By: Khushi Pasrija & Shejuti Wahed
Student Substance Awareness (StuSA) is a student-led nonprofit
dedicated to promoting substance-free campuses in educational
institutions. Although in theory prevention sounds rather easy to
accomplish, it’s actually quite difficult. Students won’t
decide not to try something solely because someone told them not to,
especially when there are countless peers encouraging the behavior.
In fact, most are already aware of the negative consequences
surrounding substance use and yet still fall into addiction. StuSA’s
challenge is not just to educate, but instead to assist students in
understanding how to implement awareness into their daily lives.
Prevention diminishes the need for a cure. We’ve seen this idea come
to play in the real world with COVID-19: preventative measures such as
social distancing and masks reduce the immediate necessity for a
vaccine. Our mission is similar in this manner, as preventing exposure
to substance abuse limits the necessity for addiction treatment. At
first, we were stubbornly hopeful that absolute prevention was
reachable. However, we were quickly faced with the harsh reality of
the matter — it is nearly impossible to prevent every student from
exposure to drugs or alcohol. Given this realization, we decided that
we would veer away from the common approach of assemblies and instead approach
these large groups by working with them in smaller cohorts. The manner
in which this topic can effectively be addressed varies from person to
person. In smaller groups, it’s easier to address individuals in a
meaningful way rather than hundreds of students at a time.
Schools are going about the issue in the wrong way. Most hold
merely one or two school wide assemblies, and some schools in lower
income areas wind up holding none. There are numerous studies that
demonstrate this evident correlation. Individuals living in environments not conducive to economic growth bare the highest threshold for substance
abuse. A specific study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that
the leading risk factors of substance abuse include community poverty,
low peer refusal skills, and drug experimentation. These are all main
issues that StuSA has carefully devised a plan to tackle.
It has been psychologically proven that repetition improves retention
and understanding. StuSA’s team decided that instead of just hosting
one or two big assemblies, speakers and lessons implemented into
the general curriculum of courses in intervals throughout the year
is integral. Through hands-on activities, group roundtables, speakers
with all levels of experience, and drug abuse topics related to particular
academic subjects, students will have the highest exposure possible to
information they’ll need to make the right decision when the choice comes along.