Teens share their stories on substance abuse

The Communities that Care Coalition and Community Action Youth Programs hosted Thursday's event

GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It affects people of all ages, even teenagers: drug abuse. Thursday night, local leaders heard directly from teens to find out what drives them to use drugs. They wanted to address the problem by not just listening to politicians and police officers, but by hearing from teens first hand.

It’s about stopping kids from starting dangerous habits. The Communities That Care Coalition teamed up with Community Action Youth Programs, to hear these voices of young people dealing with substance abuse. Our 22News cameras weren’t allowed to film them; these teens shared raw accounts via videos they made of their substance abuse testimonials.

“This is a way that they can tell us exactly what they see, exactly what they perceive in terms of substance abuse, and have it be anonymous and safe for them,” says Kat Allen of Partnership for Youth.

The Communities That Care Coalition and the Regional School Health Task Force researched how young people viewed and got involved with drugs in Franklin County. These focus groups and studies that were all compiled found that there was a misrepresentation going on. A lot of young people thought that a majority of their peers were out drinking and smoking, but in reality, it was just a minority. This was the most striking evidence local leaders found out of the extensive study, that points to why teens are getting involved with drugs in the first place. The perception is the motivation.

“Not everyone is smoking, not everyone is vaping, and not everyone is using marijuana,” says Allen,” and [getting rid of that misunderstanding] helps drive actual use rates down too.”

In the study, teens said substance abuse is often a coping mechanism or a wait to try and fit in. Some even said marijuana, wasn’t harmful.

Community leaders, like Jessie Cooley of Big Brothers, Big Sisters Franklin County, want to change that perception, with the input from teens themselves. “We as adults make decisions a lot on behalf of the young people without directly working with them, collaborating with them, and letting them lead us and show us what we need to be doing for them,” says Cooley.

Click here to read the full assessment report by the Communities That Care Coalition

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