MBHI: Drug epidemic at an all-time high


A newly created non-profit group has been reaching out to schools on the islands to raise awareness about the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

Diego “DJ” Sablan, executive director of Marianas Behavioral Health International, along with volunteers Joey Arriola and others, spoke to middle school students of Hopwood Junior High School about their experiences with drug and alcohol abuse.

“We are sharing the effects of [drugs and alcohol], …realizing that this has really affected our lives,” said Sablan. “We are now sober and…sharing it with others.”

According to Sablan, middle school students are among the youngest group of students to have contact with drugs such as methamphetamine or “ice” and cannabis or marijuana.

“As we talk to the community, [substance abuse] is at an all-time high. It is an epidemic now. We have recognized that not only do we have adult users, but now it is also getting down to the younger children. As we go around and talk to people, the middle school children have now been affected as well,” said Sablan.

According to him, they have learned from their presentations that majority of students have seen and have been offered “ice.”

“We did a show of hands asking how many have seen ‘ice.’ Majority raised their hand. We asked how many of [the middle school students] knew someone who uses ‘ice’ and the majority of them raised their hands as well. We asked how many of them were offered to use ‘ice,’ about half of the whole audience raised their hands.”

Arriola, a former lawyer, lost his law license because of drugs.

“What I share with children all the time is how I lost my law license. Part of how I lost my law license was being hooked on alcohol and drugs. A lot of people don’t know that, so I try to go out and champion this cause, telling people to think about what could happen to you [if you abuse drugs]. I am just a real-life story that they can relate to and I feel that this can impact their lives,” said Arriola.

Arriola said the growing drug epidemic has to be stopped in its tracks.

“It has reached epidemic proportions and it is not just [affecting] the adults, but it is now [affecting] the children. [We are] doing anything to try and slow that down and help our children,” he said.

Arriola told the children that anyone thinking about trying drugs should just remember what happened to him.

“I am not going to tell you not to do it. If you are thinking of trying it, then here is my story. See what could happen to you and how it could ruin everything you have worked for,“ said Arriola.

Noel Roque, a seventh grader at Hopwood, said the presentation opened his eyes to the drug problem.

“[The presentation] helped me a lot by telling me not to do drugs or alcohol when I grow up because I might not have a good life, a job, and all those things,” he said.

For counseling, contact MBHI at 234-4673(HOPE). The MBHI patient center is located at the second floor of the Marianas Business Plaza.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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