NEW ORLEANS -- A program is working to combat the drug addiction epidemic by arming children and teens with the latest science and knowledge.

Program directors are hoping students from pre-K to seniors in high school will take what they learn back to their parents.

"This is a way to save our youth, save our families, save our communities, save our future," said Mary Lou McCall, a Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist with 'Protecting You, Protecting Me.'

The special program teaches school children and teens how the brain works and why drugs and alcohol can harm it.

Fourth graders at Ben Franklin are well versed in neuroscience, the inner workings of the brain, specifically the enormous amount science that has uncovered just how dangerous alcohol, marijuana and other drugs are to the developing brain.

"It gets to your brain and it damages it, like a computer if you put water in it," said Dameon Eaglin.

Since they were in pre-K, the free program 'Protecting You, Protecting Me,' supported by a federal grant, has been coming to their school.

"Knowledge is power, and if we can inform the public, the children and their parents, how to prevent the brain disease of addiction, then we won't have all these overdose deaths," McCall said.

Sadly, in their short lives, some of them have felt the pain of family loss from overdoses. One child learned so much, she and her family moved their position on the Mardi Gras parade route.

"I was at Mardi Gras and they had someone smoking marijuana near me, and the smoke was coming near us," remembers Kemyatta Gremillion, who added that the second-hand smoke made the mother lightheaded.

Armed with even the names of brain chemicals, they are learning other ways to cope with stress.

"A warm bubble bath, or go to sleep, take a nap, or just go out for a run," listed Ashanti Myles.

The brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. McCall says youth who use marijuana can drop nearly 10 IQ points.

"We have to let the kids know and the parents know, if a child starts drinking alcohol at 15 or under, they're five times more likely to become addicted then if they wait until the legal age of 21," she explained.

Even pre-K children understand the message.

"The boss of my body is my brain," said Dante Palumbo, 5.

The program also educates about protecting the brain with bike helmets, using the backseat for safety from a front seat airbag, and gambling addiction.

To have the program come to your school, E-mail: maryloumccall@gmail.com