8th Grade World Issues Project: Addiction

May 31, 2017

Dear School Leader,

We are eighth graders from The Riverside School and this year our social studies class has been about “world issues.” During the final quarter of the year we have taken the skills we developed looking a global issues to look at local issues. We decided to focus our energy on learning about addiction because of its relevance in northern New England, especially in the Northeast Kingdom. After learning about addiction we have decided that the best way to stop this crisis is to provide good information to students so we can make informed decisions as drugs become apparent in our lives.

In 2014, then Governor Peter Shumlin dedicated his entire State of the State address to the crisis of addiction in Vermont. This alone says that it is important, but some of the statistics he pointed to are staggering. For instance, overdose deaths doubled in just one year between 2012 and 2013, largely attributed to the fact that every week over two million dollars worth of heroin and other opiates are trafficked into our state. Another reason that addiction is such a problem is that there are hundreds of people wanting treatment just within the Northeast Kingdom. However, there has been a 770% increase in treatment and recovery since 2000. 80% of the people in Vermont jails are incarcerated because of their addiction, and the law enforcement is tightening, with five times the number of criminal indictments for drugs since 2013, when Shumlin really started addressing the problem.

There are a few things that really surprised our class when we were studying this issue, the first of which is that anyone you see can be an addict, no matter what they look like or where they are from. People can start taking drugs because of a variety of influences, including stress, depression, peer pressure, poverty, or over-prescribed medicines. Another thing that stunned us was that addiction can cost thousands of dollars a day, and this expense can drive people to steal or commit other crimes. The scariest thing to us is that one in ten Americans will develop an addiction of some sort in their lives, which means that someone in your classes will someday become an addict.

There is no one solution to this problem, but your school can do its part to stop this health crisis by educating your students. Inside this packet you will find plans and materials for a five lesson unit, appropriate for middle and high schoolers. We also have provided you with a list of people in recovery who would like to come speak to your classes, and a copy of the documentary The Hungry Heart, which is about addiction in Vermont. Please use this mini-unit to educate your students and yourselves and thus help fight this horrible disease.

Nelson Eaton, Sawyer Goodwin, Waverly Griffin, Clara Harrison, Austin Kapoukranidis, John Keenan, Holden Larsen, Katie Lyon, Claire Morgan, Ishika Patel, Lucas Patoine, Darwin Smyth,
Ruby Yerkes, and teacher Nelia Rath


Addiction Mini Unit