Assuming Too Much in Drug Epidemic

 

We assume that youth are confident they will remain drug-free after making a promise to do so…

Whether the promise was personal or made in a public setting via an activity, youth in middle school are ready to make this commitment. But, just ask them if they think keeping that promise  could be difficult. See how many hands go up.  Middle school students know too many older youth who were saying all the right things at their age and later chose the path to drugs or alcohol.  It must be frightening for pre-teens to wonder what mysterious circumstance awaits that could change their mind and cost them everything.

We assume parents already know the risks…

After almost 14 years of presenting Reality Tour to an audience of parents with their children, each exit survey reveals the information is new to parents. Parents linger after the program to express their surprise at the wide array of drugs and the young age of youth experimenting.  They always ask the same thing, “Why aren’t we being told about this?” Parents are our most powerful prevention tool…but not until they know what they are talking about.

We assume all schools want parents to be informed…

While that is true in many cases and we are fortunate to partner with progressive proactive school districts, schools often feel they have a ‘reputation’ to consider. If schools are adamantly promoting drug prevention some feel it is the same as admitting their district has a drug problem.  I recall in the early years of Reality Tour – a phone call from a prominent realtor suggesting that I stop the program because making such a fuss about drug prevention and talking about overdoses will mean no one will want to move here.  I have seen a school superindentdent swear ‘our school doesn’t have a drug problem – amplified by the fact he had just seen girls playing high school soccer and “They couldn’t race around on the field with such energy if they were on drugs”. That was his proof for 3,000 students in the midst of a local drug epidemic.

We assume evidence-based mean a program is effective….

Evidence-based proof is what prevention dollars require at the federal and state level.  These heavily researched programs have all the numbers to prove on paper they work. (Torture the numbers long enough and they will tell you anything.)  Problem is almost none of these programs are universal – meaning they won’t educate the general public – the masses.  Almost none include parents.  Almost all are designed for small contained groups because it is easier to collect data and maintain a loyalty to the facilitator – thereby improving an inflated positive longitudinal response. That is why one 30 year old program, that doesn’t talk about drugs, can corner the state’s family drug prevention dollars yet only reach 15 families in 12 Pennsylvania locations AND brag about it.  Our numbers of youth addicted are going up while the data swears they ‘should be’ going down.  Before dedicating tax dollors, we need the research yes but also need to start asking, “How many people will this program reach?”

We assume we’re all in this together…

Some still think the person who overdoses and even dies ‘got what they deserve’. This view is not expressed outright as much as in years past, but I have had people in power express exactly that lack of caring and compassion. Pair that  with the disregard for the welfare of the public at large by not providing accessible family-based prevention education in the face of an epidemic and it is no wonder we are stuck in a quicksand of inertia. A blind eye has been turned to the need for prevention that could have addressed and averted the exponential rebound we will soon experience after losing a generation to drugs and alcohol. For a grand finale,  add the strong-arm tactics of PA’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to try to squash the state’s most popular grassroots parent/child prevention effort (Reality Tour) that has educated over 50,000 PA residents.

Advertisements