Oakdale Joint Unified School District will celebrate Red Ribbon Week Oct. 24-28. All school sites will decorate with red ribbons, enjoy daily dress up days, and host lunchtime activities all promoting the message, “It’s up to me to be drug free.”
This year, the district is emphasizing the prevention of prescription drug abuse and is partnering with several agencies to host a prescription drug drive through drop-off event called “Drop the Drugs” on Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Families are encouraged to take time to locate any expired, unused, or unneeded prescriptions and drop them off in the parking lot of the Gene Bianchi Community Center. Community members will enter the drive through event from South Second Avenue, safely dispose of the prescription drugs, and exit without even having to get out of their car.
The Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency and Stanislaus County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services are involved with the drive through Drop the Drugs event. Personnel will be waiting to receive the un-needed prescription drugs as well as used “sharps” for community members treating for diabetes.
OJUSD director of categorical programs Kristi Rapinchuk said that taking this time with the children or young people in your home to “Drop the Drugs” sends a powerful message that prescription drugs can be dangerous and even fatal when abused – and that your family doesn’t want un-needed prescriptions lying around the home.
Rapinchuk also provided information about prescription drug abuse listed below.
Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a medication that was prescribed for someone else or takes their own prescription in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed. Prescription drug abuse can include taking a friend’s or relative’s prescription to get high, to treat pain, or because you think it will help with studying.
The most commonly abused prescription and over-the-counter drugs are pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, and stimulants such as Concerta and Adderall. Drugs available without a prescription – also known as over-the-counter drugs – can also be abused. DXM (dextromethorphan), the active cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cough and cold medications, is one example. It is sometimes abused to get high, which requires large doses – more than what is on the package instructions – that can be dangerous.
According to statistics that Rapinchuk provided, every day throughout the nation, 2,500 youth use prescription drugs to get high for the first time. So what is the prevalence of prescription drug abuse among Oakdale youth?
A survey conducted in December 2010 asked Oakdale youth, “During your life, how many times have you used or tried the following pills or medication without a doctor’s order (to get ‘high’ or ‘stoned’)?”
For prescription painkillers, the Oakdale survey showed that four percent of ninth graders and nine percent of 11th graders had used them inappropriately four or more times. For cough and cold medicine, it was seven percent of ninth graders and seven percent of 11th graders who did it four or more times. For stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, it was two percent of ninth graders and five percent of 11th graders who used four or more times.
Rapinchuk said that the district and the partnering agencies are committed to raising awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and the easy accessibility of these drugs. “Don’t do drugs” is a common message for parents to share with teens, she said, but for many teens, finding drugs is as easy as opening the medicine cabinet.
The misuse of prescription drugs is a growing, under-recognized problem that puts young lives at risk. Although drug abuse and addiction can happen at any time during a person’s life, drug use typically starts in adolescence, Rapinchuk said. Significant changes in the brain occur during adolescence, which can enhance vulnerability to drug use and the development of addiction.
She encourages parents to think about their home and what prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are around. Where are they kept? Would the parent know if some were missing? Rapinchuk said that the good news is that parents can take steps immediately to limit access to these drugs and help keep their teen drug-free: 1.) Safeguard all drugs at home. Monitor quantities and control access. 2.) Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine and always following the medical provider’s advice and dosages. 3.) Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medicines.
She advises properly concealing and disposing of old or unneeded medicines, as well as asking friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs. She also suggests that parents to talk to their teens about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These are powerful drugs that, when abused, can be just as dangerous as street drugs, she said.
“Tell your teen the risks far outweigh any ‘benefits,’” Rapinchuk said.
Websites with more information to help families have this important conversation with their children or grandchildren are http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_rx1.php and also http://www.theantidrug.com/resources/teen-rx.aspx.