Know The Truth, a substance use prevention program of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, was recently at Osseo Senior High School. The program was established in 2006, and since then, has led to more than 10,000 presentations and have connected with more than 400,000 students in 160-plus high schools and middle schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Students in health classes at OSH were able to listen to Know The Truth presenters share their stories of personal struggles with addiction. At the event presentation, there is an introduction of what Know The Truth is, a personal story is shared by a presenter, information on gateway drugs is discussed, and then more personal stories are shared.

Sadie Holland, Prevention Education Manager with Know The Truth, said “All the presenters are trained prior to go into the schools and sharing their stories of their addiction with the students.”

She added that since these are real-life examples, the presenters and students can able to related. “These personal stories create an open dialogue with the students,” Holland said.

Osseo students were able to ask the presenters questions that many text books cannot answer. “The students are encouraged to ask questions they have from what they hear at the presentation,” she said. “Addiction can happen to anyone.”

She said addiction in teens can stem of anything from peer pressure, to a parent’s divorce, to an injury, just to name a few.

According to the Know The Truth website, the program engages students because students are able to relate to the presenters, as many of the presenters are only a few years older than the students. This program is critical since a vast majority of those with an alcohol or drug addiction began drinking, smoking or using illicit drugs before the age of 18.

Holland said presenters at OSH talked to the students about how likely a person would say “yes” to drugs if they are already under the influence of something else.

“The Know The Truth presentation helps students formulate responses if they are faced with the question to try something addictive,” Holland said.

At the end of the presentations, OSH students were surveyed anonymously. Holland said the students are asked about demographics, feedback about the presentation, and substance use data (including if the student has used drugs, what kind, and if no, why). This anonymous data is combined and given to the school later to use for its own efforts to combat teen substance abuse.

“We ask them to pledge with us,” she added. Of those students, 85% to 95% commit to not using.

Holland added that all the students receive a resource card. The card has information for mental health help, anxiety issues, eating disorders. She said there is a hotline listed on the card for students to call and anonymously ask questions in the future.

“These presentations allow us to hear from the teens in the community about the current trends,” she said. “We are then able to help educate the schools and parents. We offer parent education events, because parents need to stay up to date on the trends. And we partner with high schools at the county level to paint them a picture of the community. We can tell parents and the county what is popular in the schools, and even where kids may be hiding drugs.”

A recent study conducted by an outside research evaluator from the University of Minnesota validated Know The Truth’s success. This study showed that nearly one in four students in the KTT group (23.7 percent) reported an overall increase in healthy attitudes toward substance use and the risks associated with it, compared to only about one in 12 (8.1 percent) in the control group of students who participated in only the standard health curriculum.

“The peer to peer format works,” Holland said. “Students hear and understand the presenters when they say, ‘I get it, I’ve been there.’”

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