2014 CADCA Conference Reflects Work to be Done on Drug Abuse Prevention

The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America held a week long Leadership Forum in National Harbor, MD this week.  I attended this conference as a representative of the South Philadelphia Prevention Coalition.  I stayed at the Gaylord National Hotel with attendees from all over the country.  Many of the coalitions are pursuing a prevention grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).  I attended some really empowering workshops while I was there.  We will be submitting an application for prevention by the March 24th, 2014 deadline.

Growing up in South Philadelphia, I was exposed to the dangers of drugs and alcohol at an early age.  There were bars and drug dealers at strategic locations.  I did not become aware of them until I was about fourteen years of age.  I am glad that I was involved in sports because idle time is truly the workshop of the devil.  In high school, many of our parties included a quart of Colt 45 and a bag of the herbal essence.  This activity became a part of the culture in which I grew up.  Fight parties, NFL games, NBA playoffs, ski trips and other events.  It became one of the hardest habits to break as I became an adult.  As some states have now legalized marijuana use, I think about the danger of recreational use among young users.

I am aware now that the bigger picture involves many more challenges for our youth.  I read an article in the paper this morning about the resurgence of heroin in many communities.  One of the reasons that this is major news is that it is affecting youth and young adults in upper income communities.  The recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman reflects the weakness that many people have for the lure of this drug.  He was in recovery for 23 years and when he passed he had a needle in his arm and had purchased a large amount of the drug.  He left three children to mourn his legacy.  About two weeks ago, twenty-two people died in one day in Pennsylvania from heroin overdoses.  Clearly, more needs to be done on the prevention side of the war against drugs.

An eye opening workshop for me was the one on the health of the liver and the damage done by drug and alcohol abuse.  The liver is the largest organ in our body.  It helps the body digest food, store energy and remove poisons.  It is affected by many of the activities that we partake in that are not healthy.  It made me want to immediately regulate my recreational drinking and avoid any extracurricular activities that would do harm to this important organ.  People that share needles and snort heroin are in extreme danger.  People that abuse prescription drugs and use molly and other opioids are in danger.  When I obtain my next physical, I will get my liver examined.

There have been no Coalitions funded in Philadelphia recently.  There are at least nine funded in Bucks County, PA.  I am still shocked by the depth of addiction issues in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  I didn't get a chance to interact with the Heroin Task Force of Delaware County.  I attended a workshop there with the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance of Pennsylvania.  We will focus on the intersections of 7th & Snyder and 22nd & Tasker Streets if we are awarded a prevention grant.  We will focus on environmental change regarding 14 - 18 year olds and helping them to avoid the lure of illegal drugs and alcohol abuse.  There must be alternatives for our youth to look forward to.  I am proud that my children seemed to avoid the pitfalls of growing up in an urban environment.  I want to help other children follow a path that includes healthy  options.   

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