In the span of two weeks, students at three Central New York schools became the faces of a new wave of substance abuse among our youth: prescription drugs.
At Onondaga Central School, a ninth-grader was arrested on two charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance - hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller. At Wellwood Middle School, in the Fayettville-Manlius school district, six eighth grade students were suspended after one student passed out anti-depressants to five classmates, three of whom ingested the pills.
In perhaps the most frightening incident, a 16-year-old Marcellus High School student was hospitalized for overdosing on Strattera, an ADHD medication. Four students were arrested in connection with the case.
And those are just the reported incidents.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found in 2007 that prescription drugs used non-medically were the drug of choice for 12- and 13-year-olds, beating out marijuana as the most popular high. For 14- to 17-year-olds, prescription drugs came in second only to marijuana, used more often than illicit drugs, inhalants and hallucinogens.
Trends in over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse by teens have become so apparent that in 2006 the Monitoring the Future Survey, administered annually since 1975 by the University of Michigan Survey Research Center, for the first time asked 12th-graders how often they used cough syrup to get high. In 2007, the numbers had decreased slightly from 1.8 percent in 2006 to 1.4 percent.
Drugs in school
West Genesee Superintendent Chris Brown said there had not been any cases of prescription drug abuse or sales at WG, but that the problem is not a new one.
Brown, in his first year at WG, was superintendent at Hammondsport School District for eight years, and said he encountered several incidents of students selling and using prescription drugs there.
He believes it is critically important for parents to know the warning signs of prescription drug abuse.