Are We Powerless to Fight Drug Addiction in our Communities? NOPE. There’s Hope.

Are We Powerless to Fight Drug Addiction in our Communities? NOPE. There’s Hope.

When it comes to the fight against drug and alcohol abuse, there’s a new sheriff in town. Over the past few decades, DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) were largely responsible for educating citizens, especially young people, about the dangers of drug abuse, alcoholism, and drinking and driving. Don’t get me wrong – these programs made an impression. I can still remember those 90-minute periods in sixth grade when “big kids” from the high school would arrive in our classrooms to instill in us all the reasons we should stay away from drugs and alcohol, and during high school, when the powers that be would stage a fatal car wreck on the front lawn of the school to scare us all into not drinking and driving at the prom. It worked. My friends and I would all grudgingly take our turn as the designated driver in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening to us.

However, today’s youth are different than when I was in school. Back then, drinking started primarily in high school and drugs were not really present. Now, some kids start drinking before they hit puberty and I would need several hands to count the number of recent overdoses of young people from my town of only 20,000 people. Not only is alcoholism and illicit drug use on the rise in the United States, but prescription drug addiction has become the single biggest issue in the area of substance abuse. When it comes to prescription drug addiction, teens are an especially vulnerable population; unfettered access to their parents’ medicine cabinets can quickly turn well-adjusted kids into bona fide junkies.

At last count there were approximately 25,000 fatal drug poisonings or overdoses each year in the U.S., making drug overdose second only to car crashes for the cause of accidental death. It is estimated that every day approximately 2,500 teenagers try prescription drugs for the first time as a way to get high. Sixty percent of teens who currently abuse prescription drugs started the habit before age 15, with the average age at first use of just 12 ½ years old. Sadly, almost half of them will develop a substance addiction later on in life.

Are we doomed? NOPE…there is hope! Narcotic Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) is a task force made up of local law enforcement officials, members of the judiciary, addiction and parenting specialists, and parents and family members who have lost loved ones to substance-related tragedies, including accidental drug overdoses. NOPE currently has chapters all across Florida, and in California and Indiana.

NOPE uses blunt personal presentations to underscore just how deadly drug addiction can be. Members of the task force also work with lawmakers on passing legislation aimed at combating drug abuse. Most important, the group offers teens, young adults, and the people who love them information about how to get help for substance abuse issues.

Like DARE, NOPE uses the educational setting to capture the attention of middle and high school students via high-impact multi-media presentations that pull no punches and illicit intense emotional responses. For college-age kids, NOPE focuses on teaching about the risks associated with mixing some of the most commonly abused drugs in social settings. Presenters offer overdose intervention and overdose prevention strategies and incorporate information about that particular college’s efforts to reduce unlawful alcohol and drug use on campus. NOPE also offers presentations for parents, and others responsible for the welfare of teens, that focus on the blunt truth about today’s substance abuse and overdose issues.

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