Tuesday 24 October 2017

The Weekly Read: 'We need to start talking about addiction'

Conor Shields spoke to Tara O'Brien about her recent campaign to highlight addiction in young people

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Stock photo

Conor Shields

The Welfare Officer at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has called for a new attitude towards tackling drug addictions among third level students.

Tara O’Brien, VP for Welfare for DIT’s Students' Union said that universities need a stronger approach than the traditional "saying no" mantra.

"The way I see it, the 'just say no' approach doesn’t work. You can’t tell people what to do. It’s not to tell people to do or don’t do drugs, do or don’t have a pint, don’t be buying scratch cards, etc. Do what you want but just know your boundaries,”said Ms O’Brien.

Following on from previous welfare campaigns which mainly focused on the issue of drug addiction, Ms O’Brien is adamant to educate students on the various forms addiction can take and to highlight that not all addictions have to be associated with illegal substances.

"If we take tobacco for example, it’s not good for you at all but many still use it as a vice, whether it be taking a ten minute break from their job or to de-stress. However, tobacco is legal. There is no difference between the legal and illegal.

"There have been people in my life that have had dealings with drugs and they were treated as criminals purely because it (addiction) wasn’t an illness that was regarded as credible. I think that’s where my fuel for the campaign came from because at an age where we’re talking about mental health so openly, why aren’t we talking about addiction?"

The Addiction Awareness campaign is a joint collaboration between DITSU and The Rutland Centre, one of Ireland’s biggest addiction rehabilitation centres.

When asked about her aim for the event, Ms O’Brien explained that she won’t be expecting the masses, but will be happy if her message can reach even one person.

"I just have this funny idea in my head of people not coming to the stand because it has something to do with addiction. So, my plan is to dot leaflets across the three campuses, like the stage area in Bolton Street or the cafe upstairs, so people might see them when they sit down or walking around and think, 'that’s very interesting, that made me think of somebody I really care about', even if it’s just one person. You can’t start a bonfire without lighting a match first," she said.

With thanks to Campus.ie

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