FCD group shares healthy living message with MS students

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FCD group shares healthy living message with MS students

Photographer: Fatima A-S.

Photographer: Fatima A-S.

Photographer: Fatima A-S.

ASD Times news writers

Freedom from Chemical Dependency, an organization dedicated to substance abuse prevention that operates on a global scale, visited ASD last week for its biennial presentations to educate students on the dangers of drug abuse and to promote a healthy lifestyle. 

FCD speakers were sometimes graphically descriptive with ASD high school students to induce fear as a method of preventing experimentation. In the middle school, however, they used a more definition-based approach.  FCD representatives played educational games with middle school students, providing a fun incentive for students to gain the target information and hear the anti-abuse message. 

Speakers’ Background 

All FCD representatives are themselves in long-term recovery from substance abuse, and with the help of professional training, they are fully adept at using a combination of factual information and personal anecdotes to deter students from drug usage. This year, FCD representatives Ian, George, Mary, and Morgan spoke with both MS and HS students concerning the use of drugs and alcohol.

Ian, who wishes to keep his last name private, started off  by asking the seventh-grade students, “Do you know why I’m here?” The students all thought they knew he was to enlighten them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol consumption. He corrected them and emphasized that his goal was to “make the kids think critically.” 

Student Engagement

In order to keep the students engaged, Ian frequently asked them questions relating to substance abuse. The 7th graders’ prior knowledge of alcohol and drugs varied, with only around a quarter of kids claiming to know what vaping was. He used this method of teaching as an opportunity to identify any misconceptions the students had concerning drugs, while simultaneously keeping them interested. 

One question received a particularly strong response from the students: when Ian asked them if alcohol was bad. His own answer, no, surprised many of the students. He explained that drinking alcohol did not make someone a bad person, shifting the idea away from shaming alcohol drinkers. 

He rephrased his question to “Is alcohol healthy?” This is when the idea seemed to click. By approaching the topic from a health standpoint, he discouraged students from drinking without demonizing alcoholics and drug users.

Because seventh graders are significantly less likely to struggle with addiction than older students, Ian’s talk focused heavily on prevention. Some statistics provided by FCD explained that people who abuse drugs or alcohol make up a minority of the high school population, dismantling the idea that drinking is necessary in order to fit in.

Educational Methods

When explaining the heavy and serious topic of addiction to middle schoolers, FCD speakers used light-hearted analogies to ease into the topic. One involved a kiwi bird and chicken nuggets–a stark contrast to the grave nature of addiction. The analogy described the kiwi bird trying “chicken nuggets” for the first time and being taken to “yellow-land” while under the influence of said “nuggets.” It goes on to depict the bird becoming dependent on the “nuggets” in order to be happy and eventually to just feel normal when ordinary life becomes insufficient for inducing enjoyment. Substituting “chicken nuggets” for “hallucinogens” made the story relatable to the children, enabling them to feel more comfortable with the topic of addiction. 

Another analogy the speakers used suggested that brownies in which salt has been added to instead of sugar could be compared to drug use during early stages of growth and development. If the drug use happens before person is “fully baked,” so to speak, the drugs could taint them in the end.

The seventh graders also played a few games, such as Kahoot, where their new knowledge of the chemicals was tested, and they seemed to thoroughly enjoy the activities. They also watched videos of people engaging with drugs and alcohol, to learn about adverse consequences of their use. Another video demonstrated the dangers of peer pressure, such as people consuming harmful substances in an effort to appear “cool”. Ian also told the students about his personal story, detailing his struggle with drug addiction as a teenager growing up in Los Angeles, as well as the path he took to recovery. 

George Brown informed seventh-graders that a drug is any chemical which makes the body function differently, that some drugs can affect the body positively (such as those with medicinal purposes), and that some drugs, such as nicotine, cocaine and marijuana, have the potential to seriously harm the body. They were also told that the younger individuals begin to consume drugs, the more likely they are to receive a large impact, as the brain is still in its early stages of development. Finally, the students learned about the four ways people generally take illicit drugs: injection, smoking, “sniff/snorting” and ingestion. These methods are ordered from fastest to slowest to reach the brain.  

Conclusion 

Throughout the week, FCD speakers spoke to young middle school students. The students interacted one-on-one with the speakers and got to hear their past experiences. Information was delivered to them in an easy-going manner, allowing them to be educated without excessive fear or discomfort. The spread of awareness to the students was very important because it exposed the students to the dangers that come with the use of alcohol and drugs.