Thursday, April 8, 2010

Prevention: The Ultimate Anti-Drug

Image credit: Montana Meth Project

In 1998, I was a junior in high school and had never heard of heroin. However, heroin use was on the rise in the Philadelphia-Delaware area, even among high school students. Many tried heroin because they did not know about the drug or fell for common myths like smoking heroin would not lead to addiction. But the problem is that smoking heroin does cause addiction, and it is a difficult drug to make a full recovery from because the addiction alters brain chemistry and addicts are prone to chronic relapsing.

Misinformation put many in danger. The resurgence in the Philadephia-Delaware area prompted a Senate hearing to address the issue. Dr. Alan Leshner, who was at that time the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “The misperceptions about the addictive properties of heroin, may account for why in 1997, an estimated 81,000 persons used heroin for the first time” in the United States.

In Delaware, the number of hospital admissions for heroin-related treatments increased 67% from 1995 to 2000, with 70% of admissions in 1999 being ages 18 to 35. The high purity of heroin in the area added to the danger of the epidemic. The national average was 38.2%, but in New Castle County Delaware the drug was between 80 and 90% pure.

The police presented a drug awareness program at my high school in 1998 called the Heroin Alert Program. They played a slide show that flashed statistics and gruesome photos of the physical effects of heroin use. They even played a recorded 9-1-1 call a parent placed when her teenage son had overdosed. The graphic presentation portrayed the drug for what it really was… unglamorous and a destructive force in the life of the addict and their family and friends.

Methamphetamine (or meth) abuse, another severely addictive drug, has been rising and is seen as the top drug problem in America. Meth abuse started in Hawaii and western parts of the U.S., but is spreading eastward. Between 1992 and 2004, methamphetamine/amphetamine treatment admissions rose from more than 1% to 8% of all treatment admissions.

One state that is experiencing a heavy burden from Meth is Montana, which had a 108% increase in hospital admissions for methamphetamine/ amphetamine treatment between 1995 and 2005 . In response to Montana’s meth problem, Thomas M. Siebel founded the Montana Meth Project, which is a research-based messaging campaign to combat abuse through prevention. The project uses “research-validated, high-impact advertising that graphically communicates the risks of meth use.”

The project began a large-scale, statewide campaign in fall 2005 running ads on TV, in newspapers and on the internet. By 2007, there was a 44.6% decline in teen meth use, which was greater than any other 2 year period since 1999. The project's great success has led to expansion of the campaign to many other states, which will hopefully also see reductions meth abuse.

Prevention is the best way to fight drug abuse, and the Montana Meth Project demonstrates that an effective way to prevent first-time drug use is with a healthy, graphic dose of reality.

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  1. Hello! I just found this site today and am very much interested.
    Back in my country, they showed us a gruesome film on these prohibited drugs as early as first grade level. From then on every health education subject every grade level emphasized the evils of using prohibited drugs, even alcohols or tobacco.
    At middle to high school, I have been so rooted on this information and no matter what influence I came across with wherever I live just could not get to me.
    I did not even try to learn to smoke or drink alcohol or even gamble because we were taught their evils from the first grade.
    I am now almost 50 years, still looking young according to other people and am happy to have not used them. I have a fiancee who does not smoke, drink alcohol and does not do drugs also nor gamble with an athletic built. Although he is younger than me, I chose him to set an example to my son to maintain a healthy lifestyle. My parents also did not smoke, drink alcohol or did any prohibitive drugs. We were a family of swimmers and even taught as a family basic learn to swim and competitive styles.
    I believe preventive is effective if we start people at very young learning age and strive to be an example ourselves.
    As a child, the advantage was that I had this learning consistently in school and at home.
    I had a chance also to reinforce my lifestyle when I started taking care of psych alcoholic, drug users, emphysema patients in the hospital.
    I was also taught when I was a child not to rush being an adult. After all it is true that when we do really become adults, we wanted just the reverse. I think this is the reason why a lot of young people explore prohibitive stuffs thinking that it is cool to experience even the wrong stuff as soon as they can.
    I would love to join researches on preventives but I think a wholistic approach is an effective means.
    Thank you for this site.

  2. You're welcome! We're glad you're here and reading.