To help youth become leaders in their schools and communities, it is important to correct misinformation they might have about opioids and addiction. One such misconception is that if a doctor prescribes a medication, it is safer to use than illicit drugs. Teach them that when used as prescribed by the person the medication is prescribed to, the drug is relatively safe for that person. However, when drugs are shared between peers, used longer than prescribed, or used for different purposes than prescribed, the prescription medication is no longer being used safely.
Above all, youth leaders need to teach their young people that if they see something, they need to say something. While nobody wants to be known as the “snitch,” saying something can save a life. Help the youth in your care learn how to spot the signs of drug abuse in a peer, at parties or at school and give them the tools to speak out and find an adult to intervene. Emphasize that their peer’s life is at risk and while that friend may be upset about an intervention, such as attending a Christian rehab center or support group, ultimately, it could save a life.
In the Field: Youth Leaders Making a Difference
Youth leaders can be one of the most effective tools in combating the opioid crisis. Brian Olar, a youth leader in Ohio, saw the need for youth-based programming to fight drug abuse. He created the New Destiny program to support children with parents addicted to opioids. This faith-based program meets once a week, providing dinner to students, in addition to recreation activities and homework help. The cornerstone of this program is the anger management and counseling program that gives children a safe place to work through their grief and anger.
In Georgia, youth leaders Johnathan and Amanda Taylor, themselves former addicts, run faith-based programs at Teen Challenge. This organization has residential and counseling programs for teens who are using drugs and alcohol to assist in their recovery efforts. Teen Challenge uses a holistic approach that emphasizes a spiritual connection to God.
While these stories are currently the exception, each youth leader can make a difference in the opioid epidemic by supporting children who have parents suffering from addiction and to help youth learn to make positive choices. Using the recreation and spiritual basis for our youth ministries, we as youth leaders can develop programs that inspire our youth to become leaders in their schools and communities in fighting drug abuse and addiction.