Michigan aiming anti-drug message at grade-schoolers
February 25, 1997
Web posted at: 5:45 a.m. EST
From Detroit Bureau Chief Ed Garsten
FLINT TOWNSHIP, Michigan (CNN) -- Stopping the drug habit before it manifests itself in children is the aim of a new Michigan school program and its 10-year course of action.
Researchers say children are using dangerous and potentially addictive substances at younger and younger ages. Michigan's substance abuse curriculum, part of the Michigan Model for Comprehensive School Health Education, is the state's effort to stem the tide of addiction.
Within the Michigan curriculum, classes like a typical sixth-grade social studies class take regular breaks for anti-social studies.
The dangerous effects of steroids, tobacco, caffeine and illicit drugs like cocaine are discussed openly among children who have heard the anti-drug message since kindergarten. The Michigan program doesn't stop pushing its drug warning until eighth grade rolls around.
Michigan officials say their program starts early because the children themselves are starting earlier with drug experimentation.
"We're seeing fourth-, fifth-graders who are experimenting with alcohol; and seeing third-, fourth-graders trying tobacco for the first time," said Don Sweeney of the Michigan Department of Community Health. "So we need to reach kids with basic skills at younger age levels."
The University of Michigan recently completed a study of drug use among those in their teens, 20s and 30s. One of the chief researchers says the results show the urgency of creating more programs like the Michigan Model.
"One of the best predictors of (drug) use in young adulthood is use at the time they left high school," said the University of Michigan's Gerald Bachman.
For sixth-grader Kim Wilson, classroom lessons on fighting drugs and peer pressure were put into good use.
"They said, 'C'mon, just try it!' It was by my house and my parents weren't home," said the youngster. "I told them 'No!' And I walked into my house and I locked my door."
Sweeney admits that the program is not always as effective as it apparently was for the young Kim Wilson.
"We have not eliminated substance abuse," said Sweeney. "But the kids who have received this curriculum with the family activities, with the community involvement, are less likely to have started (drugs) than kids who have not received it."
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