young adults begin to use harmful substances and drink alcohol. Some of those influential factors include the pressure from other people, the sight of a parent and relative engaging in this type of behavior, or because of the many misconceptions there are in regards to the dangers of drugs.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2014, an estimated 22.5 million Americans aged 12 and older self-reported needing treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use.

The younger one is when they start putting harmful substances into their developing brain, the more likely they will become addicted. In order to stop the increase in overdoses and the likelihood that young adults will use harmful substances, we need to educate youth and their parents about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Prevention programs in communities throughout the country have been implemented in schools and events have been held in order to raise awareness about the dangers of substance abuse.

Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education Task Force (N.O.P.E.)

The NOPE Task Force (Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education) is a non-profit organization that came about in 2004 in Palm Beach County, Florida, to fight the use of illegal abused substances. The taskforce strives to reduce the overdose deaths through educating youth and their parents about the dangers of substance abuse. 

The taskforce has been research partnering with Lynn University since the start to ensure that the messages conveyed to the youth are pertinent, are heard and are understood. The taskforce believes that if measurable changes occur across the attitudes and behaviors of young adults related to the use of drugs and alcohol, there will be less overdose deaths.

NOPE prepares presentations for students and their parents. Student presentations include emotional stories about parents that had a child whom lost their battle to addiction. Additionally, NOPE provides students with the information about what to do if a friend has a problem or if someone has an overdose so that they can save their life.

In addition to NOPE, there are other school-based interventions that are designed to raise awareness and all focus on a similar common goal of increasing the knowledge among youth in regards to the dangers of drugs and alcohol as well as to decrease the amounts of overdose deaths.

If Only Documentary

In order to raise awareness about the increasing problem of the opioid epidemic, James Wahlberg wrote and produced a 38-minute film funded by the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation called “If Only.”

“I have been going around the country trying to start a discussion between parents and kids about addiction,” James Wahlberg, executive director of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, said.

According to the Surgeon General’s Report in 2015, more than 27 million Americans had a problem with prescription drugs, illegal substances or alcohol. Sadly, only 10 percent of those 27 million are getting the help they need.

“I have been working around the field of addiction for 25 years,” Wahlberg said. “I have been clean and sober for 28 years. It is a subject I am very familiar with and you would have to live in a cave to not realize how many young people are dying. And so, as a person in recovery, and also as a person that is working in the entertainment industry, it just seemed to make sense to bring those two things together.”

People all over the country have been taking time out of their days to raise awareness about an important cause: addition. Hopes for the future are high in that if we work together to raise awareness, the outcome of hosting these events and programs will be successful.

“I am hoping that we can contribute to our culture, our young people, thinking a different way about. The truth of the matter is that at a certain point, it will change, ” Wahlberg said. “But, I guess the decision that we have to make is will it change and get better faster, or will it just take a lot longer and a lot more lives before it change?”

Written by: Jaclyn Labes