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Notes from NUY Community Meeting on Drugs

On July 16th, The Northfield Union of Youth (The Key) held an open community meeting to discuss the issues of drug use in our community. The meeting was youth-run and consisted of dividing attendees into four intergenerational groups which discussed the issues of 1) perceptions/reasons for drug use, 2) misconceptions about drug use and users, etc., and 3) actions/solutions/suggestions for dealing with the problem. Each group reported on its discussion to the larger group. The evening culminated in an open mic opportunity for comments and further suggestions. The following is a list of notes compiled from the individual group discussions and the open mic comments. Click here for more photos.

1) Common Perceptions/Possible Reasons for drug use:

Boredom – Rebellion – Escape – Curiosity Lack of Education (dropouts) – Poor Drug Education

Misperception of Common Usage – Desensitization – Environment – Consumer Culture/Drugs Glorified

Lack of Fear – Feeling Neglected – Availability – Different Generational Mindset – Prescription Drug Culture

Gateway Drugs – Societal Pressure/ Need to Self-Medicate – Peer Acceptance/Habit – Money – Low Self-Esteem

2) Misconceptions about Drugs/Users/Reasons for Use:

All Users are Addicts

Can Control Addiction

Heroine (and other drugs) are Expensive/Rich Kids Drug

Only Lower Class People Use

You Can Know Someone is High by Looking at Them

You Can Know an Addict by Looking at Them

“My Kid Wouldn’t Do This”/ “People I Know Wouldn’t Do This”

Youth are the Source of Drug Problem/Majority of Users

“Gateway Drugs” lead straight to more Hardcore Drugs

Drug Education is Effective

Heroine is “Instantly Addictive”

All Drugs are Equally Bad/Addictive (Tobacco/Alcohol as bad as Meth/Heroine)

Colleges Influence Drug Use/Abuse

Colleges Do Not Influence Drug/Abuse

Athletes are Addicted to Pain Killers

Societal Pressure Causes Abuse

Smart/Good People Don’t Get Depressed

All People Have the Same Reactions to All Drugs

Most Drug Users Have Low Self-Esteem

Drugs are the #1 Problem in Northfield (instead of a symptom of other problems)

Turning in Abusers=Getting Them Help

Other Comments Included:

Questioning whether this is a “Capital P” Community Problem, or if this is a problem with a small number of individuals which the community can help.

General disbelief of the numbers quoted in the Northfield News (both population of users and cost of heroine use).

Drug Education is a “joke,” is unrealistic, leads to mistrust.

Northfielders feel a sense of security, were in denial of the ongoing problem.

3) Solutions/Actions

Improving Drug Education

More Realistic

More Accurate: Abuse Education ignores the large percentage of drug use that does not constitute abuse. It promotes a “black and white” picture of drug use that leaves out ways to deal with recreational use, etc.

Less Scare Tactics

More Education Available for Parents and Other Adults

Drug Education, resources, options, etc.

Activities/Clubs

More money for alternatives—after school, weekend, summer

Peer Solutions—Peer Pressure to NOT do drugs

More Open Communication between Parents/Youth

Youth feel mistrusted

Youth are afraid to confide in parents

Discussions, not rules

More Caring, Trusting Adults as Resources

Youth want to be approached more delicately, not criminalized

Be a Mentor/ Get a Mentor

Treat the Individual—no single problem leads to a drug problem

Break Down the Misconceptions to Discover How to Treat the Problem

More Law Enforcement or Judge Involvement

Youth need to know what is going to happen (in treatment, in court, etc.)

More Solutions Not Involving Law Enforcement

Developing a Better Relationship Between Youth and Police

Hold a Key/Youth and Police Officer Baseball Game

More Treatment Options in Northfield

A confidential support center where youth and adults can go to get help/advice without fear of being turned in or having to give their real name.

An in-patient treatment center in town so youth don’t feel they are being “sent away”

Changing the Stigma of Treatment

Treatment is currently seen as punishment

Mindset should shift from “Criminal” to “Victim

Drug Users/Abusers are not bad people, they made bad choices

Support for those who return from treatment—peers could offer support, take part in preventing relapse

Youth and Adults Need to Know Resources in the Schools and Community

Where/who are the resources

What should a person expect when contacting a resource

Northfield needs to work on Prevention AND solutions for those who are using drugs.