In Response: Drugs and Alcohol at Medford High
Medford Substance Prevention Task Force has been combating substance use in our community for the past 7 years. The task force has branded the name “Team Medford” to include everyone in the community who cares about our youth. Over the years this task force has been challenged with preventing substance use amongst adults and youth by looking into the social norms that our community sets forth, addressing policy change that will reduce access, and educating the community on the dangers of alcohol and other drugs.
A major focus of the task force work is conducting a student survey in grades 6th through 12th every two years in the public schools. The Communities That Care Youth Survey (CTCYS) addresses risky behaviors such as substance use, violence, and delinquency. The survey does not ask the students if they use during the school day. However, it does ask if they have tried a substance (lifetime use), used within the last 30 days (current use), and it measures alcohol use by having more than 5 drinks in one sitting within the last two weeks (binge drinking). We know that substance use is not localized to the City of Medford or to our students in the public school system.
*Graph indicates lifetime use, have you ever tried a substance
Moreover, we are proud of the Medford Public School’s excellent drug and alcohol policy. The current policy is being used as the model on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The policy lays out exactly what the protocol and consequences are when a student is not “School Ready”. The policy uses a comprehensive approach and integrates the schools strong relationships to substance abuse and mental health services such as Elliot Community Human Services.
You can find this document in Chapter 14 of the Comprehensive School Health Manual; (CH-14) Substance Abuse and Addictive Behavior on page 14-72 to 14-75 where you will find Medford Public Schools – School Health Policy highlighted as an example of excellence.
The CTCYS data shows higher rates of use among middle school students; this sets a precedent for our work. Studies have shown that youth who start drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older. A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that 47% of those who began drinking before age 15 experienced alcohol dependence at some point in their life, compared to 9% percent of those who began drinking at age 21 or older. ( http://www.ncadd.org/index.php/for-youth/faqsfacts)
Medford Substance Prevention Task Force is looking into how these substances are being used and why, as well as how we as a community can mitigate substance use. We encourage more parents and adults to contact Team Medford and get involved by helping us understand what they need to address these issues in our community. Let us reflect on the study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse by having conversations early with our teenagers, being positive role models, and being a voice for change.
Please contact Brooke Hoyt or Penny Bruce for more information: TeamMedford02155@gmail.com