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2017-10-11 / News

ADAC Works With Area Schools

Drugs Don’t Discriminate
By Rosie Cunningham

DELAWARE COUNTY - Often times, parents don’t think it could be their children but in fact, drugs don’t discriminate and the opioid crisis could be lurking within the walls of your own home

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Delaware County (ADAC), an agency located in Delhi, goes school-to-school with the specific goal of prevention and has discussion with children in students on the topic of drug use.

“We hold presentations and lead discussion in regards to drugs, said ADAC Assistant Director Justin Hamm. “I don’t have the exact specifics but I do know in the county, the use of opioids is high on the drug of choice list.”

ADAC’s team doesn’t necessarily work with fully involved addicts - the Drug and Alcohol Center in Hamden handles that aspect of drug use. ADAC focuses on education and prevention.

“One of the things we do is a program called Too Good for Drugs,” he said. “We do it in almost every school district in Delaware County. We talk about the reasons people use. When we talk to the little ones we try to keep it light - what good medicine is versus bad medicine. The older the child or student, the more in-depth about what can happen and we delve into specific drugs.”

By now, most people are aware of the enormity of the opioid epidemic. In 2015, over 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses – more from opioid pain relievers than heroin (U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency).

Just because someone experiments with opioids doesn’t mean that he or she will become addicted. However, there’s risk with any opioid use, even when it’s medically warranted. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies opioids as a Schedule II drug, a substance with medically accepted use but with a high potential for abuse.

In 2013, one in eight U.S. high school seniors reported using opioids for nonmedical reasons.

Many parents and guardians don’t think their child is at risk for misusing opioids. While that may be true, consider this: In 2013, one in eight U.S. high school seniors reported using opioids for nonmedical reasons. In 2015, 122,000 teens under 17 and 427,000 adolescents between 18 and 25 had a pain reliever use disorder, meaning that they had a problem with the drug.

“We talk to high school kids about what could happen if drugs are used and a lot about choices,” said Hamm. “Once choices are made and the individual becomes addicted, it is no longer a choice, it’s an illness. This is a controversial topic, but it’s what we believe.”

When asked, the assistant director said he believes the students understand the issue. Is ADAC is making a true impact? Hamm hesitated. “After all, kids are kids and they seem to feel invincible and that it (the addiction) could never happen to them. Some of them get it, but many don’t understand the severity,” he said.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, preteen and puberty years are the most susceptible years for children to use drugs. Hamm said in discussing the topic, ADAC emphasizes goals and in what ways using can get in the way.

“We also talk about who is okay to give you prescription drugs: mom, dad and doctors,” said Hamm. “But, there is a stigma about prescriptions you get from the doctor. They can easily be abused and used incorrectly and this is a huge problem. Every choice should be made clearly and thoughtfully.”

Hamm said in regards to the conversation with children and substance abuse, he believes leeway is being made because the dialogue regarding the subject is open.

“We are asking the right questions better now,” he said. “One of the things we use is a YRBS Survey (Youth Risk Behavioral Survey),” he said. “It allows kids to ask questions anonymously. This platform gives these kids the opportunity to give more honest answers.”

Hamm said biology and environmental factors are the highest when it comes to individuals forming an addiction.

He discussed what other programs ADAC brings to the table in local schools.

“One of the big things is program Teen Intervene - if an athlete breaks the code of conduct, we meet with said student before they can be reinstated back on a team. We determine if it was an isolated bad choice or a problem. If it is a problem, we refer them to our ‘partner’ office in Hamden. We’ve had kids break their athletic contract and before reinstatement, they must meet with us.”

ADAC works with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) on an Impaired Driving Program. ADAC also provide conferences and presentations. More and more, a school will contact the agency and discuss a problem taking place and ADAC will tailor the presentation to that school’s need.

Hamm said it is imperative for parents to have open and honest discussions with their children.

“Ask without judgement if you want them to be honest with you,” he said. “If kids give answers you don’t like, don’t freak out and have a conversation from there.”

For more information regarding ADAC or to see what the agency has to offer, visit www.adaconline.org or call 607-746-8300.

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