Updated Sat, May 17, 2014 7:15 pm
Drug addiction can affect those of any age, but it is the prevalence among high school age students that was the topic of discussion this week at Trimble High School.
Community leaders, parents, law enforcement and elected officials came together to discuss what can be done to help prevent the use of drugs and how to handle medicine abuse.
“Start Talking” is a drug prevention effort championed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his wife. The program has three target audiences, with Monday’s program focusing on the parents and their role in helping stop medicine abuse.
In a video of Gov. Kasich and his wife, Karen, he states that drug addiction does not discriminate. While steps have been taken to crack down on prescription drug abuse, such as shutting down the pill mills, there are other things that still need to be done.
Kids are 50 percent less likely to experiment if they are talked to about drug abuse, but it is hard to know what to say and how to say it, said Kasich. Information to assist with this is available on starttalking.ohio.gov.
Facilitator of the Trimble High School Parent Advisory Council, Sharon Short, then played a video which specifically focused on parents who have had children battle drug addiction. The video followed five individuals who had used prescription drugs. Three of those died as a result of drug abuse, while one is disabled as a result of drug use and another is in recovery.
The medicines are available everywhere and are easily accessible for teens, said parents in the video.
While many never suspect their children of abusing medicines, there are often signs that may be overlooked. Those signs and symptoms were highlighted by law enforcement and others in attendance. Some of the signs to look at included pinpoint eyes, missing money, foil and straws laying around.
Users will often tell parents what they want to hear in order to hide their addiction. The video encouraged parents to educate their children and themselves early on as the age of those experimenting for the first time is decreasing.
Following the video, those in attendance were asked about their immediate responses and the most surprising thing they learned about medicine abuse.
Many responded by questioning how the parents missed the warning signs, particularly when one of the children was the child of a police officer.
Athens County Interim Sheriff Rodney Smith encouraged parents to not accept that everything is okay no matter what they are told and to keep checking. He also advised to check everywhere as many will go to extremes to conceal their drug activity. As shown in the video some hid their drugs in socks while other hid things in light sockets.
“Many see law enforcement as the enemy,” said Laina Fetherolf, Hocking County Prosecutor. “We want to help them. We don’t want to see parents bury their kids.”
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn spoke of the community justice program and the property crimes task force being put in place as a way to help. He also encouraged those who may suspect something is wrong to call. He directed people to the Athens County Prosecutor website and invited everyone to take part in the next property crimes task force meeting on June 3.
Deputy Jimmy Childs expressed concern that many of those who should see the video and hear the information being provided are not attending events such as the one on Monday. He added that many do not get involved until it is personal for them.
“Just say ‘no’ doesn’t work any more,” said Childs. He stressed the need to educate kids on the dangers of prescription pills before thanking all of those there for stepping up and doing the right thing with regard to prescription drug abuse.
State Rep. Debbie Phillips spoke on the policies that have been put in place that are important to the crackdown on prescription drugs. Training for physicians and others, along with the tracking of medications prescribed to individuals have helped to cut down on some of the prescription abuse.
Others noted that drug abuse is often passed from generation to generation, with kids and teenagers seeing it being done at home when they are younger and then using as they get older.
While there are many reasons why individuals become involved in drugs the problem is not specific to just one area.
One step discussed to help cut prescription abuse is for individuals to safeguard their homes.
Childs said that after 17 years working with the kids in the schools he is seeing changes with medications now accessible to kids and being sold at the schools. Childs added that with kids as young as seventh- and eighth-grade the most likely source of the drugs is in the home.
Childs and Smith encouraged everyone to have a lock box for their medications, especially seniors. Another means of disposing of medication in a safe way is the prescription drug drop off boxes that are available in the county. Those with prescription medications were also encouraged to count their pills and to keep a log of medicines.