Jacksonville program helps teens struggling with substance abuse get their lives back on track

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville program is helping teens get their lives back on track after drugs.

Florida Recovery School was established in 2014 to help teens struggling with substance abuse.

One teen told News4JAX that he started using drugs at 9 years old but has gotten his life back on track thanks to the program.

Brandon, 17, said he was exposed to drugs as a young child and said his curiosity was piqued, so he started using nicotine and marijuana.

He thought as a child that life was hard and he didn’t think he could talk to his parents so he turned to drugs.

“A lot of it was coping. You really can’t explain to adults because what a lot of people may not realize talking to an adult a lot of times those adults look down on you since you are a child and younger than them,” Brandon said.

In 2022, reported use of any illicit drug within the past year was at 11% for eighth graders, 21.5% for 10 graders, and 32.6% for 12 graders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Director of Florida Recovery Schools Dan Renaud encouraged teens to reach out for help with substance abuse.

“They are in a stressful situation. They try it, they experience something that seems pleasurable to them if they are in a stressful situation,” Renaud said. “It’s a coping mechanism, at least initially.”

Renaud said some kids initially use drugs to cope with stress and then it quickly evolves into an addiction.

“I always tell parents to treat it like any other illness that wouldn’t go away. You would take them to a doctor to try to figure it out. If your kid is struggling with math, you get a tutor. Same thing with this, if your child appears to be struggling with substance abuse, don’t hide it, try to explain it away, reach out. There is plenty of help available,” Renaud said.

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