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Va. Lawmakers Hear Proposals to Combating Substance Abuse

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RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) -

An expert from Virginia Commonwealth University is advocating state lawmakers make changes to how the issue of substance use is handled at colleges and universities.

Linda Hancock, the director of the wellness center at VCU, says the usual strategy of addressing drug use is failing.

She asked the audience at Tuesday’s panel, "If you tell someone who's 18 they can't do something, and you push on them, what are they going to do?" The response from the crowd, "They'll do it."

Hancock is urging lawmakers to think about having informed discussions with students well before they set foot on campus. She also said the message currently going out now is a one-size-fits-all approach, and that doesn't work.

"I have very naive freshmen coming to campus, and very experienced users," she said.

Hancock emphasized using motivational interviewing, and suggested mandating labels on alcohol products so students know the serving size they're really drinking.

97th District Delegate Chris Peace (R), the commission chair, said Hancock’s presentation should be heard by all policy-makers in Virginia.

"While you maintain the bright line of, 'don't do drugs' for example we need to improve how we communicate with our youth. Even from an early age about what an appropriate dose is or quantity," Peace said.

Del. Peace also wants to see more collaboration between this panel, colleges and universities, and experts to develop the most helpful substance use programs for prevention and treatment of young people.