“Don’t be fooled,” says the introduction. “You need facts to avoid becoming hooked on drugs and to help your friends stay off them. That is why we have prepared this booklet—for you.”
So begins The Truth About Drugs, a slim booklet with a proven record of reducing drug use statistics by helping teens resist peer pressure. Unlike the overblown hype in some drug-education materials—a source of amusement in youth’s inevitable and otherwise healthy challenge of authority—The Truth About Drugs respects its young readers, presents unembellished facts, and invites them to make their own decisions.
It is an approach with proven results. More than 1,000 organizations, law enforcement and government agencies in 180 countries have incorporated The Truth About Drugs in their drug-education programs. Among them is the Police Department of Ocala, Florida, whose website (www.ocalapd.com) links to a series of drug education videos that are part of the program.
Ocala School Resource Officer Michael Green implemented the program in his school after recognizing a need for something that would give students “real-life knowledge about drugs and their harmful effects.”
In the first semester of 2013, Green said he averaged five drug arrests per month at his school. Then: “The second semester of the 2013-2014 school year, after implementing The Truth About Drugs curriculum, I had zero arrests for drugs.”
The curriculum includes everything that schools, law enforcement and other agencies and community groups need to conduct an effective drug education program. The main overview booklet is accompanied by a set of 13 supplements, each addressing a specific substance: everything from alcohol and marijuana to heroin, crack cocaine and the latest addition—a booklet devoted to synthetic drugs.
Each publication explains how the drugs work and their mental and physical effects in language familiar to young people. In total, a massive 68 million booklets have been distributed worldwide, more than 417,000 in Florida, and 38 million people have visited the Truth About Drugs website (drugfreeworld.org).
The program also includes a series of public service announcements on the theme of “They Said, They Lied.” These address common misconceptions that lead to experimentation: “One try won’t lead to addiction,” “One hit can’t hurt you,” and “Taking drugs makes you cool.”
The truth? As revealed in the overview booklet introduction, “Much of what you hear about drugs actually comes from those selling them. Reformed drug dealers have confessed they would have said anything to get others to buy drugs.”
68M Truth about Drugs booklets distributed internationally
Internationally, the public service announcements have aired on 772 television stations.
Finally, and central to the program is a 90-minute, award-winning documentary: The Truth About Drugs: Real People, Real Stories, with each of 11 sections focusing on a commonly abused substance.
772TV stations aired drug prevention public service announcements produced by the Foundation
Again setting aside the hype, Real People, Real Stories is a hard-hitting educational presentation told by former users, survivors of life-shattering addictions.
“The people that you have seen or will see in these videos are us,” said Pasco County Drug Treatment Court Judge, Linda H. Babb. “They are our sisters, sons, husbands, teachers, co-workers, and friends. They are no better and no worse than you and I are. They are addicts.”
With certainty born of countless cases, Babb added, “The best treatment is the treatment that happens before addiction. Education is the treatment that saves people from ever stumbling into the terror of the addict’s existence. Saving a child from addiction will keep them from ever entering that nightmare and ending up in my courtroom and ultimately in prison, hospital, or morgue.”
The urgent need for educational materials that communicate effectively to young people was apparent in a report published in September 2014 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. According to a national survey on drug use, there were just over 2.8 million new users of illicit drugs in the previous year, or about 7,800 new users per day. Over half (54.1 percent) were under 18 years of age. An estimated 246 million people, slightly over 5 percent of those 15–64, used an illicit drug in 2013, according to U.N. tabulations. About 27 million are problem drug users. Law enforcement experts say the numbers are vastly undercounted.
78K people signed the Foundation’s drug-free pledge in the last year.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heroin addiction and heroin-related deaths have quadrupled in just over a decade. The CDC found that heroin-related overdose fatalities have increased by 286 percent from 2002 to 2013, when 8,200 died.
Affirming the need for factual presentation, Judge Babb points out, “Just saying ‘No’ doesn’t work. Knowledge saves the people you love. Tell them the truth.”
Neil Brickfield, executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League, has also seen the program in action. “Foundation for a Drug-Free World has given us the educational materials so we can give kids the information about drugs and they can make great choices,” he told Freedom.
The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is a secular nonprofit corporation formed in 2006 to serve as a distributor of the Truth About Drugs materials. Church of Scientology support enables the Foundation to provide its materials free of charge.
For educators, law enforcement officers and drug prevention specialists, these freely available materials include a comprehensive Educator’s Guide, with a full semester of lesson plans, essays and homework assignments. Each component is designed to elicit student participation and is flexible enough to fit into any middle school, high school, college or community drug education curriculum.
The opening of a new Foundation for a Drug-Free World center in downtown Clearwater offers a whole new range of drug education and prevention opportunities for the communities of Tampa Bay. The facility houses an information center, seminar rooms for drug education lectures and workshops, and administrative facilities for Drug-Free World volunteers to partner on local anti-drug initiatives.
Julieta Santagostino, a volunteer with the Florida chapter of the Foundation for eight years, grew up in Juarez, Mexico, and saw it plunge into the abyss of drugs. She decided that “kids shouldn’t grow up without the knowledge of what drugs actually do. Our new office is a place where people can visit, get materials, attend programs,” Santagostino said. “Now we can do so much more.”
As effective as the program is in leading young children to the conclusion that they choose not to get involved with drugs, its use is not limited to youth.
After the program was introduced to the Hernando women’s prison in 2011, the institution’s education supervisor, Andre Buford, reported that the pilot group of 12 inmates completing the program had been so successful that others requested to follow and within a year 156 inmates had participated.
But, Buford wrote, as impressive as the numbers may be, numbers do not tell the story:
“What cannot be seen in this number are the tears, regret, personal reflections, and commitment to change each of the women have shed, shared and vowed. It is impossible to show the number [of] women who have come to me in private and asked for assistance to write a letter to a loved one apologizing for what they have put them through. It is not possible to show the number of women who cry and ask the question, ‘Is that what my children saw when I was on drugs?’ It is not possible to show the number of women who say, ‘I have to get home and save my son, daughter, niece, nephew, brother, mother, or father.’ I cannot show the number of women who ask, ‘Mr. Buford, can I send my booklets home to my kids, because I don’t want them to follow me in my wrong decisions?’ Of all the things I cannot show in the numbers, I can report that 100 percent of the women say ’Thank you for this program and this program has changed my life.’”
Foundation for a Drug-Free World
41 N. Fort Harrison Ave.
Clearwater, FL 35755
The new Foundation for a Drug-Free World center on Fort Harrison Avenue is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visitors are welcome to review all of the program components, meet and exchange ideas with Foundation volunteers, learn how to implement the program and pick up copies of the booklets, documentary and other materials.