Our View: Education is key to prevention

In 2016, more than 64,000 Americans died of drug overdose, and many people struggling with addiction can trace their issues back to their teenage years. That was the focus of the first installment of an education series that launched last week.

The first sessions was aimed at helping parents and others in the community prevent addiction, by focusing on dangers, risky behaviors and other aspects of addiction among teens.

The “Dangers in Plain Sight” series is a collaboration of the Clark County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy and BCTC to educate and bring awareness to important issues in the Clark County community.

These sessions are one of many efforts in the community dedicated to ending the drug epidemic.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Robert Purdy gave the presentation Thursday.

Purdy said drugs have significantly changed over the past decade. In turn, the deaths by drug overdose have increased.

Purdy said there’s a similar pattern among addicts. It builds gradually, likely from a young age, perhaps, with alcohol to marijuana to pain medication to heroin and so on. And every step in a person’s life dramatically affects the next.

As he noted, a decision made as a teenager can have drastic and negative effects on someone’s life. Often, teenagers do not grasp the severity and long-lasting effects of their decisions.

That is why it is up to parents and other trusted adults to help young people understand how important it is to avoid drug use.

In order to do that, these adults need to have a better understanding of what young people are facing today. What drugs are available to them? How are they getting drugs? What are the drugs called on the streets? How are the drugs disguised? What are the effects of these drugs? What are the signs of drug use among teens? And more.

Purdy warned that drugs trends have changed — marijuana is more potent, the methods of using and administering are different and easily disguised as every day items, even common household chemicals — like cough syrup — can be used to get high.

These sessions will be a valuable tool to help adults have more effective conversations with the teenagers in their lives.

The next two sessions will be “Dangers of Social Media” on Nov. 8 and “Bullying/School Violence” on Jan. 14. All sessions begin with a free dinner at 5:15 p.m. with the course starting at 6:15 p.m.

Learning how to prevent addiction will be one of the strongest tools to fight the drug problem in our community and our country. It is easier to prevent drug use than to help someone stop using drugs.

Unfortunately, thousands of people are lost each year to this epidemic.

And, as Purdy said,  “every single one of those people that died is someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, family member, or best friend. And this world isn’t going to be the same without them.”

We encourage the community, especially parents or people who work with young people, to attend these sessions to prevent more tragic deaths and ensure a brighter future for Clark County’s young people.