Voices of the Community — No child says I want to grow up to be a drug addict

No one aspires to have an addiction. Very few probably thought that they would ever become an ‘addict.’ No one openly expresses their exuberance for their loved one’s addiction. Addicts are not bad people. However, the sad truth is that the term “addict” is fast becoming a common nomenclature in our society. And quite frankly, that should scare people a little.

Drug use is not new. Experimentation is not new. Addiction is not new. But the rate at which people are becoming addicted is jettisoning up to unheard of proportions. Not to mention that younger and younger individuals are engaging in risky behaviors that is leading them into addiction at a faster rate. Many are dying at younger ages and more often. And the coup de grace of this whole sad situation happens to be that access to many common street drugs (including heroin) has become easier to get, cheaper to buy and faster to get the person high.

Yes, it’s harder to get prescription drugs. No, you can’t easily refill scripts. But yes, there are alternatives.

No age group is immune from the effects of illicit drug use. Kids, no matter what the age, are not always equipped to deal with the risks of engaging in drug use, seeing friends or family engage in use, or least of all, dealing with the repercussions of someone’s illicit drug use or addiction.

At least, not without the proper tools.

Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery counties youth services offer classroom-based, evidence-based prevention programs to our local schools. These programs are meant to help children recognize risk factors that may lead them into negative behaviors such as drug, alcohol and tobacco use. However, we teach students protective factors such as self-efficacy, self-esteem, assertiveness, refusal skills, stress management, problem-solving, and other skills that will help them avoid those dangerous situations, delay first use or onset of substance use/abuse.

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS) defines prevention as “a pro-active, research-based, data-driven process utilizing proven-effective strategies and programs to reduce or prevent alcohol and other drug abuse in individuals, families, and communities.” Catholic Charities is funded through the department of OASAS and utilizes these Evidence Based Curriculums to students from grades K through 12th grade.

It’s important for us, as a society; to do all we can to prevent the initiation of substance use among youth. Therefore helping to hold off another person’s addiction as best as we can should be a main priority. We know that kids who use substances are not able to do well in school. We also know that youth who engage in substance use will struggle in other aspects of their lives, causing many potential untold issues. Together we must work to take a more proactive approach to preventing future addiction rather than a reactive approach.

Wouldn’t you want to do absolutely everything you could do to protect your child from future risk, harm, and addiction? Do you know if your schools are receiving services from Catholic Charities Youth Service Program? Why not call us and talk to us about how we can work together?

For more information about services Catholic Charities can provide call it at 762.8313 or visit its webpage at www.catholiccharitiesfmc.org or find it online at Facebook: @catholiccharitiesfmc. Denise Benton is program director of youth services