Growing up in an environment of a runaway drug epidemic, teens in southeastern Kentucky counties are faced with unprecedented access to drugs and likely a lot of peer pressure to begin using at an early age. To address the widely acknowledged problem of teen drug use, law enforcement officials and drug prevention volunteers in the state have introduced a new initiative to distribute home drug test kits for parents to administer to their kids in some Kentucky counties.
Reasonable Drug Prevention, From Marijuana to Opiates
The home drug test pilot program, nicknamed “Give Me a Reason,” sets out to do just that for Kentucky teens: give them an easily remembered reason to decline to use drugs when they’re faced with that choice. Knowing they can be tested when they get home, the program’s leaders reason, they might be less likely to start using due to peer pressure. The kits allow parents to test for different drugs, from marijuana to highly addictive opiates.
Tackling Teen Drug Use in Southern and Eastern Kentucky
The program is a joint effort by the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), a federal program that enables local law enforcement to receive funds for drug prevention programs, and Operation UNITE, which coordinates prevention and treatment initiatives across 32 southeastern Kentucky counties and often works with law enforcement to reduce drug use in communities. The pilot program has begun in the south of the state in Rockcastle County, where 650 drug test kits have already been distributed. It will soon be in operation in Pike County as well, the easternmost county in the state. If the “Give Me a Reason” pilot initiative sees good results, it will be implemented in all Appalachia HIDTA counties, including the 31 HIDTA counties in Kentucky.
Not Just Prevention: Delivering Addiction Education and Treatment Services
Once the kits are distributed, the deterrence factor may depend on parents’ willingness to talk about teen drug use and follow through with using the testing kits. For parents whose teens test positive for drugs, Operation UNITE plans to provide resources for education and treatment rather than any resulting punitive measures. Some parents might still find it difficult to know when using a drug test is appropriate. Parents might worry or even suspect that their teens have started using addictive drugs, but they often lack the tools to know where to go from there. This is where addiction assessment services can come in handy, allowing parents the opportunity to discuss the possibility of drug use with addiction professionals and get recommendations for treatment services.
Education and realistic prevention strategies are so important for keeping young people off drugs and reducing the scale of Kentucky’s drug epidemic. The “Give Me a Reason” program not only provides parents with a new way to protect their teens and teens a new way to say no to using drugs; it also gives the state an improved method of delivering education and treatment resources to those who need them most. Stepworks Recovery Centers will soon be a new treatment option for this region, where options have traditionally been severely limited, and will work to contribute to these efforts toward providing real solutions for those in need.[Image is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]