Peer to peer drug program roles out

Sophomore Aofie Murphy recalls a time this semester when a student walked into her first period chemistry classroom who was already high and smelling like weed. 


“It was really sad that at 8 a.m., he was already high,” she said. 


Murphy said she also often hears about students wanting to vape or vaping in classrooms or on campus. It’s one of the reasons why she is one of 24 students who wanted to join a new drug intervention group at school aiming to lower usage rates on school campuses after she was chosen.


For decades students have been using Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD); they are at parties, school, and everyday life. Each generation had its own culprit. In the ‘60s it was smoking, the ‘80s had crack cocaine, and today’s generation has vaping, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 


One in four high schoolers have admitted to have smoked an e-cigarette of some sort in the past 30 days according to the CDC and often these are done on school campuses. Many students start using ATODs without thinking through the consequences, but a new program brought to Branham called “ATOD Prevention, by Community Matters” focuses on getting the person struggling with ATODs to think.


Principal Cheryl Lawton said she approved bringing the program to Branham after learning about it’s successful strategies.


“The program focuses on how to help someone by not just saying no, or snitching on them but by focusing on helping the student in a positive way,” said Lawton.


The ATOD program works with a group of selected students who are taught strategies to intervene in situations where people are using ATODs or putting themselves or others in danger. The training, which took place at Branham on Nov. 14 and 15, started off by having students focus on their moral values.


“We reflected on the peer influence students hold on campus,” said sophomore Andie Franco at the staff meeting where students who participated in the program informed the teachers on the skills they learned over the two days. 


The ATOD prevention program uses six different intervention techniques varying on the situation, but the techniques are most effective when used on people you were close with rather than strangers. 


The six intervention strategies are: Exiting, leave the scene, Keep the relationship. Support, Show I care. Reason, Get them to think. Active Listening, Understanding them. Directing, Get them to stop. Getting Help, Talk to an adult you trust.


These strategies aim to make the person understand how their choices have consequences, which is immensely different than previous programs such as DARE that relied on a  “Just say NO” mentality. DARE was a drug prevention program that swept the United states in the ‘80s that brought in law enforcement to warn kids against the dangers of ATODs. Studies proved DARE ineffective as many adolescents do the opposite. 

Community Matters unlike other addiction intervention programs is not informational but training based, giving students more pragmatic and applicable ways to face these often tense situations. 


Kimberly Moffett, the training and program development coordinator for “Community Matters,” says that the power of peer influence is what makes these programs work.

“Students see, hear, and understand things that adults just cannot,” said Moffet.


 This prevention program is taught in over 40 states reaching back multiple years and has been deemed effective after research supported the new form of intervention programs called Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices is a way to prove and restore a person’s behavior and their relationships.


Julia Tran special to the Bear Witness
Exiting:Leave the scene, keep the relationship
Example: “Hey your mom called we need to go.” This
would be a way to get your friend out of the situation
Without embarrassing them.
Supporting:Show I care
Example: “Hey you need to talk?” This can show You
care and are there to support them through their
Reasoning: Get them to think
Example: “ You know the consequences of vaping?” Be
Very real, don’t sugarcoat tell them the consequences.
Active Listening: Understand the situation
Example: “Just tell me Everything that you need.” Sometimes
Knowing making sure they know they are understood is the
best is the best way to help.
Directing: Get them to Stop
Example: “Stop. You know this is a stupid decision.” Be direct
Tell the truth, at this point the peer needs to understand they need to stop.
Getting Help: Talk to an adult you trust
Example: “ Mr. Smith, I need help. My friend is not making the
Right decision and I need your help.” At this point things are
Out of your control, seeking help is the best thing to do.