Lifesaving conversations about drug-free living
by Robert Patterson
The nation’s opioid epidemic is killing 142 people a day in the United States. Young people are exceptionally vulnerable to experimentation with opioids and are more likely to face physical dependence and addiction. In fact, according to a study conducted by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse in 2011, 90 percent of Americans who suffered from addiction started abusing substances before age 18. With this being said, whatever tactic used to evoke a decline in this epidemic must include a strategic, nationwide push that targets youth. Essentially, all young people need to be informed about the harmful effects of prescription opioids and heroin before they are tempted to misuse them in the first place.
Where Operation Prevention Comes In
In September 2016, The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms, launched Operation Prevention. Operation Prevention provides teachers with standards-aligned resources such as digital lesson plans, interdisciplinary activities, and an interactive “The Science of Addiction” e-learning module. DEA also hosted a live Virtual Field Trip that gave classrooms the opportunity to watch the science behind opioid addiction first-hand. Everything is completely free, and is designed to help initiate honest conversations about substance abuse disorder in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Operation Prevention includes Spanish-language resources to amplify its influence. Since its launch, the initiative has reached an estimated one million students.
Recognizing Operation Prevention’s one-year landmark has allowed the DEA and our partners at Discovery Education to reflect upon its outcomes and impressions on the country thus far. While we are proud to have impacted so many young people across the nation, there is still work to be done. Despite Operation Prevention’s launch and the federal and state governments’ enforcement against the over-prescription of opioids in the past year, death tolls have continued to rise. We acknowledge that such a large-scale change cannot be made overnight, but we vow to advance our initiatives uncompromisingly.
A Lasting Impact
Along with all of the previously mentioned Operation Prevention resources that are provided to schools, the program launched a nationwide video challenge which asked teens to create an original 30-60 second Public Service Announcement, for their peers, on the dangers of this epidemic outside of the classroom. The video challenge aimed to encourage teens to research the prescription opioid and heroin crisis, identify its widespread effect on the country, and inspire them to educate their peers on how harmful these substances truly are. Last year’s winning videos were incredibly creative and included insightful, stirring messages to spread awareness about such a critical cause.
Lastly, Operation Prevention offers a parent toolkit to help parents begin these life-saving conversations with their children. It also offers information on the warning signs of substance abuse disorder and a pragmatic guide on in-home prevention and intervention. Parents are vital to this effort and they should get the facts about drug abuse, generally, and prescription opioid misuse, in particular.
Though enforcement efforts are crucial, we are not going to prosecute our way out of this epidemic. We must also attack it from the demand side. With this approach, we can reach a wide range of Americans that are suffering the impacts of this epidemic, and we can enlist families, teachers, and community leaders to help prevent folks from getting addicted in the first place.
Community members in Huntington, WV, Charlotte, Santa Rosa, FL, Nashville, and Los Angeles, have a special opportunity to get involved in their local prescription opioid and heroin epidemic efforts. These cities are hosting drug-free living forums and providing key organizations with the opportunity to connect with Operation Prevention work that is already underway. Along with the population in these cities, I implore everyone everywhere to continue these discussions, take a stand against substance abuse disorder, and push your community leaders to do the same.
About Discovery Education
Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content for K-12, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content, professional development, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Serving 4.5 million educators and over 50 million students, Discovery Education’s services are in half of U.S. classrooms, 50 percent of all primary schools in the UK, and more than 50 countries.
Discovery Education partners with districts, states, and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that increase academic achievement. Discovery Education is powered by Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the number one nonfiction media company in the world. Stay connected with Discovery Education on social media through Facebook, follow us on Twitter at @DiscoveryEd, or find us on Instagram and Pinterest. Explore the future of education at www.discoveryeducation.com.