By Josie Blaisdell
With overdose levels at an all-time high and it’s more important than ever to start educating others on safe drug use and the dangers of substance abuse.
Recent studies have come out that overdose levels, among adolescents, are the highest they’ve been in 12 years. Since 2010, overdose rates have risen 62%, as of 2020, according to KFF, Kaiser Family Foundation.
Jim Wahlberg, executive director of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation and author of The Big Hustle, has opened up about his struggle with addiction to drugs growing up as a teen in Boston in the 80s and 90s. Wahlberg advocates for starting the conversation about drugs at a young age so that they are less likely to make regrettable decisions when they are introduced to drugs later along the road.
“Preparing your kids to make healthy decisions starts a long time before they get to college and even long before they get to high school now,” Wahlberg said. “Everyone is just trying to fit in somewhere, everyone wants to be accepted, everybody wants to be liked, but there’s never been a more dangerous time than right now when it comes to gambling with drugs.”
Wahlberg has partnered with his brother, Mark, to create a foundation where families around the U.S. can have access to resources related to drug abuse. They work towards their mission statement by providing financial and community support to inner-city youth to allow them to reach their ultimate potential.
“We provide a variety of services; we do stuff as simple as sending kids to summer camp every year or providing a Christmas party every year for a couple hundred kids.” Wahlberg said. “We are the biggest supporters of our local boys and girls club. We’ve been supporting them since the inception of the foundation.”
Wahlberg has experienced drug addiction firsthand and has dived deeper into what that meant for him in his book titled, The Big Hustle. He wants people to know that addiction may stem from something other than just not being educated on drugs.
“Addiction is usually a symptom of other problems. I would say in most cases, it’s a symptom of other problems.” Wahlberg said. “They are medicating themselves from pain that could be from their childhood, could be from a variety of different reasons.”
With a significant increase in reported drug overdoses from 2020 to 2021, the increase in need for mental health therapists and psychologists have risen as well. Finding professional help can be one of the most important things you can do for yourself during these times.
“I would start by going to therapy counseling first to see what you could possibly be dealing with.” Dr. Jon Mossey, licensed Florida psychologist and life coach said. “If you’re going to talk to somebody such as a therapist or counselor, you have the chance to develop on-set skills that you can use now and for later in life. Once you have those skills, no one can take them away from you.”
Being able to take control over things such as substances can be a learning curve, but professionals say it is the one thing individuals should try and master, especially if they are susceptible to substance abuse.
“When it comes to substances, you are putting control of yourself and your fate in the hands of something else.” Dr. Jon said. “If we don’t show constraint, then later on if you have problems with substance abuse, whether it be health problems, legal problems or whatever else, it’s going to lead to someone or something else having control over you. It’s better that you take control over it now.”
Along with professional advice, many teenagers and college students alike would agree that getting educated early is the best way to prevent unsafe drug use. Making sure that we are spreading this knowledge on the dangers of drugs is the first step in decreasing the overdose count that continues to rise.
“It’s impossible to restrict all people, especially young impressionable teens from trying or misusing illegal substances.” Finley Livingston, a 19-year-old student at Rollins College said. “That is why it’s so important to inform children at a young age about the dangers of drugs and how to prevent an overdose if they encounter one for themselves or a friend.”
For local Flagler College students, the best place to start when looking to get help or get educated is the Tinlin House, located at 65 Valencia St. They provide free licensed therapists for students and weekly counseling.
“Take the opportunity when you get it to be a good example and to provide people with real tangible information that they can use to make healthy decisions,” Wahlberg said.