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April 28, 2016
By Derran Eaddy, Solstik Founder and Former New Mexico Commissioner on Higher Education 

Using Physical Activity to Combat Addiction

It may sound counter-intuitive, but skateboarding — and other related sports such as BMX and snowboarding — should be explored for the prevention and treatment of drug addiction. Millions of Americans are burning calories and finding happiness through skateboarding, so more should be done to partner the sport with drug prevention and treatment education.

Clinical research now shows that physically active youth are less likely to use illicit drugs, and they are less likely to be involved with serious crimes overall. As would be expected, those who avoid drugs in their youth also have a greater tendency to stay away from drugs later in life.

Nevertheless, too many other drug use trends are moving in the wrong direction. The U.S. is currently seeing a widespread resurgence of
illicit drug use, such as heroin and methamphetamines; addiction levels have reached epidemic proportions; and overdose deaths are at rates never before seen. Here are a few statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Many people know they are in trouble with drug addiction, but that's obviously not enough. Currently, the medical community emphasizes that addiction is a clinical brain disorder, which takes away a users simple choice to just quit. It's a disease. And much like how people can't cure themselves of cancer, they can't cure themselves of drug addiction either. Since so many people who abuse drugs are unable to stop their destructive habits on their own, many experts are pushing for more resources to prevent addiction before it occurs.

Some organizations are turning specifically to skateboarding as a possible way to keep adolescents and young adults from becoming dependent on illicit drugs. As states across the nation relax their rules and enforcement of recreational and medical marijuana use, it's becoming more obvious that people will need more definitive guidance to help them stay away from the gateway into illicit drug addiction. 

So What Can be Done?
Here are two recent examples of publicly funded programs that blend skateboarding and counseling intervention: 

Fun Without Drugs Skateboarding Program
Skateboarders and city officials in Hopatcong, NJ created an unlikely partnership when they launched a drug education initiative designed to prevent addiction. The Fun Without Drugs Skateboarding Program paired a local skateboard company with municipal resources to help riders develop their self-steam and use the sport as a positive outlet.  

Skateboarders contributed their knowledge of the sport and helped program participants better understand the benefits of staying drug free.  

More Information:

Board of Child Care Skatepark
The Board of Child Care in Baltimore, MD went even further and built a skatepark on its campus to give program participants a safe place to go skateboarding. The non-profit provides residential services to children who are referred to them by the state. It added a skatepark for its many therapeutic benefits.  

More Information:

How Many People Ride Skateboards?
Market research companies estimate that there are around 10 million skateboarders in the U.S. contributing to a $4.8 billion dollar industry. The X-Games, Mountain Dew Tour, and ESPN2’s Street League competitions are giving the sport significant mainstream exposure, while core industry companies continue to attract participants. Today’s skateboard industry is well established with publicly traded companies and multinational organizations sustaining professional teams. 

Notably, skateboarding is not just for teens. Only 45% of skateboarders are between the ages of 12 and 17. Some skateboard enthusiasts and professionals are riding well past the age of 40, giving them a lifelong connection to the benefits of the sport.        

More Information:

City governments and private businesses across the U.S. are managing efforts to build skateboard parks, but few have taken the steps to offer structured, supervised programs. Even fewer are using skateboarding for drug addiction and prevention education.

The long-term health benefits of physical activity and counseling offer hope to those fighting against the destructive power of drug addiction. Skateboarding against the wave of hard drugs may be one of the only ways some youth find their way through our increasingly complex society. 

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