EmPoWER Somerset is a managing partner of the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon / Somerset whose mission is to create a safe and healthy community by preventing drug use, underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. We are grateful to all of our community partners who work with us to try to address these issues and prevent needless tragedies.
Prevention can be a daunting endeavor, considering the many influences and factors that play a part in the path from experimentation to addiction. It requires an ongoing effort and an open dialogue, and even then there are no guarantees. The reality is, we all participate in prevention efforts in our own lives. As parents, as friends as individuals, we try our best to lead healthy and productive lives and to encourage the same of those we love. As my children are approaching their teen years at ages 10 and 12, the whole concept of prevention becomes more personal. Will they have all of the information, the skills, and the confidence they need when faced with a difficult situation?
Even faced with these uncertainties, there are some simple yet powerful strategies that we can all implement at home. The recent Night of Conversation held in Hillsborough underscored the impact of one of these strategies: simply having regular conversations with your kids about what is going on in their lives. Research shows that when families have dinner together on a regular basis, kids are 50 percent less likely to drink alcohol or use drugs. The conversation doesn’t have to center around alcohol or drugs — just taking the time to talk and listen to your kids is powerful in itself. Keeping open communication also reinforces the likelihood that your kids will confide in you when they do face a difficult situation involving alcohol or drugs.
Another simple yet powerful prevention strategy is cleaning out our medicine cabinets. The devastating path from pills to heroin often has an innocent beginning. Four out of five people who use heroin start by experimenting with prescription drugs. Kids often believe that prescription drugs are “much safer” to use than illegal drugs, yet prescription painkillers often work the same way that heroin does in the brain, and are just as addictive. Approximately 54 percent of prescription drugs that are misused are obtained from a friend or relative. Kids who are looking to experiment with prescription pills need only look in their own medicine cabinet, and that is often where it begins.
In Somerset County, we now have a total of eight permanent dropbox locations where anyone can safely dispose of unused or expired medications to prevent misuse. For a complete list of locations, visit www.safecoalition.org and click on the prescription icon.
If you would like to learn more about local prevention efforts in your community, and how you can get involved, please visit www.safecoalition.org or call 908-722-4900. Wishing everyone a safe holiday season.
Brenda M. Esler, Executive Director, EmPoWER Somerset