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Media Articles - 2000s

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3 December 2002
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Rural teens found to use drugs most frequently, Columbia U. researchers say

Badger Herald
October 15, 2001

Drugs have moved from the city to the farm, Columbia University researchers said.

A recent study on drug abuse in rural American communities found eighth-graders living in rural communities are 34 percent more likely than their urban counterparts to smoke marijuana, 83 percent more likely to use crack cocaine and 104 percent more likely to use amphetamines.

These facts are often overlooked, as drug programs typically concentrate on users in larger metropolitan areas.

"I gave a lecture to 45 seventh-grade students and asked them if they had ever seen or heard of ecstasy," said Bobby Newman, director of drug education for Narconon Arrowhead. "Everyone raised their hands."

Narconon Arrowhead, an Oklahoma nonprofit organization and one of the world's largest drug rehabilitation and prevention centers, recently launched a drug prevention program aimed at children and teenagers in the state, including those in rural areas.

To create an effective program Narconon first had to address the shortcomings of past drug education efforts.

According to Narconon's Web site, the basic method used in past drug education programs had been the "scare tactic" approach, an attempt to shock and frighten youth away from drugs. Success of this program, the Web site says, was questionable at best. The new programs, aimed at the same age groups targeted by programs like D.A.R.E., uses a refined approach that speaks to kids in their own language: humor.

"We discovered that the more humor we injected into the presentations, the better the results," the Narconon Web site states. "We found a direct correlation between the level of humor and the children's perceived dangerousness of drugs, though the message is clearly a serious matter. With this light approach, kids see the dangers of drug use and really 'get it.'"

The program also explores problems that often result from drug use. Michael Bohn, University of Wisconsin-Madison clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, teenage drug use can result in increased boredom and inability to effectively communicate with and relate to others.

"They stop going to family functions because smoking marijuana is more important," Bohn said.

Bohn said substance abuse also causes social and legal problems.

Those using drugs to deal with social problems, including work and interpersonal conflicts, are classified as drug abusers. A more severe syndrome, drug dependency, causes users to build tolerances to the drug, requiring increased amounts for a similar high. For many users, with the exception of marijuana users, painful withdrawal symptoms occur when they discontinue use.

"Treatment can be given depending on the severity of drug problems and other problems, such as mental or immune illnesses," Bohn said.

Since its inception 35 years ago, Narconon has delivered "The Truth About Drugs," their drug prevention campaign, to more than 1.5 million children and teenagers.

An entire lecture series is available that addresses type of drugs children might encounter and the effects drugs have on users' minds and bodies. Many of Narconon's professionals are former addicts who speak from their own experiences with drugs.

Participants are asked to respond to the program upon its completion.

"We have a proven method that works because the kids tell us," Newman said. "Their responses come back 95 percent positive."