National Families In Action

In November 1977 a group of concerned citizens in Atlanta, Georgia, troubled by the emergence of commercial and environmental pressures that seemed to encourage people to use addictive drugs, formed National Families in Action (NFIA). These commercial and environmental pressures coincided with an escalation in drug use among children and young adults to the highest levels in the history of the world. The organization's founders—parents, doctors, law-enforcement officials, political leaders, educators, business leaders, and others— sought to replace the glamorization of drug use with accurate, reliable information based on scientific research about drug effects.

Initially, National Families in Action targeted the drug PARAPHERNALIA industry. If drugs such as Marijuana and Cocaine were illegal, the group reasoned, it made no sense to allow the sale of implements to enhance their use. Three months after its founding, National Families in Action got the Georgia legislature to pass the nation's first laws prohibiting the sale of drug paraphernalia. Publicity surrounding this event brought calls from people across the United States who wanted to organize similar groups to ban drug-paraphernalia sales in their communities. They also wanted to educate their families and communities about the harmful effects of drugs, to prevent drug use before it started, to help users stop, and to find treatment for those who couldn't stop using drugs. The organization published a manual, How to Form a Families in Action Group in Your Community, which helped many thousands of groups organize. In addition, members traveled throughout the United States to help families organize community-based, substance abuse prevention groups.

National Families in Action established a drug information center, collecting articles from medical and scientific journals about all aspects of substance abuse, including research about drug effects, prevention of use, intervention, and treatment. It also collects articles from newspapers and maga zines about drug policy and the emergence and growth of the grass-roots prevention movement in the United States (and, increasingly, abroad). In addition, the collection houses publications of the drug paraphernalia industry and organizations that advocate drug legalization. National Families in Action s drug information center contains more than 500,000 documents on substance abuse. The center answers questions from people throughout the world who call or write for information.

In 1982, National Families in Action began publishing Drug Abuse Update, a quarterly digest containing abstracts of articles collected at the center. In 1990, the organization introduced Drug Abuse Update for Kids, written for children in elementary and middle schools. It publishes other drug-education materials as well, including a curriculum about drugs and the brain titled You Have the Right to Know. From 1984 to 1990, National Families in Action's executive director, Sue Rusche, wrote a twice-weekly column on substance abuse that was syndicated by King Features to more than 100 newspapers throughout the nation.

In 1990, National Families in Action received a demonstration grant from the CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE Abuse Prevention to help families who lived in two Atlanta public housing developments prevent substance abuse in their communities. Called Inner City Families in Action, this project was named one of eleven exemplary programs in the United States in 1993. The program trains parents to teach You Have the Right to Know to neighbors, friends, and children. It helps parents obtain needed skills to complete their education and enter the work force. It also helps parents form Families in Action groups to seek treatment for loved ones who are addicted to drugs, to engage children in productive activities, and to prevent substance abuse in their communities.

National Families in Action recently agreed to help support International Students in Action (ISIA), which was founded in 1999. ISIA's board members include students from educational institutions like the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard, as well as international students from the United Kingdom and other countries. The group's goals include involving students in the drug prevention dialogue and creating a drug-education curriculum on campuses all over the world.

National Families in Action also developed an after-school program, Club HERO (Helping Every one Reach Out), which provides a positive environment for youths and rewards them for school performance and good behavior. NFIA introduced the You Have A Right to Know course into the program, and gives youths the chance to listen to and interact with local community role models.

NFIA has always been a leader in the fight against the drug-legalization movement. They stepped up these efforts in 1999 when they joined two other organizations in condemning a reality-based drug education program that teaches children that it is possible to have ''positive relationships'' with marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drugs. A proposed conference in October 1999 called Just Say Know: New Directions in Drug Education, sponsored by The Lindesmith Center-West, aimed to instruct parents and students that drug use among some kids is inevitable and something that should not be stopped or prevented. The director of The Lindesmith Center-West suggested that ''successful'' drug users be sent into classrooms to serve as good examples for children.

Sue Rusche, NFIA executive director, condemned the conference and said its major goal was to use children as pawns in the drug-legalization crusade. ''In the 1970s,'' she remarked, ''this approach to drug education helped drive adolescent drug use to the highest levels in history.''

The Lindesmith Center and its supporters believe that the ''Just Say No'' policies of the 1980s have not worked and a new approach to drug education is necessary. Drug prevention advocates such as NFIA believe that parents who teach and discipline their children can make a difference. They suggest keeping a continuous dialogue with kids, setting limits, and enforcing consequences if rules are broken. Recent data has suggests that kids whose parent instruct them about the dangers of drug use are 36 percent less likely to use marijuana and 56 percent less likely to use cocaine (Office of National Drug Policy, 1998). NFIA continues to fight numerous organization and movements whose major goal is the legalization of drugs or reality-based drug education.

Throughout its history, National Families in Action has developed numerous networks and national coalitions to advance the field of substance abuse prevention. These include the Prevention, Intervention and Treatment Coalition for Health (PITCH), an association of community-based prevention organizations that serve many different ethnic and cultural groups throughout the nation. Through its advocacy efforts, PITCH helped bring about the creation of a new federal agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to further develop the prevention field. National Families in Action is increasingly called upon to help citizens from other nations develop prevention groups.

Along with other national prevention organizations, National Families in Action has played a pivotal role in driving drug use down since 1979.

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