Drug addiction is something many think only happens to societies’ outcasts who grew up in dysfunctional families. I disprove this claim considering I have seen someone in my life destroy their life over drugs. I grew up in a normal middle class family in the suburbs outside Philadelphia. I know firsthand that drug addiction can happen to anyone. A mother wrote an article about her child who died of heroin this year about her experiences with her son. She said, “Heroin does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, short or tall, rich or poor, young or old. Once in your veins, the person who you always loved and cared for becomes a stranger. A beast in his own mind, whose only goal in life is to get the next fix…chasing the very first high that they have felt”(Capone). Heroin has become a huge problem in America, and specifically the area I’m from, Bucks County. From many it starts with prescription drugs and then once those drugs are too hard to find or afford and they move to the cheapest drug they can find, heroin. There have been movements in Bucks County, but I feel we are not doing enough. We must educate parents as well as the kids that this can happen to almost anyone. Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate. As one of the largest problems to face Bucks County is at its peak, the local government needs to find better ways to control, educate, and help the ones already addicted.
Although heroin has been around for quite some time, it really has been prevalent in the past 5 years. The Philly Burbs website created an online forum about heroin. They have videos of families who have been affected by this drug and information on current news about heroin. In one article, they reported that “Heroin and opiate-related accidental drug deaths are also on the rise in Bucks County, from 56 in 2008 to 97 in 2011… In Montgomery County, those numbers have gone from 50 in 2008 to 79 in 2012. Those increases mirror state and national trends. And among those deaths are teens as young as 17”(Hegel). This is a serious and tragic problem we need to fix. Like I said, I have seen drugs take over someone’s life first hand. My brother is currently in rehab for a xanax addiction. Although not the same drug, I saw my brother’s life spiral down right before my eyes. It started with marijuana, which led to trying xanax and ultimately becoming addicted. His mood changed, he was a completely different person. Once a person who was so happy was now searching and stealing money from his own family. The lies were the worst part. One time he walked into my room, stole a hundred dollars, and then lied to my face when I saw him do it. The anger he had was unimaginable. My mom was terrified to be around him. I saw my mom lose herself seeing her child do this to himself. Someone who never cried began to cry everyday. You don’t ever think it’s going to happen to someone you know but when it does it truly changes your outlook on addiction. Addiction is a terrifying disease. Fortunately, we stopped my brother before it got worse, but for others this is not the case. We need to take initiative and stop people before it gets bad.
The first part of my plan is to aim at educating parents. In the article, “Drugs Find Their Way Into Local Schools,” a mother talked about parents who downplay their child’s drug use. She states,
I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve talked to that say, ‘Yeah, my kid smokes a little pot, but he’s a good kid.’ But are you willing to roll the dice?” she said. “It’s easier for (my generation) to have blinders on because we smoked some pot and turned out fine. These kids have upped the ante. These kids today, they’re out of control. (Hegel)
We need to educate families on how prevalent drug use is in our area. Promoting education sessions on drugs and alcohol for parents would be extremely helpful. We need to teach parents the warning signs of drug addiction. Although most parents can tell when something goes wrong with their kid, they don’t want to believe that it has something to do with drugs. In my situation we saw a complete change of attitude in my brother. My parents thought it was a mood disorder that he had. Together they saw 3 different psychiatrists to treat a mood disorder that he simply didn’t have. My parents were un-educated in the warning signs of drug addiction. They knew my brother had been smoking marijuana, but they thought it wasn’t as bad as it was. My mom had found a xanax pill in his room, but he said it was someone else’s. It was not until a psychiatrist blatantly told my mom, “He is giving you all of the signs of drug use. You must kick him out or get him into rehab.” My parents were dumbfounded and shocked not wanting to believe something that was right in front of their own eyes. Accepting the fact that your kid has a drug addiction is inconceivably scary. Therefore, we must educate parents before it happens and be proactive.
The next step in helping prevent the spread of heroin is to educate the students in schools. In my high school experience, we learned much more about alcohol use versus drug use. All of the programs online in the Central Bucks area are aimed at dealing with the problem once it already happened. What about being proactive? The Chief of Prosecution in Bucks County, Matthew Weintraub, had a press conference and announced the different things they were planning to do. He said, “The continuous information sharing between agencies and proactive outreach between different departments, such as police departments, 911-call centers, schools anti-drug programs, and hospitals, will increase the number of drug dealer busts and eventually prevent casualties” (Buycuy). He talked about school’s anti-drug programs, but all of the programs I found in my research were aimed at stopping current addicts. I know most schools do require drug education classes, but it is how we teach them that should change. In my high school we were required to take a drug and alcohol class. This class was boring and filled with information I do not even remember. From what I remember most of the things we learned were more about alcohol than drugs. Schools need to bring in past addicts and parents who have been through this. By hearing stories of others it is much more memorable and surreal; it helps put things into perspective. In an article in the Huffington Post, Marsha Rosebaum, the founder of the “Drug Policy Alliance ‘Safety First drug education project,” talked about drug education in schools. She states, “We need reality-based approaches to drug education that foster open, honest dialogue about the potential risks and consequences of drug use. Teens need drug education that respects their intelligence and gives them the tools to stay safe and healthy”(Rosenbaum). Generating conversations about drug use creates a better environment for being honest and open about the topic.
We also need to address the people who are already addicted. Central Bucks School District, the district I attended, took ample efforts to tackle heroin use. Heroin became very popular at Central Bucks High School East and the Principal, Abe Lucabaugh, took action immediately. They created a student referral system where students could report people who they were worried about. Lucabaugh commented on the actions they took: “We felt it was prudent to tackle the problem head-on using aggressive and supportive interventions, instead of minimizing it as if it wasn’t a big deal”(Hegel). This program was very successful for CB East, and after this others schools in the district began to take actions like this. This program was successful because having students refer people will help more. Students have more of an idea of what is going on in the social scene and who has a problem. Kids care about their friends and want the best for them. Creating a friendlier and more comfortable scene for addicts to address their problems will be much more effective.
Educating our youth on drug use could be the key to preventing addiction. In the book Beautiful Boy Sheff describes that we need to set expectations for our kids. We need to teach kids about drugs and their dangers at an early age. By setting expectations before a child’s teenage years about how you feel about drugs kids will know what the consequences are for doing drugs. In the ending of the first chapter Sheff leaves us with the quote, “When my child was born, it was impossible to imagine that he would suffer in the ways that Nic has suffered. Parents want only good things for their children. I was a typical parent who felt that this could not happen to us—not to my son. But though Nic is unique, he is every child. He could be yours”(Sheff). This realization should motivate others to help prevent drug addiction and together we need to look for new ways to stop this from infesting our youth.
Bucuy, Natala. "'IT'S KILLING OUR KIDS' Bucks County District Attorney's Office Launches Full-scale War against Dealers with Heroin-fighting Initiatives - Bucks News - BucksLocalNews.com." Bucks Local News. 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 04 Aug. 2014.
Capone, Candace G. "Rest Michael, My Son." Web log post. Lacey. 19 June 2014. Web. 1 Aug. 2014.
Hegel, Theresa, Danny Adler, and Marion Callahan. "Drugs Find Their Way into Local Schools." Phillyburbs.com. 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 04 Aug. 2014.
Rosenbaum, Marsha. "Marsha Rosenbaum Marsha RosenbaumFounder, Drug Policy Alliance 'Safety First' Drug Education Project GET UPDATES FROM MARSHA ROSENBAUM Like 5 Beyond 'Zero Tolerance': A Pragmatic Approach to Teen Drug Education and School Discipline." Huffington Post. 11 Sept. 2013. Web. 1 Aug. 2014.
Sheff, David. Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Addiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. Print.