This Week’s Drug and Alcohol Assemblies Aim to Protect Students at Risk


Photo by Olivia Dyer

Olivia Dyer, Staff Writer


The use of drugs and alcohol is a concern heavily-addressed this week at Gaither. Beginning yesterday, the school is hosting two assemblies to inform students of the risks of consuming drugs and alcohol by bringing in special guests who know more about the subject than most. Yesterday’s assembly was held for seniors by the NOPE Task Force, which stands for Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education. a group dedicated to warning teens of the dangers of abusing prescription drugs and alcohol, especially opioids. 

The NOPE assemblies have been going on for years and specifically work to bring awareness to teenagers on the issue, in hopes of preventing the kinds of tragedies that have happened to their members.  

“I don’t know when they first started; they were started by a group of mothers who had lost children to drug or alcohol overdose as a way to try and educate students to prevent other families from experiencing the same tragedy,” said School Resource Officer John McCarrell.  

The presentation begins with a number of facts regarding drug overdose statistics, particularly those regarding teens.

“Almost half of you will suffer with some type of addiction while you’re on your journey, it’s a scientific fact. But if you wait till the age of 25 to have that first alcoholic journey, to try that first joint, to have that first synthetic drug, the number drops down to 10%,” said first speaker Betty Butler. 

The concern is specifically apparent for those teenagers that are at risk of addiction and potential overdose deaths that could come from it. According to a statistic from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016 saw an increase in teen overdose deaths; 873 teens died of drug overdoses, a rate of 4.1 deaths for every 100,000 teens. 

As for how the assemblies are interpreted by the students, McCarrell, who as a deputy is familiar with the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, believes that these types of presentations have the ability to make teens think twice before making dangerous choices. “I think the assemblies definitely have an effect on the students. If you watch the mood at the beginning of these assemblies and then compare it to the mood by the time the assembly is over, then you’ll see it has an impact,” said McCarrell.  

Student reactions are especially prevalent when hearing from the parents of those who have lost their children to drug-related deaths.

“It was really cool to see a strong mother who lost her child be able to stand up there through the pain and share her son’s story, hoping to change the minds of people that think it’s okay to do drugs,” said senior Matthew Heger.

In today’s times there are various reasons why teenagers are getting involved with drugs and alcohol, the most dangerous being their portrayal in media and society and how it is seen as a “normal” and non-hazardous thing to do.  

I think alcohol is a commonplace in our society, so students see it as something they’ll eventually get into anyway, so it’s more accepted. And the drugs that we see now are more prescription drugs but they’re still drugs. The prescription component of it doesn’t carry the same stigma as street drugs,” said McCarrell. 

 One of the most important takeaways from the assembly for administration, in light of the upcoming senior prom and summer vacation, is how students can keep themselves and their peers safe from drug overdose. A key point in the presentation was the Good Samaritan 9/11 law, as the law was put in place to protect anyone calling 9/11 in an overdose-related emergency, even if that person was taking part in the drug or alcohol use themselves. because it can reduce the fear of calling in for your friend who’s passed out. This law, which also protects the person who is the subject of the call, has the potential to save lives, so long as students speak up and do not allow for “missed opportunities”.

In all, the reception of these drug and alcohol assemblies, including Friday’s upcoming mock DUI presentation, is likely mixed for students. But if the information offered can help save the life of one teen at risk, then the benefit of these assemblies will be greatly worth it.