Educating parents, teachers and children about the harmful impact drugs can play in a person's life.
Published: November 29, 2016
By: Emily Reed
Shelby County Drug Free Coalition coordinator Jan Corbett’s daily mission is to educate parents, teachers and children about the harmful impact drugs can play in a person’s life.
“Kids are experimenting with drugs at a much younger age than a lot of people realize,” Corbett says. “It is scary how easily kids are becoming addicted to different types of drugs at such an early age. You used to think that kids would maybe experiment with drugs in high school, but we are seeing kids become addicted as early as the sixth grade.”
Corbett, a retired elementary school teacher who taught for 31 years, became the coordinator of the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition in 2012. “Alcoholism affected my family, and I have always had a passion for educating others about the dangers of drugs and alcohol,” she adds.
The coalition was founded in 1998 with a goal to enhance the health and safety of the community by preventing drug abuse among youth. The coalition has a Speakers Bureau consisting of more than 70 individuals – teachers, judges, elected officials, mental health and substance abuse professionals, members of law enforcement, non-profit agencies, lawyers, businesses, medical professionals, parents and concerned citizens – working to educate individuals on recent trends with drug and alcohol abuse.
“Members of the Speakers Bureau will often visit schools throughout the community and speak to kids about the dangers of drug use,” Corbett says. “We have started targeting the middle schools because we found that sixth grade seems to be the age where kids are beginning to find their place in the world. We want to get in their minds that drugs are not only stupid but can determine the rest of their lives.”
Shelby County resident Robyn Korn joined the coalition in 2011 and became a member of the Speakers Bureau after her son Tim died of a heroin overdose in 2010 at the age of 18.
“A lot of times parents with kids who are addicted to drugs think they are fighting the battle alone, and I wanted to be able to help others understand that they are not alone,” Korn says. Her son became involved with drugs at the age of 14, when he started using marijuana.
“My son had several changes occur including moving to a new area with a new school and having to make a new set of friends,” Korn says. “This was during the time he was in middle school and a lot of the friendships were already established, so the group of kids that accepted him were the kids who were experimenting with drugs. It was a very easy culture for him to get sucked into – and unfortunately he never could escape.”
Once Korn discovered her son’s drug habit, she reached out to several organizations for help, including the drug court in Shelby County. “My son was very smart,” she says. “He had a goal to become a mechanic and have his own shop. He realized he had an issue and did not want to be an addict, but it was something he struggled with until the day he died. He started on marijuana and within two years he was hooked on heroin.”
Korn now spends her time traveling throughout Alabama speaking to others about her personal experiences dealing with a son addicted to drugs. “I share with parents things to look for if you suspect your child might have a drug problem,” Korn says. “I encourage parents that they have the right to drug test their child, search their rooms, make sure they are aware of what their children are searching for online, and make sure they are aware of the terminology.
“Sometimes it takes tough love for your child, which is a difficult thing for a parent. There were times I had to call the police on my son and I had to watch as he was arrested, but I needed to do that because I did not need to enable him,” she says.
Oftentimes parents believe their children would not be capable of becoming involved with drugs, Corbett says. “We hear a lot of times that because a child is in an honor society at school or has a good group of friends they couldn’t become involved with drugs,” Corbett says. “We have found that it is across the board. The drug problems in Mountain Brook are the same drug problems in Montevallo or Daphne. There are no social or economic barriers. It touches every demographic.”
Corbett says marijuana is often considered a gateway drug – a substance that leads to trying other drugs or alcohol – with many teenagers experimenting at a young age. “One of the goals of the coalition is to get to the kids before they are faced with the peer pressure to try drugs or alcohol,” Corbett says. “A lot of times kids think it is the cool thing to do or because everybody else is doing it, it must be OK. There is also a perception in pop culture that getting high is no big deal.”
Corbett says more than $25 billion is spent each year on advertising for alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs. And the impact of social media in the drug culture continues to grow, with popular apps becoming the platform for buying and selling drugs.
“Thankfully, law enforcement is doing a wonderful job in using social media to track and interrupt the buying and selling of drugs, but this is something that is becoming more widespread,” Corbett says. “We are really gaining momentum with spreading the word, and we hope to continue helping to educate parents and children about the dangers of drug abuse.”
Emily Reed is a freelance writer and stay-at-home to her son, Tobias.
The Shelby County Drug Free Coalition hosts free meetings every other month beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Family Connection’s facility o Shelby County Road 26 in Alabaster with a speaker and complimentary breakfast. The meetings are free to attend. The last meeting for 2016 is November 9.
For more information about the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition, visit www.shelbycountydrugfreecoalition.org, on Facebook at Shelby County Drug Free Coalition, by email at jan@familyconnection- inc.org, or by calling (205) 663-6301 ext. 234.