Q&A With Drugfree.org

Q&A With Drugfree.org

03.15.13 | By Kaelan Hollon

I've written before about our partnership with Drugfree.org and their incredible work last year on The Prescription Drug Abuse Project made some real headlines. I wanted to check in to see what else they've been up to since then, so I sat down with Drugfree.org's President, Steve Pasierb, for a few questions and an update.

What's new with Drugfree.org since your huge project last Fall, when we last checked in?

It was a huge project, and PhRMA was a tremendous partner to us in The Medicine Abuse Project. This Project, for those who aren't familiar, aims to prevent half a million teens from abusing medicine by 2017. It's an expansive, national action campaign rallying forces from as far as Sonora, CA to Washington, DC.

And, in just under six months, we created and led a massive collaboration of 18 corporations and trade associations, seven federal agencies, more than 60 national nonprofit and community partners and hundreds of thousands of individuals in the first steps of a multi-year effort to end teen abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter cough medicine. In doing so, we fostered unlikely partnerships of public and private entities, of Democrats and Republicans, of celebrities and non-celebrities, of doctors and patients.

It was incredible and humbling, and it showed what we can do - together - to end this epidemic. It was also exhausting, but still, we're energized to keep pushing since this is a five-year commitment!

But our big news this week is that we've acquired the Meth Project, uniting two renowned nonprofits to reduce teen substance abuse. The Meth Project's public education programs, advertising campaigns, prevention tools, and family of websites, including MethProject.org, will now be a part of our comprehensive national efforts.

As PhRMA knows, an extraordinary group of passionate individuals from business, government and private philanthropy are successfully operating the Meth Project in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The Partnership is honored to be trusted with stewarding the relationships and intellectual property created by The Meth Project Foundation over the past eight years. This transition provides resources necessary to provide direct technical assistance, access for states to new tools from The Partnership's portfolio of programs and the ability to help states continue to advance their evidence-based work that is changing and saving lives.

We've talked quite a bit about prescription drug abuse on this blog, how does The Meth Project fit into the problem of drug abuse generally, illicit or rx?

It fits both because of the diversion of legitimate, beneficial OTC products containing pseudoephedrine that are wrongly used to produce meth locally and because of a tide of finished meth coming over our border from Mexico.

Like any other drug, prescription, over-the-counter or illicit, methamphetamine is a widespread problem in this country. While some areas are more adversely affected than others, the need for education is important; especially because of the unique, devastating societal effects methamphetamine use and production has on communities.

Meth affects more than just the user; it affects children of users, children in areas where meth is being produced and entire communities, including property owners, law enforcement, sanitation and city workers and more.

We have been working on meth issues for a decade and through our community education program, we've been deeply involved at the community level for nearly eight years. The education that was needed years ago is still needed today, particularly because meth is more neurotoxic than other drugs which results in more severe and longer lasting brain damage than other drugs.

What's your goals, in acquiring The Meth Project? Anything we should keep an eye out for?

Foremost, we want to keep the exceptional Meth Project state organizations moving forward.

This is an incredible opportunity to reinvigorate prevention messaging, and it comes at a crucial time when funding for vital prevention programs has been slashed and in some cases zeroed out of the federal government's budget. When many nonprofits are struggling to tackle large-scale problems with large-scale resources, we are combining efforts to do just that.

What's more, many of The Meth Project states have told us that our research-based programs on medicine abuse reduction, like The Medicine Abuse Project, and resources for parents including our Parents360 materials are vitally needed in their states, so we can help them continue to press against meth as well as tackle new challenges.

Our vision is a world where all children can live a life free of drug and alcohol abuse. Our daily work is all about the idea of bringing the word "partnership" to life. It's about focus, evidence and solutions. Acquiring The Meth Project is a natural reflection of our beliefs and our strong commitment to making certain their good work can continue into the future.

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