Opinion: OC should join Clackamas County in preventing drug use
Thank you, Clackamas County commissioners, for helping prevent youth drug use in Oregon City. Oregon City commissioners should do the same.
Oregon City Together, a drug-free community coalition, was recently awarded a generous Clackamas County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Grant. We will use the grant to provide an in-school program in our two middle schools to reduce risks of youth substance use in Oregon City.
The coalition acknowledges the county commissioners' leadership and wisdom in investing in prevention. It's a smart investment. Because the cost of addiction is very high and the cost of prevention is very low.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, the cost of substance abuse in the United States is more than over $600 billion annually and growing. Substance abuse costs society in increased health care and treatment costs, crime and lost productivity. It also costs us in in terms of unemployment, domestic abuse, foster care, divorce and homelessness. And one cannot even begin to measure the heartbreaking costs of a young life and futures lost to drugs.
On the other hand, prevention is quite cost-effective. The county's return on its investment will pay off in years to come. Studies by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that for every $1 spent on preventing substance use addiction we save an average of $10 in the long-term. In-school programs, like the one Oregon City Together is providing with county dollars, have been shown to save $7 to $34 for every dollar invested.
Focusing prevention efforts on youth and their parents is absolutely essential. Why? Whether tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, federal research shows the majority of adults with substance use disorders began using before the age of 18. Unfortunately, the younger a person begins using substances like alcohol and marijuana, the more likely they are to become addicted.
With prevention being cost-effective and the costs of drug addiction so high, why doesn't the Oregon City Commission make a similar investment from their dispensary revenue? Protecting youth against drugs is everybody's job. All jurisdictions receiving money from allowing marijuana sales should invest some of the funds to help reduce the negative impact of legalization on teens. For three years now, our coalition has requested 10% of the city's marijuana retail tax dollars be invested in preventing youth substance abuse. To date, no such action has been taken.
In contrast, the Clackamas County commissioners have been in action helping our community's youth live up to their full potential. Again, a big thank you goes to Clackamas County for investing in healthy drug-free Oregon City youth.
I urge all Oregon City residents to ask the Oregon City commissioners to make the same smart investment.
Brian Shaw is Oregon City Together's community organizing representative.
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