Leading the Conversation About Substance Use

Posted On Tuesday November 05, 2019
Students from Durham District School Board, Durham Catholic District School Board, Conseil scolaire Viamonde, and Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board schools tried to walk a straight line while wearing goggles that simulate visual impairment due to alcohol or cannabis consumption, at the 5th Annual “The Leader in Me: Awareness in Action” Conference.

Students participate in the 5th Annual “The Leader in Me: Awareness to Action” Conference

For the past five years, the Durham Youth Drug Awareness Committee (DYDAC) has been hosting an annual student conference entitled “The Leader in Me: Awareness to Action.”

DYDAC is a collaborative committee comprised of representatives from the Durham District School Board (DDSB), Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB), Carea Community Health Centre, Durham Region Public Health, and Pinewood Centre of Lakeridge Health.

On October 22nd,secondary students from the DDSB, DCDSB, and Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board (KPRDSB), and the French school board Conseil scolaire Viamonde, gathered at the Pope Francis Convention Centre in Oshawa to learn and share ideas about substance awareness initiatives.

Over the course of the day, students rotated through a variety of sessions that touched on topics from opioids and alcohol to vaping and cannabis, with the end goal being to brainstorm awareness campaigns to launch in their schools.

The Impact of Drugs and Alcohol

“We want them to gain an understanding of the key issues that impact substance use in adolescents, and be able to bring back some new campaign ideas to their schools,” explains Dan Hogan, Violence Prevention and Substance Abuse Coordinator at the DDSB.

In the session about alcohol consumption, Amy Rukaruck, a Health Promoter at Carea Community Health Centre, shared the importance of knowing what a substance use problem looks like. “In the case of binge drinking, the usual factors include having five or more drinks in one occasion and/or drinking very quickly to get drunk,” explains Rukaruck.

She adds that it is important to notice these things, because it could potentially save someone’s life if they become unconscious and need to be put in the recovery position. The recovery position is used to prevent suffocation via an obstruction of the airway, which can happen to an unconscious person. 

Afterwards, students were able to attempt to walk a straight line, piece together a puzzle, and pour accurate measurements of drinks all while wearing fatal vision goggles.

Fatal vision goggles are a simulation tool that allows users to experience what it’s like to navigate simple tasks after alcohol or cannabis consumption.

Students quickly realized the impact impairment has on the eyes and brain, and why it is important to always consider the amount of consumption before doing anything that could potentially harm themselves or someone else.

By the end of the day, students identified the most pressing topics they wanted to address at their schools, and conceptualized health campaigns they thought would have significant impact on their peers.

Hogan notes that “The Leader in Me” Conference is the first step students can take in creating a greater awareness regarding substance use in their school community.