Sally White: Reversing substance abuse

Cary Quashen holds up a photo of an addict who died over the weekend as he confronts James Fusca about his behavior in rehab last month. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Although Iceland faces substantial problems from the warming climate, there is one problem that nation is handling with great success – the effective reversal of substance abuse among the teenage population.

A closer examination of just how this was accomplished gives us much to consider, as that has become a very real problem in our community.

In 20 years’ time, Icelandic teenagers have changed from being rowdy, drunken young people – perhaps the heaviest-drinking youths in all of Europe – to participants in after-school clubs and facilities for music, art, dance and athletics.

The theory behind this transition was the realization that the real reason young people were using substances was to effect a “brain change,” or a mood change. They were not addicted to the drug itself, but rather to the changes the drug brought about.

It was brilliantly recognized that there are many ways to bring this change about, and most do not have a detrimental effect on one’s life; in fact, quite the opposite.

These are through expressing oneself in music, art, dance, and many forms of athletics, among other methods. All of these activities have the capability of bringing a change of mood, including joy and harmony into our lives.

There were many steps to achieving the great success that Iceland has accomplished. However, the most important aspect was the increased funding for organized sports, art, music, dance, and other clubs and activities for young people, thus allowing them to have many opportunities for activities and bonding experiences with their peers.

One of the interesting changes that took place during the past 20 or so years is the percentage of youths in the 15- to 16-year age bracket almost doubling the time spent with their families.

The funding of youth-oriented programs is certainly superior to funding more jails and emergency rooms to handle overdoses!

This information is readily available online: just Google it, and you will be as amazed and inspired as I am!

Sally White

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