Peer-to-Peer Programs Help Teens Make Drug-Free Choices and Defy the Statistics

Mentor Foundation USA’s innovative peer-to-peer drug prevention programs encourage teens to stay away from destructive behaviors through positive peer pressure.

22 February 2017 | News

Specifically in Columbia County, NY, these programs are especially important as we are working in more rural communities. Living in rural areas and having low income are two risk factors that make people particularly vulnerable to prescription opioid abuse and overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The surveys Mentor Foundation USA conducted in three Columbia County high schools this past fall supports this research; the teens themselves listed boredom and lack of access to activities as a primary trigger for teen substance abuse.

We now have motivated teens trained in social media and advocacy as part of our Youth Ambassador Network in each of our schools. Working with each school’s existing Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapters, these teens are developing projects to improve morale, support their peer and address issues the students see as important.  These issues include healthy eating, inclusivity and stress management.

Throughout the spring 2017 semester, the Youth Ambassadors at Ichabod Crane, Taconic Hills and Germantown high schools will launch Change Projects to further these goals.


The statistics for substance abuse, especially use of heroin and prescription pain relievers, continue to rise nationally as well as in New York state.

  • 582,000 New Yorkers a year used prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes in 2013-14.
  • An estimated 444 New Yorkers per 100,000 residents aged 12 or older used heroin, more than double the corresponding prevalence in each of the two-year periods dating back to 2007-08.
  • After lagging the national rate for most of the decade, the prevalence of heroin use in New York jumped, and exceeded the national rate by 49 percent in 2013-14, according to New York specific estimates from a SAHMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)  National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health.

In addition, an estimated 1.3 million U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17 had a substance use disorder in 2014 (5 percent of all adolescents). The rate of past-month illicit drug use was 3.4 percent among those ages 12 to 13, 7.9 percent among youth ages 14 to 15, and 16.5 percent among youth ages 16 to 17. The highest rate of current illicit drug use was among youth ages 18 to 20 (22.7 percent), with the next highest rate occurring among people ages 21 to 25 (21.5 percent).

In December, the White House of National Drug Control Policy came out with a report on the prescription drug and heroin epidemic. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids rose from 28,647 in 2014 to 33,091 in 2015.

  • Heroin overdose deaths rose from 10,574 in 2014 to 12,990 in 2015, an increase of 23 percent.
  • Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone rose from 5,544 in 2014 to 9,580 in 2015, an increase of 73 percent. This category of opioids is dominated by fentanyl-related overdoses, and recent research indicates the fentanyl involved in these deaths is illicitly manufactured, not from medications containing fentanyl.
  • Taken together, 19,885 Americans lost their lives in 2015 to deaths involving primarily illicit opioids: heroin, synthetic opioids other than methadone (e.g., fentanyl), or a mixture of the two.
  • Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids, excluding the category predominated by illicit fentanyl, rose only slightly from 16,941 in 2014 to 17,536 in 2015, a 4% increase.

NOTE: A portion of the overdose deaths involved both illicit opioids and prescription opioids.

by Sandra Goldmeer