Two attorneys from the Houston Bar Association (HBA) and two Houston area doctors teamed up to educate Monahan Elementary fifth- graders about the medical and legal consequences of drug and alcohol use through the Interprofessional Drug Education Alliance (IDEA) program. Scott Scheinthal and John Kressenberg of Sheehy Ware Pappas, PC, spoke to students on the legal ramifications of drugs and alcohol during Red Ribbon Week.
“The IDEA program provides information to fifth-graders about the legal and health problems associated with drug and alcohol use,” said Barrett H. Reasoner, president of the HBA. “The hope is that the students will be better equipped to counter the pressure to experiment with drugs and alcohol as they enter junior high and high school.” Over the past 17 years, the IDEA program has reached more than 41,000 students in the Houston area.
“Bad decisions about drugs will affect not only your freedom but your whole life,” said Scheinthal. “You don’t have to use drugs to get into trouble. All you have to do is have it in your possession. I want you to be scared. All freedoms can be gone in the blink of an eye with a drug conviction. You do drugs and you can find yourself without a driver’s license, without a job, unable to vote; all because you have a drug record.”
Kressenberg told students about the Harris County Youth Detention Facility where juvenile drug offenders may be sent. “It’s just like an adult jail. They have guards that make you strip, they search your bodies, you’re given a jumpsuit and you live in a cell with no privacy and no freedom,” he said. “You go to school in jail, you get about an hour a day outside and they can keep you a year. Everyone can see everything you do all day. You have no freedom and you have no privacy.”
Dr. Sonja Randle and Dr. Alejandra Flores presented the medical impact of drugs and alcohol on growing bodies, as well as on adults who have used both for many years. They showed slides of the effects of drugs and alcohol on lungs, liver and brain.
“People who have drug or alcohol problems are good at hiding things,” said Flores. “Drugs and alcohol create a lot more problems than they solve in people’s lives. They are toxins, poisons, and your body doesn’t want them.”
Flores told the students that studies showed the majority of teens don’t use drugs and alcohol no matter what their friends say. “One in 20 drinks. That means 19 don’t. Twenty-one percent smoke. That means almost 80 percent don’t. One in 25 does marijuana. That means that 24 don’t. If someone offers you drugs or alcohol, move away from the drug activity, give a reason for not doing drugs, and if the person insists, tell them you are leaving and they are welcome to change their mind and join you at something more fun and legal.”
Following the individual legal and medical presentations, the students divided into two groups with an attorney and doctor in each. They were then able to ask more in-depth questions.