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Student-athletes make statement to stay away from drugs and alcohol

Students attend a conference at which they take a stand against alcohol and drug abuse. (WJAR)
Students attend a conference at which they take a stand against alcohol and drug abuse. (WJAR)
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Hundreds of students from across Rhode Island attend a conference, pledging to be substance-free.

"I personally took the pledge because my aunt smoked and died of cancer, and I don't want to have the same outcome as she did," said Sophie Artery.

It's personal for Artery and Sam Northup, both athletes at North Kingstown High School.

"I have a close friend who was struggling, and he turned to substance use and we tried to reach him," Northup said. "He's doing better now, but it opened my eyes to wow, this really is a problem."

Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse is the name of the program that Artery and Northup belong to, and it centers around modeling wellness behavior for other students.

Participants said they’re worried about opioid use in addition to a general abuse of alcohol and other drugs among teens.

At this conference, Angel Schultz said she wants to give kids the tools they need to spread the substance-free message.

"As someone who was an athlete growing up and that was the beginning of my addiction, I think it's incredible these kids are taking a stand and wanting to have these conversations in their schools," Schultz said.

Rhode Island Student Assistance Services recognizes the opioid problem, and it is adjusting its curriculum to specifically address it in high school classrooms.

"My sense is we need to do a better job with wellness and mental health so we can address why students are using in the first place so we can prevent early use so they may not go on to other substances,” said Kathy Sullivan of Rhode Island Student Assistant Services.

Artery said the important part is being public about being substance-free.

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