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Who will solve the problem of drugs in schools?

The abuse of prescription drugs by middle and high school students is evident -- but what can be done to stop it? More importantly, who will do it?

This is the second installment in a three-part series on prescription drug use and abuse among CNY youth.

The escalating prescription drug abuse by middle and high school-aged students throughout the country is evident, and in Central New York recent headlines have verified our local youth are not immune to the temptation.

But what is being done in Onondaga County to address the problem?

An existing, but worsening, problem

Jeanne Elmer has been the director of the Student Assistance Program for 22 years, and she has no illusions: "prescription drug use is on the rise," she said.

Abusing prescription drugs is now as popular, or more so, than the use of inhalants among middle school students, said Elmer.

The program places staff members in nine public school sites throughout the county, where their primary goal is to intervene with "young people who are having problems."

"We pretty much do it all," Elmer said, including drug, mental health and stress-related counseling, in-class presentations and conflict resolution.

In doing so, program staffers see first-hand the wax and wane of trends as adolescents experience them - including the rise in prescription drug abuse.

"The bottom line is, it's more common than I want to say," Elmer said. "It's absolutely very accessible for young people because it's in everybody's homes."

Elizabeth Berry, a clinical psychologist at Crouse Hospital specializing in substance abuse and treatment has seen the same dangerous trend in her 25 years working with children and adolescents.

Berry said although students' prescription drug use is not a new fad, teachers and administrators have become more aware of the problem and more students are being caught with drugs.

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