Mellanskolans auditorium was filled with students who seemed too young, given the subject at hand.
Three former prisoners told their stories, a journey from apparently unhappy drugs and alcohol attempts that began ages even younger than their audience, to try the next more serious drug and then the next did what they had to get their next fix. Their travels encompass decades filled with homelessness, prostitution, imprisonment for theft and even for murder.
They acknowledged each one that they were rarity, success stories, people who lived and released it from prison to tell about their stories, to move on with the lessons taught to try and save another young adult from following their paths. They also acknowledged that they did not think it would happen to them, that they thought they knew better, that they wished they had become more informed, had been better listeners and followed the warnings they had received early. They also knew that if today's drugs were available then they would really be dead.
It appears that the eighth grade is too young for such difficult facts, but driving behind a car filled with high school students passing a juul, joining together and waving just like the school releases and realizing that the eighth grade may not be soon enough, and high school is already too late, just time for reactive action, not proactive. They are already addicted.
If the students can not "just say no" to this early experiment and mutual pressure, to the newest harmful, addictive hugs like vaping, what is the chance they will be able to say no to the next harder drug choice offered to them, or next or to drink less, and what should they do to get their corrections when they rely on when the drugs and alcohol make decisions for them?
When asked to raise their hands if they had tried juuling, smoking marijuana or popping pills, or if they knew someone who had a large number of hands up in the middle of the schoolroom that morning. If they had not tried themselves, they knew someone who had.
Eighth grade is about 13 years old.
It was the pattern of poor decision-making that was emphasized in the auditorium the same morning. A bad decision can affect your life forever, and it can lead to another and then another until you have spiraled so far down, you can not get out and you can not make your own choices anymore.
According to Brian King, Deputy Head of Research Translation at the CDC Office for Smoking and Health, the number of teenagers using e-cigarettes has risen.
"College students use e-cigarettes to a greater extent than adults," says King. This is despite the fact that the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is prohibited nationwide.
"Nicotine is an important ingredient in these devices," he says. "Studies show nicotine is more addictive than heroin and cocaine. And there is growing evidence that nicotine can damage the developing youth brain."
At another recent local forum on the current opioid-dependent epidemic, Rhode Island was listed as one of the five largest states in the nation dealing with the problems of abuse and overdose. There were 323 deaths from opioid dosage in 2017, it was a small victory, the number down from 336 overdoses in 2016. The fracture of heroin to fentanyl is partly due to the epidemic.
Addiction meets all demographics. Drug abuse does not discriminate because of age, sex, race or profession. Raising students with information at a young age can not be a bad thing, and it can save them from a lifetime of dependence, imprisonment and even death.