Youth Summit Tackles Teen Drug Use

Dr. Jim Hamilton stood in front of high school students and asked them how Long Beach gets kids to say no to drugs and alcohol.

"How do we impact the age of onset when drugs are first used?" he asked the students. "How do we delay that?"

Those questions have plagued the Long Beach Substance Abuse Task Force since its inception.

Long Beach junior Brittany Adam has a somewhat radical answer.

"Scare the daylights out of them," she said.

Adam and nearly three dozen other Long Beach juniors and seniors attended this youth summit. They shared their insights about school, peer pressure, drugs, and alcohol.

"I'm going to be blunt about it," Adam said. "Show them what's going to happen. Show them it isn't fun."

Ronnie Dartez had a personal reason to attend the summit.

"I had a cousin that OD'd, March 1 was two years ago," the senior said. "And just seeing what he went through in his life, I didn't want to go down that road. It wasn't for me."

So Dr. Karla Pope asked the students, "Are we saying maybe we need to set a better example?" In unison, they all said "yes."

The startling realization at this summit was where Long Beach's drug and alcohol problems exist right now.

According to a task force survey, more Long Beach eighth graders were experimenting with drugs and alcohol now compared to a year ago.

Carolyn Anderson was the Long Beach Substance Abuse Task Force Director.

"So we know that beginning with next school year, our concerted effort is going to be at the middle school," she said.

The survey also found that marijuana use increased in Long Beach juniors. But every other age group showed decreases in substance abuse. Ronnie Dartez said he wasn't surprised by the seniors' improvement.

"Us seniors, we realize that we don't have to do that," he said.

The goal of the summit was to figure out how to get that message to younger students.

Brittany Adam said just slap them in the face.

"Don't be sweet about it," she said.

The task force has access to a $96,000 grant. That money paid for interfaith parties, speakers, and a mentoring campaign -- programs designed to steer children away from drugs and alcohol.