GENERATION S.O.S. was born one Saturday afternoon four years ago in a living room on the Upper East Side of New York City. A group of high school students met to talk honestly about the drug and overdose crisis, how so many of their friends were dying, and why their schools were not addressing this epidemic. These students knew drugs were ravaging their generation and they urgently needed help navigating this crisis. Society had failed them, so they turned to each other. The simple truth is teens listen to their peers. There is nothing more powerful than young adults sharing their stories and letting others know they are not alone —while educating each other about the risks of substance misuse, encouraging informed choices, and urging friends to get help if they are struggling.
While we loved our monthly discussions, we were reluctant to invite friends. What would they think? Would they assume we had a drug problem? Would they think we were uncool and had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon? Would they think we were the “drug police” and ostracize us from parties? What developed was purely organic — it was social and informative, but most important it was real and other kids truly wanted to join our group. We don’t preach abstinence; it’s not realistic. We preach awareness and safety while sharing healthy ways to navigate complicated and uncomfortable situations. This is so different from high school programs, which typically involve PowerPoint presentations and mind- numbing statistics. We soon attracted sober kids who took on a lead role in our discussions with their own heart-wrenching stories of going down the path of addiction. Our meetings became a safe place to come listen, learn, relate, and teach other kids about the dangers of drug use today — a safe haven
to talk openly and share their truths. The sober kids who shared their stories became role models and resources for us on how to live healthy lives. Before we knew it, our informal gatherings were regularly attracting 100+ kids and became the coolest place to be on a Saturday afternoon. We know the incredible impact Generation S.O.S. has had on our community. Kids from 12 neighboring schools are now starting Generation S.O.S. clubs in their schools. We helped launch a Miami chapter with seven schools represented so far. And we just launched a chapter in LA. Our hope is to build a movement that brings Generation S.O.S. to other communities and inner cities around the country, to finally transform how America responds to this opioid crisis. No young person should ever have to die of this illness or be left alone to pick up the pieces of the ones still struggling.
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