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A deprivation of true inspiration

By Matt Noffs - posted Tuesday, 2 May 2006

I wanna be better than oxygen, so you can breathe when you're drowning and weak in the knees. I wanna speak louder than Ritalin, for all the children who think that they've got a disease.

These are the wonderfully resilient lyrics of a 19-year-old American named Willy Mason. In the wake of teenagers overdosing on Ritalin in a Queensland school this particular song has been haunting me.

While Mason is not talking about drug use from a recreational perspective, he is commenting on pressures adopted by young people from their parents and teachers to be concentrated and successful.


By playing a part in the only charity that offers a drug counselling service within Australian schools, I know all too well that the drug epidemic is affecting every single one of us - from students to teachers and families.

After the Queensland incident, I was asked to ramble on radio about how we could possibly stop drug use in schools.

Although people are constantly interested in why young people take drugs (and I will give some insight into that later), I reiterated that the point was not the “whys and wherefores” but the “whens”. When are we going to start helping these kids in desperate need? When are we going to be responsible enough to rework the education system to include drug intervention programs as part of every school?

I am certain of one thing concerning the Queensland incident - expulsion is not the answer.

It creates an endless cycle where the young person is repeatedly expelled from each school they attend until they either end up in a rehabilitation program like our PALM (Program for Adolescent Life Management) or worse - dead.

That situation, for me, is painfully common and is even more difficult to swallow when, through research, we know that keeping a young person in school can save a life.


An independent evaluation of our schools’ program found that not only after seeing a drug counsellor did over 50 per cent of the young people completely stop using drugs, but also the program “increased” school cohesion. That’s nothing to sneeze at when drug use within schools is increasing by the day.

This situation does not warrant such hopelessness, in fact, it’s a situation that can have a happy ending. It is my belief that we can tackle this issue by the end of the decade if only we put the resources into it. But it is only with each and every community’s support and understanding that this successful program will reach as many schools around the nation as possible.

Another famous musician, a bit older than Willy Mason, Mr Pablo Casals, put his point of view across like this:

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About the Author

Matt Noffs is the Development Manager at the Ted Noffs Foundation (TNF). He has worked in the Drug and Alcohol field for over six years and has become a voice in the community for young people, especially those suffering from drug and alcohol dependency.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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