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Image via Shutterstock/maroke
Image via Shutterstock/maroke

Councilmember Justin Brannan on Tuesday, February 27 announced the birth of two new bills focused on battling the opioid epidemic by bringing education on it to schools.

The bills — both of which look to address the fact that opioid education is not currently taught in New York City public schools — were introduced in a joint hearing held by the Committees on General Welfare and Mental Health, Disabilities and Addictions.

“When I was a kid, we were taught about the dangers of the drugs that were wreaking havoc in our city such as crack cocaine,” Brannan said. “Now that we have another crisis on our hands, why aren’t we teaching kids about how dangerous these drugs are? We should also be teaching kids how to spot warning signs in their peers so they can help those who have become addicted.”

The first bill is a resolution calling upon the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to update their curriculum to include drug awareness education concerning opioids (since, Brannan said, the city cannot add to school curriculum without permission from the state). The second, he said, is a local law to amend the New York City charter to require the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development to produce educational materials — to be distributed at the beginning of each academic year — on opiates for city schools.

“Kids are pretty smart. Unfortunately, right now some just don’t know how easy it is to get hooked or how misusing prescription drugs can send them very quickly down a very dark path,” Brannan said. “If we provide the right information, I have no doubt it will save some lives. I believe that educating from an early age is the best way to combat the disease of addiction – knowledge is power.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuses, most individuals with a substance abuse problem begin using before they turn 18. Research done by the National Center for Health Studies shows that drug overdoses in youths ages 15-19 are highest for opioid usage.

Brannan’s bills already have backing.

“The earlier we educate young people about the science of addiction and the consequences of their actions the better our chances are for preventing them from making bad choices. Education is a critical component of our fight against the opioid epidemic and I thank [Councilmember] Brannan for taking the lead on this issue,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “We know that students make better decisions when they are informed, we’ve seen smoking rates plummet in recent years. Now it is time for schools to address addiction, starting with prescription drugs, which are so often a pathway to addiction.”

“It’s refreshing to see a push for such an important issue to be addressed in schools. In my history working in the chemical dependency field, many schools and administrations feared that addressing drugs suggested there was a drug problem in the school,” added Mike Buckley, director of operations at the Resource Training Center, a leading outpatient chemical dependency program with a base in Brannan’s district. “The issue with that was that it left students learning about drugs primarily from friends and other individuals that would steer them toward using rather than away. The drugs have been there. Not talking about them just allows the problem to spread.”

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