Scientology Volunteers Helping Stem Tampa Bay’s Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Problem

Scientologist Julieta Gil Santagostino and 30 volunteers work year-round to educate Tampa Bay teens about the horrors of prescription drug addiction

With teen prescription drug abuse reaching crisis levels in the Tampa Bay Area, volunteers from local Scientology Churches have now expanded their community outreach through the Truth About Drugs program.

The problem in the Tampa Bay area runs deep: More than half of nearly 1,000 students in grades 9-12 surveyed in the Tampa Bay area in November 2012 were worried about a friend's drug use—or their own. Nearly 60 percent said students take prescription drugs recreationally because of pressure from their friends.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster attended a Community Town Hall meeting November 15 to take up these survey results and address local teen prescription drug abuse. And in a recent guest column in the Tampa Bay Times, Assistant State Attorney of Florida's 6th Judicial Circuit, Chris Sprowls, wrote: “The proliferation and abuse of prescription pills throughout the state and particularly in the Tampa Bay area is our greatest law enforcement crisis.”

Eradicating teen prescription drug abuse becomes even more urgent in the light of a May 2012 report of the National Institute on Drug Abuse that states 62 percent more youth ages 15-24 die from abuse of prescription opioids (synthetic narcotics with heroin-like properties) than from abuse of all illegal drugs combined.

Committed to helping teens avoid the tragedy of substance abuse, Scientologist Julieta Gil Santagostino of Clearwater, Florida, leads a corps of more than 30 Tampa Bay area volunteers.

They use the Truth About Drugs, a program supported by the Church of Scientology. It draws on 25 years of experience in drug prevention and has solved the problem of effectively communicating the reality of drug abuse to teens and young adults, individually and through mass communication.

Working with youth agencies, schools, law enforcement, and more than 100 local businesses, Santagostino and her volunteers conduct drug education lectures and seminars, set up booths at events, and hold rallies, encouraging youth to pledge to live drug-free lives. They have distributed more than a quarter of a million Truth About Drugs educational booklets throughout the region.

Santagostino knows the importance of reaching kids before drug dealers do. She grew up in the Mexican border city of Juarez, where she saw the horrors of the drug wars first hand—drug cartels terrorizing residents, warfare over drug trafficking routes killing thousands, and cartels even pressing children into selling drugs.

“I saw what drugs did to Juarez,” she says, “I want to create a safe community where children can grow up free from drugs and violence—I want Tampa Bay to be that safe place.”

The Church of Scientology has published a new brochure, Scientology: How We Help—The Truth About Drugs, Creating a Drug-Free World, to meet requests for more information about the drug education and prevention initiative it supports. To learn more or read a copy of the brochure, visit the Scientology website.

Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote, “The planet has hit a barrier which prevents any widespread social progress—drugs and other biochemical substances. These can put people into a condition which not only prohibits and destroys physical health but which can prevent any stable advancement in mental or spiritual well-being.”

The Church of Scientology supports the Truth About Drugs, one of the world’s largest nongovernmental drug education and prevention campaigns. It has been conclusively proven that when young people are provided with the truth about drugs—factual information on what drugs are and what they do—usage rates drop commensurately.