Introduction to CT
Connecticut – there isn’t really a reason to visit us. We have coastal views and warm, breezy summers, but we aren’t particularly exciting to come to. CT, like many other US states, is made up of some of the wealthiest counties in the country (Greenwich, Darien, Westport), suburbia, and poor neighborhoods which are largely ignored. The opioid crisis seems to have affected every one of them. I live in a sheltered, affluent neighborhood, and I go to a private school. The only reminder I get of the severe drug addiction in Connecticut are the semi-regular drug talks we have every year, which no one seems to pay attention to or take seriously.
This got me thinking. What could be done to the approach that schools use to teach about opioids and other harmful drugs? Inadequate or effective education is a major factor responsible for the level of opioid addiction in CT, which is in the top ten states for the highest rate of opioid addiction, overdoses, and deaths. If we are not effectively educating young people about the dangers of opioids and other drugs, this issue will only be more ingrained in our community.
What Sparked My Interest
Recently my school hosted Chris Herren, a former NBA player and drug addict, come to my school to speak to us about his drug addiction. Instead of focusing on himself and his story or the facts of drug addiction, like the other drug talks that my school has, he spoke about recognizing the “first days” of drug addiction as opposed to the last days. He had us all reflect on our friends and ourselves.
Something strange happened when we left our performing arts center- everyone was completely silent. Our exit from the theater is always rowdy and loud, so the fact that everyone was completely silent after leaving assembly that day impacted us in a way that simply doesn’t happen after a drug presentation at my school.
Current Policies (or lack thereof)
What Connecticut Is Doing: There are policies in CT for public school education that outline the what each school should be doing in regards to health in the classroom. Connecticut follows the Coordinated School Health plan, which was introduced by the Center for Disease Control to suggest a substantive health education and wellness program for state public schools to follow. This program lays out that every school should have methods in place to “improve the health of a child” by giving them “health education, community involvement, family engagement, physical environment, health services”
What Connecticut Is Not Doing: While CT does comply with, at least the bare minimum of the CSH, Connecticut does not comply with the new and updated WSCC (Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child) approach. This includes 10 important initiatives for schools to follow; health education; physical education and physical activity; nutrition environment and services; health services; counseling, psychological, and social services; social and emotional climate; physical environment; employee wellness; family engagement; and community involvement.”
Significance: It is unacceptable for CT schools to only do the bare minimum, especially when the state has such high and scary rates of opioid addiction. It is, however, important to note that while it is possible for schools to go above and beyond these requirements, it is not likely that they are financially able to. From 2016-2018, Connecticut’s education budget has lost 119 million dollars of state funding. Drug programs are, unfortunately, some of the first to go.
A New Approach
Brief History of US Drug Education: Drug education in the 1960s and 70s should look different than it does today. There was a heavy reliance on fear and consequences and less of an emphasis on the actual facts of drug abuse and addiction. Nowadays, effective drug education is considered to be a mix of factual presentations, resistance skills, and other more holistic approaches.
Possible Change: I believe that drug education cannot be all factual, fear based, or just about scary stories. Instead, it must consider resistance techniques related to fighting social norms (think “Just Say No”), and education on components like decision making, problem, solving, and dealing with stress, anxiety or depression. These techniques can be incorporated in to many health programs already in existence, and can also include important factual information. This program should aim to engage students and encourage them to participate and have a role in their own drug education.Create your own user feedback survey
"Coordinated School Health." CATCH, catchinfo.org/coordinated-school-health/.
"Health Policies." National Association of State Boards of Education, statepolicies.nasbe.org/health.
Kara, Jake, and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas. "Do State Budget Cuts Impact School Staffing Levels? See Staffing & Funding Levels for Your Town Here." The CT Mirror, 1 Nov. 2018, ctmirror.org/2018/11/01/state-budget-cuts-impact-school-staffing-levels-see-staffing-funding-levels-town/. Accessed 13 Apr. 2019.
MdFord, Richard. "Does Drug Education Work?" 2000 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs, 29 May 2009. PubMed Central, DOI:10.1080/713659427. Accessed 13 Apr. 2019. Abstract.
Warren, Fran. 'What Works' in Drug Education and Prevention? Scottish Government Riaghaltas, 2016, www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/research-and-analysis/2016/12/works-drug-education-prevention/documents/00511169-pdf/00511169-pdf/govscot%3Adocument. Accessed 13 Apr. 2019.