Thousand’s Of Students Found To Be At Risk Of Suffering From Addiction

As our nation faces an addiction epidemic, it is becoming more and more clear that our youth are in need of support within their schools and throughout the community to help curve this issue. Now more than ever, it is time that our schools take further action. This is an issue we can no longer ignore. Our youth are dying or if anything many of them are on their way. How much more is it going to take? Our future is held, in part, within the next generation and from what I am seeing they need our help. How many more people have to die or be impacted by the disease of addiction before we change?


Our communities, all across the nation, has been doing the same thing for the past 40 years and expecting different results. Sounds like insanity to me.

But at 31 years old am rather young so what do I know right?

Well here’s what I have found…..

Our team has spoken and helped to educate over 70,000 people in the past 2 years in hopes to prevent them from risky substance use. Today we have one of the best school-based educational seminars in the nation. After personally being in front of thousands and thousands of students, I have heard them ask for help for the very first time, begging for support, looking for an answer, pleading to help someone they love survive, or in turn screaming out with their own need of support. From the countless late night messages on our FB page to the constant emails, I have seen our communities scratching for an ounce of support, bleeding out their hearts, in hopes something changes.

Unfortunately I have also seen and learned that this issue and concern around addiction seems to go ignored. We still live as if it is the early 1970’s and as if the War on Drugs is working when it is clearly not. From the billions of dollars that are spent on that war every year to our nation experiencing more arrests  for those suffering with drug abuse than any other concern, our nation needs a different kind of help. Even many police officials have stated that incarceration is not going to solve this issue.

If that’s not concerning enough, there is a still a stigma that surrounds addiction but yet addiction is, at this point, impacting every single person across the United States in one form or another. Discussing this problem more openly is helping but yet people still want to believe that this problem does not exist or it’s only impacting those people that don’t concern them; as if all people don’t ‘t deserve love but only some do.  People still act as if all people  suffer from addiction are only those that are shooting up underneath the bridge when that is simply not the case. Addiction impacts all parts of society.

How do we change?

We need more treatment for those seeking help. We need better insurance coverage that encourages and supports long-term recovery. The pharmaceutical industry needs to take more social responsibility around properly prescribing opioid based medications and other narcotics to help curve this addiction crisis instead of making it worse. We need better education awareness and prevention in our schools. Not always easy, but many of these options can provide the solutions we are looking for. For example, for every $1 that is spent on prevention we have found that there is an average $18 return (report here). On top of that, other reports show that for every $1 that our nation spends on treatment we are adversely spending $7 incarcerating people; making it clear that supporting those seeking recovery is far more beneficial. Not only does it save money but more importantly it saves lives.

How do we help save the lives of our youth?

RISE TOGETHER recently released a new report which reveals that 50% of the middle school and high school students in Wisconsin who have already experimented with risky substances are continuing with active use and are at great risk of developing substance use disorders. After surveying nearly 3,000 Wisconsin students over the 2014-2015 school year, the report shows that students are very supportive of increased access to school-based prevention and education programs to address substance abuse in our communities.

In preparation for the upcoming 2015-16 school year, we have partnered with Healthy Youth Bright Futures coalition & Stop Heroin Now, to announce our advocacy campaign to urge Wisconsin schools to adopt SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment), an evidence-based prevention and intervention program to help reach students early about risky substance use and provide additional support for those in need.

Key report findings:

  • 1 in 2 Wisconsin students surveyed who’ve experimented with addictive substances continue active use, putting them at risk of developing substance use disorders.
  • Students identify a need for more school prevention, intervention and education strategies to combat drug epidemic in Wisconsin.
  • Most students use for the first time out of curiosity or because their friends use.
  • Substance use and abuse is a multi-faceted issue. Students cite high stress and challenges with self-esteem as major detriments to health and well-being.
  • Despite health risk, a majority of students don’t see use of risky substances as a significant problem.


In response to these findings, substance use prevention and recovery advocates will begin outreach to Wisconsin schools encouraging the adoption SBIRT. SBIRT is a screening program used to help identify risky substance use and abuse and intervene early before use becomes a potential health condition.

Reaching young people early about the dangers of risky substance use is critical to preventing addiction later in life. Research shows that 9 in 10 adults who meet the medical criteria for addiction began using dangerous substances before age 18. If that wasn’t alarming enough we also found that 32% of students surveyed in this report identified as having used addictive substances at least once.

Training opportunities for school student services staff to be certified and begin implementing SBIRT with at-risk students during the upcoming 2015-16 school year is currently available through collaboration between the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy School Center, Wisconsin Department of Instruction, and Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The screening program incorporates questions related to both substance abuse and mental health concerns.

“Our schools are on the front lines of the substance abuse public health crisis in Wisconsin,” said Erik Kirkstein, coordinator of the Healthy Youth, Bright Futures coalition. “With students heading back to school, districts have the opportunity to begin reaching the students who need help most by using SBIRT. This proactive first step will help ensure more young people in Wisconsin have the freedom to achieve their dreams by identifying and preventing risky substance use before it becomes a serious medical condition jeopardizing their future success.”

The full 2014-15 student survey report is available (here)

I encourage that our communities, now more than ever, support those that are in need of help.  Don’t wait until its too late. We are trying to find new solutions that work. Any suggestions? let us know what you think!

Anthony Alvarado
President & Co-Founder

Rise Together is a recovery advocacy group that has a passion for prevention, education and community outreach. Started by co-founders Anthony Alvarado and Douglas Darby, both in long-term recovery, more information

Healthy Youth Bright Futures is a coalition of prevention advocates working to keep Wisconsin’s young people on a healthy path through the power of early screening & brief intervention for risky substance use. More information at

For original article go to Sober Nation

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