Former federal drug agent: Fight abuse by preventing useParents can learn about the power of drugs to threaten the lives of children — and what can be done about it — from a former federal drug enforcement agent who’s visiting here this week.
By: By Pamela Knudson, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — Parents can learn about the power of drugs to threaten the lives of children — and what can be done about it — from a former federal drug enforcement agent who’s visiting here this week.
Robert Stutman, who has dedicated nearly 25 years to combating drug abuse, will speak to parents and the public on Tuesday in East Grand Forks, Minn., and Wednesday in Grand Forks.
He’ll meet earlier each day with high school students and faculty in both cities to gain insight into the nature and extent of the problem, and later advise local leaders on possible ways to address it.
“By anyone’s measure, we’re in the worst drug epidemic we’ve had in the United States,” Stutman said in a phone interview on Friday, “but we see very little (news media) coverage about it.”
In the last 13 years, illegal drug use among teens has doubled, he said.
Prevention is one of the most effective approaches communities can use to curb the abuse of drugs, he said. “It’s easier, and cheaper, to prevent than to treat.”
But “we’ve done a terrible job in this country on the prevention side.”
In the high schools, he’ll meet with students, with no adults present, to learn about their perceptions of drug and alcohol use in their schools and communities.
“Hopefully, they’ll perceive me as absolutely honest,” he said, “and they’ll be honest with me.”
He’s been briefed by local law enforcement about the deaths of two area teens from synthetic drug use this past spring, he said.
“I want to hear it firsthand from the kids. … I try very hard not to form any preconceived notions. “There are different issues in almost every town.”
Adults need to listen to young people, he said.
“We tell them, but we don’t listen. We tell kids, ‘Do not use drugs.’ Those are kill words” that don’t really affect behavior.
“Kids perceive that we’re not being honest with them, that we preach to them and that we’re not talking from a knowledgeable base.”
Common drugs such as marijuana, heroin and LSD have worse consequences than before. And new drugs — OCs, Roxies, K2, Spice and salvia — are foreign to most adults.
“Could you protect your child or student on your current knowledge of these drugs?” he asks.
“Too often, by the time families are receiving the facts about drugs or alcohol they are receiving it as an explanation to a serious incident and even tragedy,” the website says. “The real tragedy is that this is usually preventable.”
Stutman’s commitment to prevention comes from a 25-year career as a special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“I began to see what was happening to kids,” he said. “I did not like what was not happening on the prevention side.”
He began working with youth and communities in the early ‘90s and makes about 130 presentations each year.
He’s critical of the federal government’s priorities that are more focused on drug law enforcement over prevention.
“Why are we spending 80 percent on drug enforcement?” he said.
Stutman, a consultant on substance abuse for CBS News and the Public Broadcasting System, wrote a book, “Dead on Delivery,” that was made into a TV movie.
He’ll follow up his visit here with a suggested course of action, based on his findings, for local drug abuse prevention leaders.
“He likes to really study the situation in communities he visits,” said Mary Lien, character education coordinator for Grand Forks Public Schools and member of the Grand Forks Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.
“We hope he finds us in a pretty good place, but we never want to get complacent.”
He also plans to meet Thursday with members of the Grand Forks Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and the local dental society.
The visit is sponsored by Drs. Troy Peterson and Marcus Tanabe of Valley Oral and Facial Surgery of Grand Forks.