Preventing Addiction Early On
In 2014, close to 38 percent of teens had drunk alcohol by the time they reached grade 12 — National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than 35 percent had smoked pot, and nearly 30 percent had abused prescription drugs. The majority of kids experiment with them between the ages of 16 and 20, but national surveys indicate children as young as 12 are abusing drugs.
Here’s something scarier: One in 20 teens in grades 9 through 12 has abused heroin. Deaths from that drug are up three-fold since 2013 — HeroinKills.org.
Statistics show the earlier drug or alcohol use starts — even if it’s just a taste — the greater the risk of developing an addiction. That’s why HAMSA (Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse), a program of JF&CS’ Counseling Services - Tools for Life, emphasizes early prevention education.
“Early intervention is critical,” says Eric Miller, HAMSA’s program coordinator. “If you push off the first use until you’re 21, your chances of becoming addicted fall by about 75 percent.”
If you think you never have to worry about your “nice Jewish kid,” you might want to think again. Rachel Rabinowitz starting drinking and smoking pot at 14; at 18 she was into other drugs.
“I was this 18-year-old Jewish girl from Sandy Springs,” says Rachel. “I had everything in the world I wanted, and I threw it all away to get the drugs I needed.”
Now 25 and seven years sober, Rachel is a licensed master social worker who counsels adolescents struggling with addiction and their families. She works with HAMSA’s prevention programs for kids and parents at schools and synagogues throughout the metro area and she has some advice.
“If we are able to get through to kids and get them to turn to their parents for support, parents need to know it’s important not to get mad or punish them. Parents need to work with their kids and not against them.”
If you would like to see this program in your school or synagogue, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.