As with communities all over the country, Issaquah and Sammamish are in the midst of a healthcare crisis. In the last month or so we have witnessed several fatal overdoses involving young adults, and even as a healthcare provider I cannot begin to estimate how many overdoses have gone without response.
What we have begun to acknowledge in our community however is that substance use, abuse and dependence are an ever present reality that require our compassionate attention. Drug use trends tend to change slowly as is the nature of populations. That being said, at times we can have bursts of change, usually resulting from some atypical event. Take for example what is commonly referred to as our current “opiate epidemic”— in hindsight a clear product of the massive over-prescription of powerful opiate medication. Another example is our state’s rapid comfort with medicinal and recreational use of marijuana impacting youth access and use.
There are fortunately some community investments we can make to support our young folks with regard to risk and protective factors.
Some of the basics are:
- Be informed- Reality and perception are often distant. For example according to Issaquah High School’s 2012 Healthy Youth Survey, 40% of our seniors report having used marijuana. What percentage of parents might consider it to be their child? http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/family/health/HYS.aspx
- Share a consistent message- Often students hear mixed messages. Perhaps one substance is acceptable, and another is not, etc. Law enforcement, parents, schools and the community can work to share a common theme. Bottom line, healthy youth do not use any substances, and alcohol and other drug use always degrades their physiological wellness, health and development.
- Share your expectations- This is a significant predictor of young people declining to use drugs. They really do hear us!
- Positively populate- Be a vocal, invested community member. Venture out and provide a community norm that regards health and safety and discourages drug use and other illegal activity.
Our young people look to us for boundaries and a safe place to learn and grow. They thrive in the security and consistency we create. Let us give them the best that we have. The most advantageous of opportunities.
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