LOCAL DRUG and alcohol abuse prevention programs are making a difference for school children, one life at a time.
Thanks to a coalition of agencies and prevention efforts, local use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes by young people is generally lower than national figures. Prevention educators are buoyed by their successes, but want to do more.
Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that nearly half of U.S. high school students are using addictive substances. The study indicates 36.8 percent of high school students have used marijuana in the past 12 months. A similar study in Adams County indicates that 35 percent of 12th graders and 23 percent of 10th graders confirmed similar use.
Alcohol use was nearly twice as high, with 72.5 percent of high school students nationwide consuming alcohol within the past year. Among local 12th graders, the figure was 69 percent and for 10th graders it was 54 percent.
There was an even larger difference in cigarette use. National figures show 46.3 percent of all high school students have smoked in the past 12 months. In Adams County, 30 percent of 12th graders and 19 percent of 10th graders said they had smoked.
The Adams County Substance Abuse Coalition, the Adams County Health Department, Recovery Resources and other groups have worked together in the "Too Good for Drugs" campaign. Educators counter peer pressure by reminding students that a majority of them are not using drugs or alcohol.
"We're changing perceptions," said Alaina Tippey of the Health Department.
Other substance prevention programs offered through the schools include DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), Operation Snowball and Operation Snowflake. Educators say it is important that programs focus on different age groups because national statistics indicate younger students are starting to drink, smoke or use drugs.
"We have to start tackling the education portion at younger ages," said Pam Foster of Recovery Resources.
Prevention educators say the involvement of parents is vital. Parents who talk with their children, talk with other parents and educate themselves about what is happening in the community have a greater effect than anyone else in a child's life. A parent's silence, on the other hand, leaves a child more susceptible to peer pressure and temptation.
Educators and parents who make prevention a priority can change lives or save lives.