Facing Addiction in America

One of the biggest problems affecting young people around our country, in high schools and on college campuses everywhere is substance abuse. Addiction impacts one in three families nationwide.

This disease has personally impacted me, having family members in recovery. I have also witnessed the shock and despair associated with addiction when six local NYC students died of tragic overdoses during a 6-month period while I was a sophomore in high school.

Kids think they are invincible. Parents are unaware that legal substances found in their family medicine cabinets can and increasingly are the cause of these fatal tragedies. I channeled my emotions and my experience to take steps to make a difference by starting the Young Leadership Program of Facing Addiction, a nationwide organization dedicated to all aspects of addiction. I began by hosting meetings in my living room: a space where frank discussions surrounding personal and social substance use could take place. It soon became clear that we had to reach beyond the confines of apartment spaces to the community at large, because everyone had these issues and concerns.

We created local and regional events bringing in families as well as performing artists and comedians to address students and parents. Two youth leadership events took place and in between was a nationwide march on the mall in Washington DC to raise awareness. These initial events, in part, led to the national launch of the surgeon general’s first ever report on facing addiction in America.

Going from grass roots to local, then regional attention showed me how relentless effort on a difficult topic can accomplish change. We have opened up a dialogue amongst teenagers and parents and have seen how open communication can help save lives.