Remember the days when the message being sent to Americans about substance use was “Just Say No”? In 1980, marshaled by former First Lady Nancy Reagan, this campaign was targeted at children to promote resistance skills to peer pressure. Although these motives were virtuous at heart, they did little to help the over-arching problem of drug and alcohol abuse.
Fast-forward to the 1990’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) program, where thousands of school children sang the D.A.R.E jingle with mascot Daren the Lion in school assemblies across the country. These efforts at substance abuse prevention were informative at best but regarded today as catch phrases used ironically in today’s society. The main concern with these and many other prevention programs is that they ignore addiction as a disease which many times are accompanied with underlying mental health issues.
Adolescents need to know the facts of substance use and abuse. They need to know how substances effect the developing adolescent brain, what causes cravings, what the psychological/physiological effects are, why people self-medicate, what withdrawal is, and the negative consequences that can develop during substance abuse. Fear is rarely a motivator for change. If someone decides to use, the narrative of drug education needs to evolve from shame based fear tactics which highlight the many consequences of substance use to positive reinforcement of healthy coping skills needed to handle new emotions. Empowering our communities through education offers an opportunity for growth and an open line of communication between teens and adults. Awareness of addiction as a disease rather than a moral failing helps reduce the ugly stigma alive in the world today.
We, as parents, teachers, coaches, officers, elected officials, are equipped with vast knowledge of how to raise, educate and lead our youth. There is a plethora of knowledge about work ethic, social awareness and, technical skills taught to children today to become “successful”. At times, mental/emotional health and substance abuse education can fall by the wayside; or become taboo subjects we’re afraid to talk about, so the conversations are neatly evaded to avoid our own discomfort. Let’s focus the purpose on educating ourselves about common signs and symptoms of substance abuse and provide a guideline on how to help children, their friends or themselves.
At ARCH Academy, we provide substance abuse prevention programming to students, faculty and parents that cover these important topics. We teach people how to recognize issues with drugs and alcohol abuse and how to seek help or find help for someone who is struggling. ARCH Academy has provided this service to many public and private high schools, symposiums and, professional gatherings. Reaching just one person in the audience can end up touching the lives of countless others. Just ask this student who attended a presentation last year:
“I am a student at […], where you just made a presentation about the facts of certain drugs and alcohol usage. I just wanted to thank you for what you did for our school and for others who struggle. I struggled with substances for a period of time before I came to [high school]. My father currently has a problematic relationship with alcohol and opioids, and my stepmother is an ex heroin addict. I know that our school is very appreciative of the knowledge you provided all of us today, and I wanted to share my appreciation as well.” – Jackson R.
And, this school counselor who attended one of our staff presentations:
“The faculty loved the presentation and are eager for the students to hear the message for them. Great job!” – Janet K.
If you know anyone struggling with substance abuse don’t hesitate to call and talk to one of our admissions specialists waiting to offer hope and healing to the teens and families who are struggling with addiction. Call us now at 844-ARCHORG or visit our website at www.arch.org