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Our Opinion: Shattering popular myths

When it comes to alcohol and drug use among young people, not everyone is doing it.

The pervasive notion of rampant teen drug use was among the myths debunked by the Council for Drug Free Youth at presentations during Red Ribbon Week, a national observance to promote a drug-free lifestyle.

During Baseline training at Calvary Lutheran High School, students largely overestimated the degree of alcohol and drug use among their peers.

Survey results revealed by Joy Sweeney, program facilitator and council executive director, included:

• 3.6 percent of high school seniors drink daily and about 19 percent smoke or chew tobacco each day.

• 22.4 percent of seniors have used marijuana in the last 30 days.

• 13 percent of seniors have experimented with inhalants.

• 79.7 percent of students had tasted alcohol prior to high school graduation.

Baseline training is one of several council programs to increase awareness and knowledge, designed to spark a decrease in drug use and its consequences. The facilitated Baseline program is conducted for high school students.

Other council programs include:

• Safety Kids. In this peer-to-peer program, fifth-grade students perform educational song and dance routines for other elementary students.

• Show-Me Players. A drama troupe of seventh graders act out various scenarios for audiences in the fourth and fifth grades. The topics include drugs, alcohol, tobacco, getting along with parents, bullying, suicide and violence prevention.

• Uplift. This is a similar program performed by ninth graders and targeted for sixth-grade students.

• COPE. This facilitated program reaches more than 900 seventh-grade students with the latest drug, tobacco and alcohol prevention information.

• Team Challenge. This facilitated program for eighth graders is coordinated with the Missouri National Guard. The program provides the substance abuse prevention message by encouraging trust, understanding and acceptance through communication.

The council also conducts Student of the Month recognition and provides scholarship opportunities.

The roster of programs offers a snapshot of one agency’s efforts and do not include other initiatives, including Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) programs sponsored by law enforcement agencies.

These programs recognize prevention is preferable to punishment, and awareness and knowledge are powerful. They also largely empower young people to carry the message to their peers.

A desirable outcome will be when the concept — nobody is doing it — is a reality, not a myth.

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