“We all get impacted by addiction,” says Daniel Dadoun, executive director of Addiction Education Society (AES).
There is a misperception that only people who are in recovery from addiction understand its dynamics. Dadoun, who is not in recovery, has incredible insight when it comes to advocating for prevention, treatment and recovery services.
In fact, he says he’s “proud to be a part of the movement.”
Dadoun’s advocacy efforts began years ago with the Mid-Peninsula Boys & Girls Club in San Mateo, CA. He could see that traditional after school offerings like homework assistance, socializing activities and preparing middle schoolers for high school were no longer enough. Drug and alcohol prevention programs were ineffective with very limited training.
He watched as students—from third-graders to freshmen—were left alone to fend for themselves.
One day, Dadoun, who is from Israel, came to a sudden realization. “I need to help kids.” By the time he left the Boys & Girls Club, after 17 years, the Mid-Peninsula chapter had provided services for 1,400 kids in three clubhouses.
In 2014, Chuck Johnson, who founded AES and served as the board president, approached Dadoun and asked him to develop a high school curriculum that addresses the long-term impact of family involvement in addiction.
Dadoun says by this time he had put two and two together and realized that kids are at high risk for moving toward addiction when both students and families remain uneducated about addiction.
“I saw the move as a chance to educate the next generation, to plant the seed in the minds of these young people,” he says.
Around the same time, Dadoun says his middle school-age son was coming home with “photocopies of addiction education materials that were 15 or 20 years old. To make matters worse, most of the topics discussed in the classroom surrounded tobacco usage prevention.
“I was getting angry,” he says, “because it’s not fair to put students at a disadvantage because materials distributed and reviewed in the classroom were so out of date.”
Dadoun began his new mission by conducting a feasibility student in one California school district. He discovered that few teachers had the background to teach addiction education but wanted professional development training to help deliver materials to their students.
“They were in dire need for a curriculum that included risk and protective factors, environment information, family genetics, neuroscience, videos, resources etc.,” Dadoun explains.
AES began partnering with Dr. Alex Stalcup, world renowned addiction specialist and a pediatrician trained in childhood addiction issues at New Leaf Treatment Center, Teachers Curriculum Institute (TCI). Along with the local school district, AES and Dr. Stalcup developed the required five day, 50-minute-per-day program. They piloted the program with over 420 freshmen students in 15 classes at five different high school . The last class ended in early December 2016.
Dadoun and AES consider the pilot success. One student’s evaluation reads, “My favorite part of the video was how the doctor was realistic and didn’t pretend that no one did drugs.”
Next steps in the project are to incorporate the students and teachers feedback both in improving the video content as well as in the student worksheets. Dadoun says AES plans to pilot the updated curriculum in May and rollout the final pilot this fall.
Not surprisingly, Dadoun serves on the addiction education workgroup for Facing Addiction Action Committee. The Addiction Education Group is developing strategies to advocate and track the expansion of medical schools, nursing schools, and pharmacy schools with curricula focused on understanding, identifying, and treating addiction. The work is right up his alley.
Dadoun says it was natural to move into education advocacy for Facing Addiction. “Why do it? Because it’s the right thing to do,” he says. “I don’t want to ever look back and say, ‘I wish I could have done . . . ‘“