Substance Abuse Education for Youth
anonymous Asks ...
I am a scout leader working young teenage boys. Several of the parents have approached me and asked me to add a substance abuse prevention component to our curriculum. Drugs and alcohol are issues in our community. I am not sure whether or not I am an appropriate person to do this but I would like to help if I could. Do you know of any programs that would be suitable for my situation. Ideally I’d like something that I could cover in about 15 minutes, once a week, over 20 or 30 weeks. I would be very appreciative of any direction you could provide. R. Miller.
Rev. Christopher Smith Says ...
There are quite a few educational programs out there for helping youth understand about substance abuse and to change/maintain their behavior towards it. Most of these are not provided in the long series of 15 minute sessions that you describe. You may be able to design something by piecing together different resources that are available.
Over a decade ago, the Boy Scouts of America did have some curriculum pieces on substance abuse. This would be dated by now, but I would encourage you to check with your local council to see what might be available. There is a resource called "Drugs: A Deadly Game" aimed at Webelos that states it is targeted for use through high school but I have not used the program so I cannot comment on it. Information about it does reference a National BSA Drug Prevention Task Force. Beyond the formal programs that are available, consider whether it might be possible to ask your senior patrol leader to lead a series of discussions about how the Scout Oath and Law apply to decisions around drug and alcohol use. If you do this, you would want to sit down with him in advance but this should be something he would be able to do with his experience in scouting.
Other resources to consider are ones affiliated with other youth service programs. For instance, the Civil Air Patrol has a lot of resources as part of their Drug Demand Reduction program. Their program is centered not only on providing information and education but also at engaging youth in alternate activities that will keep them away from beginning or continuing to use drugs. Their programs also tie into the military Drug Demand Reduction programs. If you are located near a military base, you might want to reach out to the Drug Demand Reduction staff at the local base - they might even be a resource to do something as an event for you. See, for instance, http://www.army.mil/article/71395/New_York_Counter_Drug_Task_Force_Works_Against_Drugs_in_Schools/, which even features a picture of a New York unit working with a scout.
When you are looking for resources, there are also some good free resources available from SAMHSA. For instance, there are brochures aimed at youth about different classes of drugs. These could be used within your program, perhaps interspersed with other activities, to provide information about the drugs and their effects on people. Other programs have been highlighted by the National Institute of Health at http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/preventing-drug-abuse-among-children-adolescents/chapter-4-examples-research-based-drug-abuse-prevention-progr-0 and these programs might have additional resources for you. If you are close to one of these programs, they may also be willing to include you in some of their ongoing work. You should also look at the local treatment options. If there is a counselor or treatment facility that regularly works with adolescents, they might be very willing to have someone come out to speak to your troop. If you could get a couple of them to do this, this would help relieve you from needing to be the one leading the whole initiative. There are likely to be parts of what you are wanting to do that you would not feel qualified to be the one leading.
Hopefully, this will give you some ideas of how to move forward. You probably want to help the parents understand that substance abuse prevention is not just about directly addressing substance abuse but is also about positive alternative programs such as yours. Then the idea of incorporating other resources to have a focused learning also makes sense.