As the opioid use epidemic rages on, one Florida county is receiving attention for all the wrong reasons. Alachua County has more than double the rate of drug use and abuse in people under the age of 18 than the state average. An influx of drug education funding could help improve awareness and break this dangerous cycle.

Well over $600,000 in federal grant funding was recently awarded to the Alachua County Health Promotion and Wellness Coalition. Their five-year Drug-Free Communities Support Program helps educate the community about addiction and the risks involved with using and abusing drugs, particularly in the County’s youth population.

The Coalition’s work could help more teenagers say “no” to addictive substances, keeping people healthier and out of Florida drug rehab.

Alachua County’s Young People are Especially at Risk of Abusing Drugs

There is no safe zone in Florida where addictions do not happen. Rich or poor, educated or not, addictions can affect anyone who takes risks by using illicit drugs or misusing prescription painkillers. If there is an underlying condition, such as ADHD, teens are at an even greater risk for addiction. In Alachua County, the use, abuse, and addiction statistics for young people are alarmingly high.

The Gainesville Sun reports that in 2016, abuse and use of prescription painkillers in people under 18 was more than twice the average rate throughout the state. Those numbers are plucked from the 2016 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey conducted by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

While the survey showed self-reported drug use across the state in a decline, a few counties stood out as danger zones. Alachua had the second-highest prevalence of teen prescription pain reliever use of any other county in Florida. The only county with a higher rate was Okeechobee.

Drug-Free Communities Support Program Engages with Young People

The Alachua County Health Promotion and Wellness Coalition has faced the problem head-on. Instead of broad programs that preach “Don’t do drugs,” their programs are need-based and evolve to suit the issues that affect the community.

Here is an example. Town hall meetings, which the Coalition describes as informal functions, serve to educate the public about drug and alcohol risks in communities. Those meetings are also held in 15 other counties throughout Florida’s Northeastern Region.

Friday Night Done Right pulls together healthy activities for teens where drugs and alcohol are not available. The goal is to show, not just tell, teenagers that most kids do not drink or use drugs and let them experience socializing and fun in a safe environment.

As New Issues Arise, the Program Evolves to Include Them

A point of pride with the Coalition’s five-year Drug-Free Communities Support Program is its ability to change and evolve along with the needs of Alachua County teens. The federal funding grant helps give the Coalition the freedom to research new avenues of educating and engaging teenagers and develop new programs that resonate with them.

Programs are not just aimed at teens. Parents sometimes contribute to the risk factors that lead to use and abuse of drugs. With “Parents Who Host, Lose the Most,” which is a public awareness program, parents learn about the risks involved with serving alcohol at teen parties. Not only is alcohol dangerous for teenagers, it puts parents at odds with law enforcement.

Prevention is always better than repairing damage once it is done. That is why the Coalition also works to educate parents and teens about drug and alcohol use and abuse laws. Most teenagers, they explain, “underestimate the harm” of experimenting. The Coalition’s Know the Law program aims to replace assumptions with facts.

Teens are commonly prone to risky behavior. They are stretching their wings, testing out independence, and trying new things. Unfortunately, the combination of a low presumed risk and easy access to drugs and alcohol makes this group of Florida residents prime candidates for serious harm.

A $625,000 federal grant should beef up Alachua County’s drug and alcohol prevention efforts nicely. What about help for teens who are already addicted, though? For these teens, there is also hope in Florida drug rehab. Every step of the way, from detox and residential care to going back into the community, caring addiction specialists are on hand. Teens learn healthier ways to cope with the stress of life, better ways to socialize than relying on drugs, and strategies for staying clean and sober for life.

If you or any of your loved ones have a drug or alcohol addiction, we can help. Contact us to learn more about admissions and find your way back to being free of drugs and alcohol for good!

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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.