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What types of drug use have you seen and experienced in your school, in your family, and in the media? What do you think about it?

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Drug Abuse: Make A Difference!

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Topics on Drug Abuse:
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From the Mentors
We know, and you know, that young people have the power to help make life better for their families, friends, and communities and, most importantly, themselves. Here's how to stop drug abuse from damaging the people you care most about.

Helping Someone You Love
Even if they know all the physical dangers and all the other reasons not to, some people choose to use drugs. If you have a friend or family member who has started using drugs or is hanging out with a "druggie" crowd, you might be wondering what you can do about it.

  • Talk to an adult
    Teachers, parents and school counselors will have ideas that can help you talk to your friend about drug use. You don't have to name names if you don't want to, just ask what sorts of things you can do to help a friend in trouble. School counselors or social workers in particular are specially trained to deal with exactly this type of problem.

  • Talk to kids in your situation
    Ask a teacher, counselor, principal, or your school nurse if there are any groups in your area for kids dealing with friends or loved ones who abuse drugs or alcohol. These groups can help you deal with your own feelings, and give advice on how to start talking with your friend. If there aren't any groups like this, consider asking a counselor or teacher to help you start one, or ask around school and see what kids in your situation have done about their friends.

  • Be willing to take a risk
    Talking to your friend or loved one about his drug use is not an easy thing to do, and the things you have to say might not be what your friend wants to hear. If fact, by stepping in and making this your business, you stand a chance of making your friend angry. But you know that drugs are very dangerous, and risking hurting your relationship is worth saving his life. If you have a friend who chooses drugs over you, then he's no longer a good friend to have…until he can do what it takes to quit using.

  • Don't bring it up when he or she is high
    You'll have a much better chance of making this person understand how you feel, and of making her understand her mistakes, if she's sober when you talk to her.

  • Lay out the facts
    Let your friend or loved one know that you know he's been doing drugs. Tell him how the drug changes how he acts and changed how you relate to each other.

  • Remind her or him that help is available
    This person needs to want to get help, and you can't force her into it. Just let her know that if she's looking to stop using drugs, she can get help from a counselor, doctor, or local treatment center. A Web site called Drug Help, located at http://www.drughelp.org, is a good place to start.

Helping Yourself
Of course it's not just your friends and loved ones who can be tempted to try drugs. You should also look out for yourself. Ignoring drugs won't make them go away; you need to work on ways to keep drugs out of your life. Keep in mind that the following ideas are also things that you can suggest to a loved one when you talk to him or her about drug use.

  • Understand the dangers
    One of the most effective ways to stay off drugs is to fully understand everything they can do to your mind, body, and life. Start by reading the sections in this article, and then go further, finding resources online and in books that explain the health, social, and legal consequences of using drugs. If you know the whole truth, you'll be a lot less likely to try drugs even once.

  • Understand depression
    Many people start using drugs because they're trying to "self-medicate," which means they are searching for a substance that will help their depression. If you understand the causes and symptoms of depression, and know that there are much better ways to get help, then you will be less likely to try drugs this way. Check out the IML section on Depression for more info.

  • Be creative and beat boredom
    A lot of people try drugs because they're bored, and they think that getting high is a fun way to fill up time. But there are thousands of ways to have fun, and whenever you're doing something that makes you feel happy, you'll be less likely to turn to drugs. Join your school's drama club, learn to play a musical instrument, teach yourself a skateboarding trick, or go sledding. Damaging your body and mind with drugs because there's "nothing to do" is the sign of a really uncreative person.

  • Use your mind
    Write a story or a poem. Create a work of art. Get involved with a science project. Join the math team. Research your favorite time in history. See a documentary film. Develop a stand-up comedy routine. Drugs can destroy your mind and make it harder to learn and to think. If you develop your mind and try to get smarter and more creative, you won't want to risk damaging your mind with drugs. Only people who don't care about their brains will risk messing them up with drugs, so exercise your brain power!

  • Use your body
    Being an athlete is a great way to stay off drugs. Playing a sport, whether on a team or by yourself, not only gives you a far better and safer way of feeling good than any drug can, but it also helps you understand your body. Getting in shape and learning about health and nutrition will make you realize that all the types of damage that drugs can do to your body are just not worth it.

    Hey, not everybody is a great athlete, but anybody can have fun playing a sport. When you're relying on your body to help you do well in a game, you'll understand why drugs can be so harmful. If you want some ideas on how to get active, check out IML's section on Solo Sports.

  • Say more than "no"
    You've probably heard the advice "Say no to drugs!" a million times. So-called friends who want you to try drugs should take no for an answer, but we all know that sometimes they don't. They might tease you, or laugh, or just ask, "Why not?" when you tell them that drugs are not for you.

    So, try having a response. Tell them that drugs make you sleepy, or that you have a game to play, and you have to be sharp to play it. Tell them that your grades depend on a clear mind, or that drugs just make you feel real sick. Tell them that you have more fun when you're not using drugs. Have a good response and leave it at that. Remember: there are a million good reasons NOT to use drugs, and no good reasons to use them.

  • Choose your friends
    Understand that you have a right to choose who is and who isn't your friend, and choosing drug users as friends can be a big factor in leading you to try drugs too. If a friend you've had for a long time starts using drugs, do everything you can to help, but don't let him or her drag you into drug use too. Your first responsibility is to yourself, and you might be happier and healthier with a different type of friend.

  • Get help
    If you do try drugs, and find that for some reason you can't quit, get help right away. Talk to a counselor, teacher, doctor, or parent, or call your local drug help hotline. If you don't know the local number, try one of our recommended Telephone Hotlines.

Related Websites    Here are more resources to help you or someone you know deal
   with drug abuse:

NIDA: Information for Students


National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign

Drug Help

Mind Over Matter

Next up: Some advice and stories From The Mentors.


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