Friday, March 20, 2015

If only someone had asked

The young invincible is an apt term that refers to the segment of the population that believes itself to be impervious to illness or harm. The attitude of invincibility is commonly found in adolescence and early  adulthood and explains all sorts of risky acts seen in those years. Some in that age group experiment with opiate painkillers, and New Jersey has seen the consequences. Before long, their imagined invulnerability is replaced with a desperation to meet the need for opiates that have taken hold of their bodies and brains.

It need not have reached this point. A fairly straightforward series of questions might have identified an emerging drug problem before full-blown addiction occurred. The full-name of the model is Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment, SBIRT for short. NCADD-NJ is working with NJ Citizen Action to promote the use of SBIRT for people ages 15-22. In cases where questions indicate drug or alcohol misuse, the second component of the model, intervention, is triggered. It uses motivational interviewing to encourage an honest look at where drug use or drinking will lead.

To his great credit, Senator Joseph Vitale has agreed to include SBIRT in the broad array of legislation on the state’s opiate problem that he has spearheaded. The Senator took part in a forum on March 9, during which he provided updates on legislation designed to curtail drug use and provide treatment. The event included an SBIRT presentation by a team from Inspira Health, which has conducted a successful program for adults. The Inspira team acknowledged the need to expand it to youth.

Some say if this questionnaire is done in schools, it will be interfering in a role parents reserve for themselves. Holding on to parents’ rights so blindly could produce disaster. Even the best of parents can miss the signs of drug use in their children, oftentimes because they do not want to see them.

Other states have implemented the screening model. In Georgia, the materials used to spread the word about SBIRT quotes a student who become deeply involved with drugs and laments, “if only someone had asked.” It’s time that we in New Jersey start showing the state’s young people that we care enough about them to ask the difficult questions and be prepared hear their more difficult answers. 

Dan Meara
Public Information Manager

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