Drug abuse, enforcement education to be addressed at expo (Q&A)

Drug awareness education is an ever-evolving practice, with experts continually working to find new ways to teach kids about the consequences of substance abuse.

For Cathleen Drew, education director of the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum in Arlington, Va., scientific evidence is one of the best ways to get young people's attention when explaining the harmful side effects of drug abuse.


At Friday's Drug and Violence Awareness Expo, Drew will speak about fighting drugs through education, which the museum attempts to do by providing exhibits and displays to give visitors an interactive way to learn about drug abuse and enforcement.

The expo, presented by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, will cover drugs, gangs, domestic violence and sexual assaults, including the effects on the greater community and businesses.

The seminar on drug abuse education will be held at 11:30 a.m. at the Carroll County Agricultural Center.

Q: Can you describe the mission of the museum?

A: The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum and Visitors Center is to educate the American public on the history of drugs, drug addiction and drug law enforcement in the United States through engaging and state-of-the-art exhibits, displays, interactive stations and educational outreach programs. The DEA Museum will provide a unique learning environment for the public to discover the role and impact of federal drug law enforcement on the changing trends of licit and illicit drug use in American history.

Q: What are you planning to speak about at the upcoming expo?

A: I will be speaking about the DEA Museum and its traveling exhibit, Target America, a portion of which —Target Maryland — is currently in Hagerstown at the Discovery Station and highlights drug issues in Maryland as well as prevention and treatment information. I will also share information with the students about the history of drugs and the consequences of drug abuse, how drugs can impact the body and the brain. I'll also touch on the costs of drugs to various aspects of society — children, communities, environment, etc. As a scientist, I tend to highlight the science of drugs and how the chemicals in the drugs directly affect the body and the brain.

I'm going to talk about the science behind addictions, why we become addicted and why it is so hard to recover from addiction — which is why it is so important to never start taking drugs — and also why using drugs is more dangerous to a teen's brain than an adult's brain, and how abusing drugs as a teen, when the brain is still developing, can cause permanent damage.

Q: How is this relevant to what is happening in Carroll County right now?

A: Statewide — in fact, nationwide — we have been seeing an increase in drug abuse, beginning at younger and younger ages, and Carroll County is no exception. There is a recent trend with today's youth that the perceived risk of certain drugs has gone down, and this is in direct correlation with drug use going up. I want to make them aware of the dangers in drugs and share some actual facts to that effect.

Q: What have you seen change in how drug abuse education is taught?

A: What I've noticed is that kids may not listen to someone who is just telling them that drugs are bad. But, when faced with scientific data and proof of the harm they can do, they are more willing to listen, particularly when accompanied by graphic illustrations. Also, if parents are onboard with teaching their kids the dangers of drugs and let their kids know that they don't approve, drug use has declined.

Q: What are you hoping listeners will get our of your presentation?

A: I want them to understand the dangers of drugs, to know what is out there as well as let them know that there are places they can go for more information or to get help.



If you go

What: Drug and Violence Awareness Expo

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, May 1

Where: Carroll County Agricultural Center Shipley Arena, 706 Agricultural Center Drive, Westminster

Cost: Free

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