“Just Say No” isn’t doing enough to keep Florida’s youth from experimenting with drugs. That’s according to a coalition of state and local leaders who are working together to launch a new drug education initiative.
The state continues to suffer from a growing drug abuse epidemic says Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis.
“We continue to see just a sickening number of drug overdoses and drug related deaths. Nationwide, if you can believe it, there were more than 70,000 people who died from drug related overdose—more than 5,000 people here in Florida. That’s 14 people per day,” DeSantis says.
Desantis hopes to fight the trend by helping kids get more science-based information about drug abuse--and teaching it at an earlier age.
“I believe that we owe it to our children to empower them with the facts surrounding drug use and abuse to allow them to pursue a bright and promising future. So that’s why today we’re launching a new initiative and it’s called ‘The Facts, Your Future' drug prevention campaign,” DeSantis said.
The campaign will include school assemblies as well as a video contest--students will have the chance to make videos that could go on to air as public service announcements. DeSantis says the project will build on already existing programs—like DARE—but will go beyond the idea of “just saying no” and will armsstudents with more facts to make informed choices.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there, right? When you talk about vaping, and the attorney general can talk about this, they think sometimes they’re inhaling water vapor. They don’t realize sometimes they’re inhaling nicotine. That this is highly addictive. That it really can have harmful effects on the brain up until age 25. We know that. Sometimes they’re inhaling marijuana—well they might know that, but just giving them the information to be able to make the right decisions and letting the science dictate the conversation is important so that way they know,” DeSantis says.
Attorney General Ashley Moody says she knows firsthand talking about the impacts of drug abuse can be difficult.
“It is not easy as teachers, as coaches, as parents to talk about drugs with children. My son overheard me talking with a staff member about a report that reflected the number of deaths that had just come out. And he asked me what it meant. And as the attorney general who talks about drugs and over dose and the effect on the young brain and the dangers that has—I found myself at a loss for words,” Moody says.
Moody says the new initiative will help teachers and parents have those conversations so students can understand how dangerous drug abuse can be.
Moody has become a staunch opponent of vaping—especially among young people. She has launched an investigation into the marketing practices of Florida vaping companies to look into whether they are intentionally targeting youth.
Moody and DeSantis are teaming up with local law enforcement and education officials as well as state education commissioner Richard Corcoran and head of the Department of Children and Families Chad Poppell to bring their new drug education initiative forward.