Drug Educators Visit Campus

Pot. Speed. Acid. Andover students discussed all those and more over the past week as representatives from Freedom from Chemical Dependency, a program which recruits former drug users to speak about their experiences, visited campus. While most schools offer only introductory substance abuse education courses, Andover offers a full range of in-depth workshops. Associate Dean of Students Cilla Bonney-Smith said that the drug and alcohol awareness provided by the FCD classes acts as the “inoculation of the community” for the year. She said, “I would feel very remiss if we as a school did not address [substance abuse] in a public and thorough way. Teachers do not want students in class who have blown away their weekend or their mid-week by abusing drugs and alcohol.” New FCD courses this year included “Marijuana and the Law,” taught by Will Slotnik, who has completed extensive research on the pros and cons of decriminalizing marijuana. An Andover alumnus also spoke of his recovery from alcohol abuse and his experiences helping prisoners in their recovery, conveying that substance abuse can happen to people from all walks of life. Also, Andover Drug and Alcohol Awareness Committee board members April Franz ’04 and Michelle Comeau ’05 organized “High Profiles,” a workshop that deals with the portrayal of drugs and alcohol in Hollywood and the music industry. Ms. Bonney-Smith said that the Student/Faculty Fishbowl was very popular this year because three faculty members at the workshop were Andover alumni and offered interesting perspectives about substance abuse at Andover during the 1960’s, ’70’s, and ’90’s. ADAAC co-head Justin Cahill ’04 said that the success of FCD week depends on the student’s willingness to learn and take the forums seriously. He added that the Student/Faculty Fishbowl was the most powerful of all the FCD programs that he has taken. “The opportunity to speak openly with other students and faculty was very different, and it was a fun experience hearing their opinions,” he said. Ms. Bonney-Smith hopes that by having substance abuse education during one week, it will make a “big splash” on campus. Though she said that students generally abuse substances less often in fall term than in winter term, she is optimistic about student drug and alcohol abuse so far: “It’s been a good year.” Each September, ADAAC reads student evaluations of the previous year’s FCD week and uses them to choose the coming year’s workshops and teachers. Franz described the planning process: “When FCD week finally rolls around, ADAAC members meet FCD reps at the beginning of the week and show them where their classrooms are.” However, Franz said that many Andover students are already educated about drugs and alcohol before FCD week. But, she said, “hearing a personal story from an FCD rep can make the consequences of using more real and break down the mentality that ‘it will never happen to me.’” She concluded, “If FCD reaches only a few students each year, then I think that we are accomplishing something and that it is a program worth continuing.”