Using Communication to Reduce Drug Use

January 20, 2014

Drugs are not just in dangerous parts of the world or the U.S., but also in small, suburban areas where many residents may assume drugs could never infiltrate. For example, The Eagle-Tribune, a Massachusetts news source, recently reported that there is a heroin problem in the tourist-attraction city of Newburyport, and that the city’s police department has made a series of high-profile heroin arrests. In response to this issue, a panel of community leaders recently met to discuss the best way to tackle heroin use in the town.

According to the news source, Newburyport mayor Donna Holaday, city marshal Thomas Howard, Essex County district attorney Jonathan Blodgett, Essex County sheriff Frank Cousins Jr. and others met with about 50 city residents to explain to them that it would take a willingness from the entire community to discuss this issue openly and help fight it in order to tackle it head-on.

Bigger than prison

Blodgett explained that the city cannot simply arrest its way out of this problem. Putting everyone with a drug problem in jail will not solve the issue, since already about 90 percent of those in the Essex County House of Corrections has a drug- or alcohol-related problem. Furthermore, an estimated 70 percent of those in jail committed a drug- or alcohol-related crime. Others on the panel explained that this points out the need for more addiction treatment centers in the area to help people address their drug problem before it is too late.

Howard stated that Newburyport has seen an increase in hepatitis C cases related to shared needle use. This is why he urged any residents who find a needle in a public space to contact county officials who can dispose of it properly. Furthermore, he called upon parents to keep their prescription medications out of the hands of children and teens, which is a good way to reduce the chances of them developing a drug problem early in life.

Blodgett stressed that the key to success is for people to be open and talk about the dangers of drug abuse often. “We haven’t kept that conversation going, so every half-generation of kids knows it’s just not acceptable. And it’s got to be the fifth grade. Because that’s when they’re socially aware and that’s when they start making decisions and that’s when you have to make them understand that it’s just not a decision that they can make. I tell them this when I speak to them in schools. I say, ‘You start doing heroin or drugs like that, there are two things that are going to happen – you’re going to go to jail or you’re going to die,'” Blodgett told the Eagle-Tribune.

Talking about drugs

It is not always easy for parents to talk to their kids about drug abuse. However, it is an important conversation for all parents to have with their children before they discover that they have already developed a problem with drugs.

Some parents may be wondering if their teen has an increased risk of getting hooked on drugs. According to the National Anti-Drug Strategy of Canada, teens who seem to have low self-esteem, learning difficulties or hostile and aggressive behavior tendencies may be at a higher risk of abusing drugs than others. Parents who notice these factors in their children and have yet to bring up the dangers of drugs to them should consider doing so immediately. While it may be an uncomfortable conversation to have now, it will be much better than the one parents will have to have with their teens once they have already developed a drug problem.

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