In the most recent National Drug Threat Assessment Summary by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it was reported that over the past 10 years, the drug landscape in the United States has shifted because of an opioid epidemic (controlled prescription drugs, fentanyl, and heroin) that has impacted significant portions of the country. Many of us Montanans know someone with a substance use disorder, and many know someone who has lost or nearly lost a family member as a consequence of substance misuse.

Neighborhoods and communities as a whole are also suffering as a result of drug-related crime and violence, abuse and neglect of children, and the increased costs of health care associated with substance misuse.

During the last several months, the Elks Drug Awareness Program in partnership with the DEA’s Community Outreach have been disseminating current and relevant drug information at community events to youth, parents, and educators, throughout Montana to increase their awareness about the dangers associated with using drugs. There are three major concepts of drug use prevention research at the core of this strategy:

• Parents and teens alike need to know that the brain continues to develop to age 25. In particular, the frontal cortex, which carries out mental processes such as thinking, decision making, and judgment, is not fully developed until that age; therefore, it’s vitally important that youth and young adults refrain from drug use as this use will affect brain development.

• When youth and young adults perceive that drug use is harmful and risky, drug use dramatically declines.

• The longer youth and young adults delay drug use, addiction and/or substance use disorders are significantly reduced. Adolescence is a critical time for preventing drug addiction and a shared responsibility in our communities. 

Rick Gale

Montana Chairman Elks Drug Awareness Program