Self educating youth on dangers of substance, alcohol abuse
STILWELL – Zachary Self is determined to enlighten students about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs and alcohol until they’re “too smart to start.”
Self, 35, of Stilwell, is the prevention specialist for Chain Breakers Coalition of Adair County, an organization created with to help end prescription drug and alcohol abuse in teenagers and children. Self visits schools and with youth organizations to reach students “before they start experimenting with the substances.”
“We educate on the dangers of opioid and drug abuse, as well as alcohol abuse,” Self said.
Chain Breakers was launched in 2017 with state grant funding through Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health. To help relay the coalition’s anti-drug and alcohol message, Self partnered with 13 schools, including Stilwell High School, law enforcement agencies, cities and businesses.
“I really like what I do,” Self said. “I really like helping the people of Adair County. I’ve partnered with some great organizations, and we’re slowly starting to see a change from where we were two years ago to where we are now. It’s a positive change. The city council and the mayors of Stilwell and Westville are getting on board with what we’re doing. We’re starting to pass city ordinances for tobacco, drug abuse and alcohol abuse.”
The coalition, managed by Self and his assistant, Caroline Thurman, is an extension of the Stilwell-based, nonprofit organization Orchard Road Community Outreach. Self’s message to youth warns of abusing prescribed medications.
“Chocolate is great and it’s not bad for you in small portions,” he said. “But if you eat too much of it, then you’ve got obesity, diabetes, things like that. It’s the same way with an opioid. You are prescribed that because you had surgery, you broke something or you’re in pain. So I say it’s safe if you use it correctly. But if you misuse it or abuse it, just like with any kind of food or sugar, then it can be harmful to you.”
To help prevent abuse of prescription drugs, the coalition partners with local pharmacies to offer free lockboxes.
“Our biggest drug dealer right now is grandma,” Self said. “Like any grandma, they always keep their pills on the kitchen table. That’s where they go and take their medications. So who I want to hit is grandma with the lockbox. The adult can be responsible and not abuse the prescription. But they still have them, and the kids grab them.”
In addition to his work with youth, Self helps train local law enforcement and EMS agencies how to use certain agents that reverse an opioid overdose.
On Nov. 23, Self will receive an inaugural Seven Feathers Award for Education presented by the Cherokee Phoenix.
“I think it’s an honor to be nominated because what I do, I don’t look at as a job,” Self said. “I just enjoy it. I really enjoy talking to the kids at the middle school to the high school.”
Self, a Cherokee Nation citizen, is a 2003 Westville High School graduate. He attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, Oklahoma, and then earned his associate’s degree at Carl Albert State College. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physical education at Northeastern State University.
He and his wife, Shelly, have two children, Keaton, 9, and Kylee, 7.