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My parents and I weren’t taught effective ways to prevent substance use

Substance use prevention is often under-funded, and evidence-based programs are not widely utilized.

By Joel Pomales

I went through the D.A.R.E. program in school; it was ineffective. I didn’t learn about addiction as a disease or an illness. I didn’t learn that people recover from addiction just like they do from every single other chronic illness and disease that we have.

My parents weren’t educated about these things either. My parents wanted to help me, but they didn’t know how. I think it’s important to have police officers develop relationships with students, and understand that they’re there to help, but I don’t think that we should be learning about substance use and addiction from a law enforcement officer.

Joel’s story is taken from an interview transcript and has been edited for clarity.

The Problem

Our country traditionally underinvests in prevention and tends to take a narrow, substance-specific approach that fails to address the root causes of substance use, build youth resilience, or adequately protect our nation from experiencing the next substance use and addiction crisis.

The Solution

We have to fundamentally rethink our approach to prevention by starting efforts earlier in a child’s life and broadening the scope. The early social determinants of child health and well-being are critical for reducing substance use risk but have historically fallen outside the realm of drug prevention.

Legislation to address child mental health and education, family income and child poverty, hunger and nutrition and housing security — issues that directly and indirectly contribute to substance use and addiction — should be tracked against their impact on substance use and addiction, among other measures.

Take Action

Has your family experienced inadequate prevention, or obstacles to receiving treatment?

Your story can help others impacted by addiction and become a powerful tool for policy change. By sharing our experiences, we can help others feel like they are not alone and break the stigma associated with substance use.

Share this story with others

Help us increase awareness of the systemic barriers to addiction prevention and care.