Programs all across the United States are popping up to educate to the public about the dangers of opioids. When misused, opiates can lead to dangerous addiction that can easily take over your life, and even end it. Most programs in place are educating high school students, college students and the general public. Many politicians have brought bills to legislature to provide funds for the purpose of educating the public as to the risks of common painkillers. One question that is commonly asked is, "Are we educating our children too late"? Should we be educating our youth about the risks of opiates at a younger age before they are confronted with them? Many experts believe that high school aged teens are confronted with these drugs the most often. Why are we educating our youth while they are at the age when most teens start experimenting? We should be educating our youth about the risks of opiates before they are introduced to them.
With the growing epidemic in South Jersey, Cape May County groups are aiming their sites on children at a younger age. Their goal is to help educate and familiarize them about the dangers of opiates before they come across them. The Cape May PRIDE committee, a coalition of community and school leaders and addictions experts formed in early January to take the problem head-on. PRIDE's goal is to educate the Cape May county children and families about the dangers of opiates. According to Sea Isle City school board president Dan Tumolo, the PRIDE group has targeted their efforts towards 7th grade students. “We’ve got to get these seventh-graders alerted to the dangers of drugs,” he said. “Get seventh-graders before they get pulled into it,” Tumolo said.
The school board has voted to allocate $25,000 both this year and next year to form a committee to educate students and teachers about the dangers of addiction. Surveys have shown that few 7th graders have encountered drugs compared to their older peers, so it is important to educate them before they experience opiates first hand. Peer pressure becomes an issue and according to surveys opiate use is more prevalent after the 7th grade. The committee is also going to be educating teachers on the early-warning signs of drug and opiate abuse. If the teachers are more aware of the signs of drugs use, it can be brought to the attention of family and professionals before it gets out of hand. This type of initiative is exactly what is needed in our schools around the country. Teachers see their students 5 days a week over a long period of time during the year. They are able to see changes in the children that may not be seen by their parents. This program without a doubt will save some children from experimenting with opiates and ultimately save lives.
I hope this committee spends the majority of their time educating their children and teachers about prescription painkillers rather than heroin. Most young students and children know that heroin is dangerous and should be avoided, but many do not realize that prescription painkillers are the gateway to heroin. Education is the number one way to combat drug abuse, and I believe that Cape May is making the right decision.