My last post aimed to convey that, when it comes substance misuse, there is no such thing as too much awareness. Of course, awareness means different things to different people at different times–and at different potential stages of substance misuse. I will touch upon just two today and will discuss more about awareness next time.
- 1. We have seen instrumental government leaders, more and more, begin to recognize substance misuse and the reality of addiction as a disease. In New Jersey there are several champions of substance abuse awareness, including State Senators Raymond Lesniak and Joseph Vitale. In Vermont, Governor Peter Shumlin has taken a lead in prevention, treatment, and recovery support. Groundbreaking legislation and programs have been introduced and supported to help to address the epidemic, in general, and recovery specifically. Just a few weeks ago, Carly Fiorina, 2016 Presidential candidate, stood on the stage of the Republican Presidential debate which was broadcast globally by CNN and reminded the world that she and her husband had lost a daughter to substance abuse and that much needs to be done to address the causes and the outcomes of the epidemic and the disease.
My point is that we need more local, state, and national leaders to recognize and make this a part of their platforms and policies. We need real community programs that are based in science to be provided to the people who need them most. Everyone needs to continue to talk with our leaders, to get them involved, to get them to support programs fully, not half-heartedly. This is their problem because it is everyone’s problem. This is awareness.
- Why do our schools require examinations by physicians, particularly for students who sign up to participate in sports and other physical activities? They want to make certain that each student is physically fit and in good health to able to stand the rigors and the demands of the activity. And yet, are the same students tested for the use of substances? In many cases, they are not. Recognizing that this question leads to controversial discussions about privacy and trust, one might nonetheless look at substance/drug testing as at least as important as the other aspects of a physical exam. There are more adolescent overdoses and deaths each year in our nation than there are from injuries and physical problems that occur in school sports and similar activities.
Why not test? I would suggest that if testing was mandatory and done entirely in confidence, without the threat of punishment, children’s lives would be saved. Substance abuse will be caught sooner in many cases, and perhaps before too many negative consequences have already occurred. To me, the argument that an undue stigma might be left with the child is wrong thinking. If it is private and confidential, then that fear should not exist. Moreover, I would take that risk any day in comparison to the possibility of the ultimate stigma–death. I wish that someone had tested my son, who played middle and high school team sports. Maybe with a testing practice, his substance abuse and his impending addiction could have been discovered much sooner or even avoided and his opportunity for sustainable recovery much greater. Ask me if I would rather deal with a small possibility of stigma than his death.
Is testing awareness? You bet it is.
One of my intentions here is to start a conversation. Some may think these ideas are controversial. Sometimes it takes a bold statement to encourage a community to start talking. And this is a conversation we in our community and throughout our nation can no longer wait to have. The opinions and positions expressed in this blog are my own. They do represent the views of the CHRIS COPPOLA CDUB Foundation. They do not reflect upon Prevention Links in any way.
More to come,
Prevention Links and CHRIS COPPOLA CDUB Foundation