What I found most horrifying is that addiction can start in the most unsuspecting of places: the family medicine cabinet. Our whole lives we’re taught prescription drugs are meant to help us, to heal us, but the truth is they’re the most accessible drugs and potentially the most life-threatening. And in most homes, they just sit in an unlocked medicine cabinet.
Last year, I attended the 4-H Healthy Living Summit in Washington, a youth conference focused on providing hands-on learning and training for teens interested in addressing health-related issues. With my fellow 4-Hers, we decided to take action within our community. We could not just sit on the sidelines, we know that one addiction averted is one life saved. Together we developed an addiction education program that relies on teen leadership and decreases the stigma around addiction.
Our program is simple and grounded in reality. We put youths in Ohio in the same situation they’re in every day: staring at the medicine cabinet in their bathroom. We built a simulated bathroom, complete with a sink and vanity mirror. Inside the cabinet is what you would normally see in a typical family medicine cabinet: prescription pill bottles. The only difference is on the bottles are facts about addiction and opioids. The mirror brings young people face to face to realization that anyone — even themselves — can become addicted if prescription medications are mishandled.
We’ve traveled all around Ohio sharing our exhibit with youths at schools, fairs and more. Every conversation I had gave me hope we were helping to make a difference — person by person — but I knew it was not enough. That is why I’m working with 4-H to share the medicine cabinet project with young people all over this country in the hope they can take up the fight in their own communities.
Societies throughout history have risen to the challenge of ensuring deadly disease is thwarted. I am only trying to do the same. The only difference is the foe we’re facing. It’s not a viral infection or a bacterial disease, it’s a mental illness.
Young Americans across the country have the power to stand up and say: “Not my community.” I found support with my peers from my 4-H club, but the opportunity to make a difference can be found anywhere and with anyone. All it takes is the courage to take action.
Kylie Cline is a 17-year-old 4-H member from Columbiana County, Ohio. She has started a Health Heroes program in her community with support from 4-H and a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.