When dozens of people packed the upstairs of the Village of Jeffersonville Hall recently to talk about the heroin problem in our county, a few things were clear. These were people who cared. These were people who were frustrated. These were people who were looking for answers.
But answering why small towns in America have been hard hit by one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs on the streets is no easy feat. Sure, we know the number of Americans hooked on heroin has been steadily rising in recent years. Sure, we know it’s cheap. Sure, we know that opioids, by their very nature, create a tolerance level that forces users to keep seeking a better high.
What we can’t answer is the why some of our kids begin to take heroin in the first place or – perhaps more importantly – why it is that some never do.
If there are voices missing in the conversation of how to battle heroin in our small towns, it’s these.
As one mom of a recovering addict so poignantly stated during the meeting at the village hall recently, no one wakes up one day and says they want to throw their life away on heroin. So what is it that attracts young, bright, healthy kids to a destructive path? And what is it that keeps others away from it?
I wish I could say I knew, but I don’t. Not as a mother. Not as a woman who grew up in a small town with the same limited opportunities for entertainment afforded our kids today who managed to avoid the same substances that last year killed a 13-year-old child in our county.
What I do know is you can never say “not my kid,” because it can be anyone’s kid: rich or poor, from a “traditional” family or “non-traditional.”
What I do know is that if we don’t want our kids to do drugs, we need to remember what it was like to be a kid.
Do you remember when the anti-drug assemblies were put on at your school as a kid? Did you listen or talk to the kid beside you because you were bored stiff? Did you feel like those strangers on the stage had any relation to you and your situation? Did you feel like there was sincerity or authenticity in the message?
If we care about our kids, we need to listen to our kids. We need to hear their stories, their complaints, their paths to drugs and their journeys around them.
And in doing so, we need to remember kids don’t like to be talked down to. They don’t like to be preached at. And they sure as heck don’t like to be treated like they’re stupid.
Lying to teenagers doesn’t work. It only undermines our authority on the important issues.
Listening to them, on the other hand? That might just make some difference.
And some difference is better than none.
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