Preventing drug addiction could start with teens: Clarence Middle School pioneers new program

Posted at 5:53 PM, Feb 13, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Imagine hearing the struggle of fighting drug addiction from a recovering drug addict-- the narrative is more real than having a police officer or counselor teach students about the dangers of drug addiction.

Today at Clarence Middle School more than 350 students heard stories from drug addicts themselves about the dangers and the struggles they face. Clarence Town Justice and Drug Court Director Mike Powers had the idea to put the addicts in front of the students to make more of an impact.

"I bring some of my drug court kids out to speak to these students one on one up close and personal," Powers explained. "I have found over the years with a lot of the programs I have done that the most effective speakers are the [drug court] kids... kids get tired of hearing adults tell them what they can and can't do."

One of the drug addicts that told his story was named Kevin. He started using alcohol and marijuana when he was in his early teens and became addicted. Now, decades later, he's finally clean and he's sharing his story with these teens.

"It grabs you, that addiction grabs you and it's not fun anymore," Kevin said.

Powers says he believes students are at an age where these real life stories will have the most impact. According to the Erie County Health Department, Opioid deaths in Erie County dropped from 251 in 2017 to 148 in 2018.

"Statistics show that opioid use and addiction is down. I don't see that," Powers said. "It's great we are saving these kids after overdose but that's not prevention. It's prevention over death but not over addiction."

Powers says he wants to bring this program to schools across Western New York and says he believes it is never to early to start teaching students about drug prevention.