Since 1997, Massapequa Takes Action Coalition (MTAC) has worked across the Massapequas to prevent substance misuse and promote healthy families. MTAC’s culture of collaboration includes providing families with resources, education, and activities that promote safety, health and wellness.
MTAC’s Coalition Coordinator, Cathy Samuels, recently met with the Massapequa Council of PTAs to discuss current youth trends in Massapequa regarding substance misuse. Samuels provided key results of Massapequa’s 2015-16 Youth Development Survey (YDS) taken by students (grades 7-12). The YDS provides an assessment of risk and protective factors which predict substance use and other problems by youth (ages 12-17).
According to Samuels, while Massapequa’s youth are more likely to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana in the past 30 days, teens also self-report using prescription pain relievers, stimulants, tranquilizers, and other prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Heroin use is also self-reported by 12th grade students. “With 30.9% of 12th grade students reporting they have been treated for an injury or surgery where medication is prescribed to them, parents must be proactive in talking with their teens about the dangers of prescription drug misuse,” stated Samuels. “Of this group, some teens indicate taking larger amounts of medication than prescribed, trying to get more medication even though they were not in pain and getting medication from a source other than a doctor,” added Samuels.
Working under its Partnership for Success Grant, the MTAC Coordinator discussed how the coalition has developed four strategies to reduce heroin and opioid dependence in the Massapequas:
- Increase awareness and engage the community in managing medications for themselves and their families
- Provide education regarding the negative impact and influence of substance misuse
- Help healthcare providers (physicians, dentists, pharmacists, etc.) and patients determine when and how opioids should be prescribed for chronic pain
- Reduce the harm of heroin and opioid overdose through overdose prevention education and Naloxone training and distribution.
“It’s crucial we talk with our children, teens and young adults about the prevention of substance misuse – especially prescription drug misuse in light of the Massapequas reporting the highest opioid overdose deaths in Nassau County,” noted Samuels. According to the YDS, 54.7% of 7-12 grade students self-reported their parents talked with them in the past year about the dangers of alcohol use and 55.5% self-reported talking with their parents in the past year about the dangers of drug use. MTAC encourages parents and residents to visit its website at mtacoalition.com to learn tips about how to talk with their child about the prevention of prescription drug misuse. Research also shows that one of the biggest protective factors in reducing the likelihood teens will develop a substance abuse problem is strong parental disapproval of alcohol and drug use.