Keeping teens safe and alive is a community effort, especially when it comes to protecting them from addiction and overdose.
To do this, several community groups have formed the Peoria Primary Prevention Coalition, also known as 3PC, to reduce alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug abuse in the city. The coalition encourages young people to make good decisions.
The coalition was founded after the Arizona National Guard discovered that prevention programs were lacking in Peoria.
Funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield/Mobilize AZ, members include Youth4Youth, Way Out West Coalition, Arizona National Guard Drug Demand Reduction Outreach, Peoria Police Department, and the City of Peoria.
They hold meetings at 10 a.m. on the third Tuesday of every month at the Rio Vista Recreation Center with youth, parents, businesses, media, schools, community organizations, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, health professionals, first responders and government.
Larry Tracey, executive director of Youth4Youth, said the organization investigates the substances children use. This will lead to awareness.
Parent education is a key part of this. They should talk to their kids from kindergarten through college about being drug and alcohol free, Tracey said.
“You need to talk to your kids early and often,” Tracey said. “It has to be a strong and unnecessary message. We help parents understand how to set limits and boundaries and how to have consequences. »
Parents need to know how children access drugs. Thanks to Snapchat, medicines can be delivered in 4-5 minutes. All they need is a means of payment.
“Once this message is read, it disappears,” Tracey said.
“Snapchat doesn’t allow third-party apps to come in to see it. Parents think they know what their kids are doing, but if the kids have Snapchat, you don’t know.
Tracey’s organization pushes education about fentanyl and methamphetamine. In December, an analysis of US government data showed that fentanyl overdose was the leading cause of death among 18 to 45 year olds.
Marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin are now mixed with fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid.
A 2018 study of Arizona youth found that youth in Peoria were three times more likely to abuse meth than others in the state. Prescription drug abuse is 130% higher than in the rest of the state.
It takes a different message to fight fentanyl and methamphetamine, Tracey said. Along with alcohol use and prescription drugs, they talk about brain development and addiction.
“If I can get (young people) into their early twenties without experimenting with drugs or alcohol, the likelihood of them crossing the invisible line into addiction is less than 3%,” Tracey said.
He added that 93% of people who seek treatment started using drugs at age 14.
“It changes the hard wiring of the brain,” Tracey said.
“All of a sudden they’re set up for a lifetime of bad choices. We don’t want kids to go down that road.
He said it takes a lot of work to rewire the brain. Scientists increase their knowledge by studying the neuroplasticity of the brain.
Adults can take two or three years to cross the invisible line of addiction. For children, it takes one to two months.
“You can throw all that data out the window when it comes to fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Tracey said. “They are highly addictive and destroy lives very quickly. With methamphetamine and fentanyl, there is a high chance of overdose.
In Peoria, police records and the Arizona Youth Survey show that teens abuse alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs the most. Usage in the city is above the state average.
School programs invite students to change the culture of the school and the community. They encourage them to be mentors and role models.
At Peoria High School, 3PC launched the Thrive Program, a nine-week workshop on resilience and prevention. They teach students to identify their emotions and learn de-escalation techniques.
They explain goal setting and how to weigh the risks involved in decision making. Finally, week eight shares facts about drugs and alcohol, with week nine focusing on resistance skills.
“We have a no-use method, but we’re not focusing on it,” Tracey said. “We teach them to set goals and look to the future.”
The coalition also offers one-day programs on fentanyl and opioids for seventh and eighth graders. Soon, Tracey said, fifth and sixth graders may have to sit down.
For the coalition to work, Tracey said she needed community members to participate.
“It’s not a big commitment,” Tracey said. “We need community. We need to have enough people involved.
His goal is to recruit the public and prepare them for the work that needs to be done, then release them.
“We can create educational awareness, but we’re not there every day,” Tracey said. “Parents are the main source of prevention, so we need to spread the word about what this new coalition is doing. We’re taking things that have worked in multiple coalitions across the country and fitting Peoria into that model and framework. PT