The Shout Down Drugs contest offers a creative approach to substance abuse prevention. This music-based program seeks to energize individuals, families, and communities to be more aware of drug abuse and drug addiction. Public and private drug abuse programs include educational activities that raise concern and increase involvement in drug education and drug abuse prevention efforts.
The 14th edition of the annual Shout Down Drugs competition provides an outstanding example of these types of activities. The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, a public interest organization located in Milburn, NJ, sponsors the competition with a goal to help teens avoid drug use by increasing support for detection and treatment.
The Shout Down Drugs Contest
The contest is a talent competition that emphasizes original musical creations. The current contest has 32 finalists. The talented teens participating represent many NJ communities, including those in the populous northern New Jersey counties of Bergen, Essex, and Morris.
The words and music in the teens’ acts support decisions to stay sober and get off drugs and alcohol. The competition is set for April 27, 2018, at the Daytop Substance Abuse Prevention Center in Mendham, NJ. It will include five teams and 32 students. The several soloists and teen groups will perform their unique music and songs. The entrants are individual students, student vocal groups, and bands like Powdered Elephants, which is made up of three Millburn High School juniors.
Students Kyle Fascht, Danielle Benn, and Jessica Yeager will perform in the competition. Their entry is a song called “Monster,” a title that refers to the “monster” of addiction. Their words encourage resistance to drug dependence.
“Have to stay strong every day.
Time is just ticking away…
I don’t think you realize
You’ve no power over me.”
Powdered Elephants wanted something odd and quirky to get the attention of listeners. While the participants obviously enjoy making music and performing their work, they understand the urgent need for substance abuse prevention. Kyle Farscht offered his view on the importance of prevention to teens. He said that “Promoting a drug-free lifestyle is one of the most important things to do in high school because it’s easy to get tempted, to get pressured, to fall down a hole.”
Positive Messages in Today’s Words and Music
Drug education has great potential for preventing drug use. Many drug-dependent persons would rather be drug-free and are willing to enter into treatment. Some fail and must try again before they succeed in drug-free living over the long term. Emotional support from family, friends, and the community can greatly assist in one’s efforts at recovery.
Drug prevention programs must engage young people in order to successfully promote drug-free living. Drug prevention uses drug education as a primary tool. Drug abuse education increases public awareness of the urgency of the problem while enhancing public knowledge related to the health risks and physical injuries that result from drug dependency.
Substance abuse prevention is important because it is far better to avoid drug dependency than to try to cure it. Drug addictions are complex, unique to the individual, and difficult to treat and cure.
The Power of Music
The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey uses print, broadcast, and electronic media to spread information about the dangers and risks of drug use. The “unsell drugs” strategy is a key element of the Partnership’s work. In U.S. culture, music is an extremely popular medium. The Shout Down Drugs competition is part of the Partnership’s efforts to use this popular art form to extend the reach of their drug-free message.
Music and a Life-saving Message
Shout Down Drugs participants create original musical works and perform them. They incorporate messages that support youth decisions to avoid drugs and to seek help if they do fall into drug abuse. The idea is based on the perception that media and mainstream culture provide influences that lead some young people to make bad choices when it comes to drugs.
Tiffany Enemuo presented her R&B-styled song with a solo performance. At age 14, she is a freshman from Jefferson Township, and she attends the American Christian School in Wharton. Her song recalls a person abandoned by friends and family and features the following lyrics:
“…trapped in misery
Her choices clipped her wings
Her friends and loved ones left,
as her life fell apart.”
Speaking to the news, she said: “I’m excited that I have the opportunity to reach out to people who have been struggling with drugs or who know people who have been struggling.”
Shout Down Drugs reaches out to teens to help educate the community and strengthen drug abuse prevention. The Partnership combines participation by young people and engagement with a youth-centered audience. Music is an expressive and creative way to connect with a wide audience and encourage abstinence from drugs. Prevention efforts must use the available means and media to reach a wide audience that includes vulnerable teens and young adults.
Rewards for Doing Good
Students competing in the Shout Down Drugs competition can win prizes based on public votes submitted through the competition website. At Shoutdowndrugs.com, the public can listen to the songs and vote for their favorites. The competition depends on public involvement. The performers can gain audiences and appreciation from people in the recording business.
The top prizes are recording contracts valued at $10,000. Mr. Angelo Valente, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, stated to news reporters his view on teens helping teens. He said that the competition provided “a wonderful opportunity for these teens to inspire their peers, as well as adults, with their crucial messages of substance-use prevention.” Today, this message is more important than ever. Substance use affects people from all walks of life, and the problem of addiction is widespread.
The Scope of the Drug Abuse Problem
The opioid epidemic is the latest wave in a problem that has persisted in the United State and other nations around the globe for many decades. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control reported that the number of deaths due to drug overdose exceeded 64,000 between January 2016 and January 2017. The increase in drug overdoses and deaths follows an increase in opioid addiction to Fentanyl. In fact, more than 20,000 of the reported deaths were linked to Fentanyl or a derivative of the dangerous synthetic opioid.
In a March 6, 2018, report called Vital Signs, the CDC highlighted the importance of prioritizing treatment as a solution for drug addiction. That report states specifically that:
“Opioid overdoses increased for men and women, all age groups, and all regions, but varied by state, with rural/urban differences. The findings highlight the need for enhanced prevention and treatment efforts in EDs and greater access to evidence-based opioid use disorder treatments, including medication-assisted treatment and harm reduction services.”
The Opioid Epidemic
The use of prescription painkillers has caused a sharp increase in opioid addiction. The drugs are largely procured through lawful prescriptions. For many people, prescription painkillers enable them to live better and more independently. In fact, when taken in prescribed doses, these drugs are fairly safe and effective. All too often, however, these prescriptions fall into the wrong hands or lead to addiction in the person who was prescribed the medication because they begin taking more than they need to manage pain.
When abused, opioids affect a part of the brain that causes the user to want more. At the same time, the drugs affect another part of the brain that blocks the ability to stop taking the drug. The result is an intense urge to use and a limited ability to stop using.
Opioids create powerful addictions and pose a severe danger of overdose. The opioid epidemic began due in large part to prescription drugs that resulted in unintended dependencies. Many people with an addiction to opioids began with prescription drugs and moved to illicit substances such as heroin when they could no longer get or afford the costs of prescription medications.
Like nearly every other state, New Jersey has seen an explosion in drug abuse involving prescription painkillers, including Fentanyl derivatives. Along with the increase in drug use comes a sharp rise in the number of overdoses. The goal of drug education is to increase community awareness of opioid addiction and direct community action toward substance abuse prevention.
Impact on Lives and Families
Drug addiction takes a toll on the drug-dependent individual, but the harm does not stop there. The community loses a valuable contributor, and families often bear the worst part of the situation. They must worry about the user’s health and safety and involvement with law enforcement. Drug abuse and chemical dependency can devastate an individual’s family relationships and close friends. While encouraging treatment and attempting to help a loved one who is dependent on drugs, the friends and family carry the emotional burden of witnessing the physical and mental decline caused by drug dependency.
Signs of Drug Abuse
Substance abuse prevention requires support from friends and family. Knowing the signs of drug use and early dependency can help friends and family members recognize when someone they love needs treatment. Opioid addictions are powerful and make long-term changes in the chemistry of the brain. Longer patterns of drug use increase the difficulty of treatment and recovery, so it’s important to attempt to stop the problem early.
Asking for Help
The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey outlines eight signs of possible drug addiction. They are:
- A pattern of problems at school or work. These problems include incidents such as lateness, poor performance, and disciplinary action.
- A sudden loss of interests in hobbies and activities that one previously enjoyed with enthusiasm. The change in behavior can be dramatic and sudden.
- Missing important meetings and appointments, often without reason and at the last minute. Blowing off important appointments is a sign of losing interest in things that previously had high priority.
- Drug users can quickly shift from good to bad moods without apparent reasons. Sudden mood shifts can be dramatic, and dependent persons can act out, show signs of rage, and pose a danger to themselves.
- Spending an increasing amount of time in solitude.
- Unusual activity patterns. One may sleep or stay awake at odd times.
- Failure to keep up personal appearance.
- Changes in eating habits.
Support for Addicted Persons
Addiction is a complex problem. Successful treatment starts with an assessment of the individual that goes far beyond his or her addiction. Family, close friends, and community play a vital role in the decision to enter treatment, and they are valuable resources of personal support for the recovering individual.
The Path to Sobriety
Education and prevention are key elements of the national strategy to reduce and eliminate drug abuse in the U.S. Treatment remains the best tool for aiding drug-dependent persons to stop using drugs, detoxify their bodies, and begin the life-long process of recovery and sobriety. Recovering individuals require support from family and friends who can help them find a treatment program that matches their needs.