Area Schools Partner with Nonprofit to Prevent Substance Abuse
Schools in several East Texas counties have been partnering with the for a new way to prevent substance abuse.
“Prevention used to mean telling students to ‘Just say no,’” said Rebecca Smith, who runs the coalition for the nonprofit that funds it, Next Step Community Solutions. “But researchers realized that’s not really effective, because there are so many different reasons that youth use drugs and alcohol in the first place. Some are coping with stress or trying to deal with negative emotions. Some have never been told why they should say no.”
Instead of focusing only on student education once a year, Next Step and the schools it partners with have developed a multi-layered approach.
“Our student campaign is called ‘I’m Worth More,’ which emphasizes to students why drugs and alcohol get in the way of the goals that they have for their futures, and that they are worth more than the risks that come with a temporary high,” Smith said. “Our parent education campaign is called ‘Not In My House.’ We partner with the schools to send parents information and hold seminars where they can learn why and how to talk to their kids about alcohol, and sign a pledge not to provide alcohol to minors. Studies show that parents who voice their disapproval are the No. 1 influence on their teen’s choice not to drink. Unfortunately, many parents don’t understand why underage drinking is a big deal. We still have a lot of myths to debunk.”
One myth about underage drinking is that if parents supervise, they can teach their teenagers to drink responsibly. A 2015 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs showed the opposite.
“Our findings that early sipping is associated with elevated odds of risky behaviors at high school entry dispute the idea of sipping as a protective factor,” the report reads. “Offering even just a sip of alcohol may undermine messages about the unacceptability of alcohol consumption for youth.”
The Center for Disease Control predicts that substance use and mental health disorders will be the No. 1 cause of disability by 2020.
“There are so many risks that, because they are things that could happen in the future instead of here-and-now, teens don’t think about them,” Smith said. “Teens who drink are six times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who wait until their 21. Drinking underage impairs their brain development. Teens who drink are more susceptible to physical and sexual assault, STDs, teen pregnancy and death from alcohol poisoning. And more high school seniors report binge drinking in East Texas than the state average.”
Next Step Community Solutions’ three substance abuse prevention coalitions cover a 13-county area, and their funding from the Department of State Health Services means they are able to partner with even more schools. If you are a parent or a school administrator and you are interested in your school partnering with one of the coalitions at Next Step, call 903-939-9010.
Daingerfield High School was one of the first in the area to partner with the coalition, and administrators and staff have been pleased with the results.
“As a principal, our students are our highest priority, and I understand that experimentation with drugs or alcohol can rob them of reaching their full potential,” Daingerfield High School principal Ryan Carroll said in a written release. “I would recommend any school district or organization to partner with the Northeast Texas Coalition Against Substance Abuse.”