"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Drug education needs to start early

By LAURA MILLIKEN and NICK WILLARD 
For the MonitorSunday, July 09, 2017 

New Hampshire had one of the highest rates of opioid-related fatalities in the country last year. Communities across the state are reporting that there is a surge in grandparents raising their grandchildren because of both the chaos and tragedy the crisis has had on families. 

Most New Hampshire citizens know at least one person affected by the opioid crisis, and so there is emerging public support for prevention. Unfortunately, most discussions about prevention look at intervening in middle school at the earliest. While prevention in middle school is important, we have to set our focus much earlier in children’s developmental trajectories if we are to effectively prevent the kind of crises we are now experiencing. 

Science tells us that brains are built over time, and from the bottom up, with simple circuits and skills providing the scaffolding for more advanced circuits and skills that develop later. Early experiences literally shape the architecture of the developing brain, and skill begets skill. We also know that experiences such as abuse, neglect and exposure to violence can cause toxic stress responses in the brain, with lifelong consequences in health, learning and behavior. The active ingredient in healthy brain development, and the very thing that protects against toxic stress, is children’s engagement in relationships with their parents and other caregivers in their family or community.

 That is why effective early childhood programs and services can protect against a range of problems later in life – including substance misuse. In addition to buffering toxic stress, early childhood programs also help to link children to the services they and their families need. 

Intervening early can shape developmental trajectories by piling on protective factors and minimizing risk factors – even for children most at risk. Programs like evidence based home visiting, and high-quality child care, preschool and Head Start can help promote the development of cognitive and social skills which are protective factors against later substance use. These programs teach children to manage their own emotions and cope with adversity, and can help parents and other caregivers develop the skills to be supportive in ways that steer children away from substance use.

(Laura Milliken is director of Spark NH and Nick Willard is Chief of the Manchester Police Department)

1 comment:

Doug Wyman said...

This crisis or epidemic has a strong hold on our county too. Very often it seems that the press is focused on Manchester or Nashua and very little is covered about the north country.

At the Sandwich Forum in May: From Pathways to Solutions: Carroll County Responds to Substance Use Disorders, one statistic was very telling: The State wide average age of first use is 15 years old. The average age of first use in Carroll County according to tracking information from The Dept. of Corrections and in county counseling and substance abuse programs is 12 years old. The statistics also show that childhood trauma raises one's potential for developing a substance use disorder exponentially!

As Chief Willard and Ms. Milliken write prevention education needs to start early and our children need it not only elementary and middle school, but high school too. Programs like DARE and LEAD are essential in this process. Now there will be many of you who read this and say that DARE does not work, well, let me say this the DARE you may have received when you were in school is not the DARE your children receive now, if your school has a DARE program. The DARE curriculum has undergone many re-writes and the new curriculum "Keeping it Real" is an evidenced based model with success. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-new-d-a-r-e-program-this-one-works/ These programs are essential as I said,because at a student based forum, (information from the Sandwich Forum) it was learned from the students that they do not get their news from television or newspaper, many do not even know that there is a drug crisis or what the effects of many of these drugs are. The students felt that programs taught at the school from people other than teachers was the best way to get them the information they need.

In addition to that based on the numbers the business community needs to be doing prevention education for their workforce as well. Think about how prevention education and effective employee assistance programs could help a business's turn over rate? Absenteeism/ tardy rates?

Here are some of the numbers:

2016 Overdose Deaths: 476 with 3 cases remaining as of 5/5/17. 55% of the deaths were age: 20-39. 39% were 40-59. 4% were 60+ and 2% were 0-19.

April 2017 Felony Drug Arrests State wide: 240. 125 were age: 30-49

May 2017 Emergency Room Visits for Opioid Use, (State wide): 71% were age 20-39. 11% 40-49. 9% 50-59. 5% 60+. 4% 10-19.

May 2017 NARCAN Administration by EMS (State wide): 54% were age 20-39. 35% were 40-59. 9% were 60+ and 2% were 1-19.

The numbers for the 20-40 age group is staggering, this is where the business community can and has helped in many instances.

If you would like to help or be part of the conversation in Carroll County, please contact the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health at c3ph.org or at 301-1252 and ask for Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Selfridge.

Respectfully,

Douglas Wyman