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Archive for April, 2008

Some call them Generation Rx.

Since grade school, they’ve been taught by DARE officers to say no to alcohol, marijuana and other illegal drugs. But the message about prescription drug abuse hasn’t been as loud.

“We’re so worried about the meth, pot and other street drugs. And this isn’t street drugs,” said Kara Erickson, a nurse at Shawnee Mission South High School. “People view them as being safe. … And students are realizing, ‘Hey, there are drugs out here and they get them from their parents’ medicine cabinets.’ ”

Medical professionals and youth advocates say they haven’t done enough to attack the growing problem in middle and high schools. But on Wednesday at Shawnee Mission South, that might have begun to change.

The first high school in the country to kick off the “Smart Moves, Smart Choices” educational campaign, students got a lesson on the dangers of prescription drugs. It’s something junior John Coler says students across the nation need.

“I think since doctors prescribe it, people feel like it’s not abuse,” said Coler, a member of the school’s Raiders Against Drinking and Drugs, which helped present Wednesday’s assembly. “That it’s more safe when it really isn’t.”

Last month, nine middle school girls in St. Joseph were rushed to the hospital after taking methadone, a potent prescription narcotic. Authorities say a 16-year-old boy reportedly gave one of the girls the methadone, sometimes used as a painkiller but more frequently used in a treatment regimen to free heroin users of their addiction.

And in Wichita, six middle school students face charges after authorities say they were distributing the prescription painkiller Loritab to other students earlier this month.

Because of Erickson’s interest and the prevalence of prescription drug abuse in the Midwest, Shawnee Mission South became one of three schools chosen to pilot the educational program. Kickoff assemblies similar to the one at the Johnson County high school will take place in Ohio and Delaware next week. A fourth school is being considered.

The program is sponsored by the National Association of School Nurses and PriCara, a division of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals. It includes a series of five videos that can be downloaded from the Internet. The videos span everything from the myths behind prescription drug use to what parents should know about abuse and addiction.

“I think we missed all the signs,” said one parent featured in the video. “I always thought, ‘Awww, I’ll know. Of anybody, I’ll know what’s going on.’ ”

Experts hope the program shows parents they shouldn’t be careless with their prescriptions and should talk to their kids about prescription drug abuse. Also, don’t assume drug addicts match only one stereotype.

“I guess I would have thought a while back that the image of a drug addict is some greasy-haired kid, or a guy, (with a) single-bulb light bulb, dim room, dirty and all that stuff,” the parent in the video said. “It’s more typical that kids are young, taking drugs in a basement with a flat screen watching DVDs. It’s not what people think.”

While recent national studies show fewer teens are using illicit drugs such as marijuana, meth and cocaine, that’s not the case with prescription drugs. Those numbers continue to rise.

In 2006, more than 2.1 million teenagers ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs. Students 12 and 13 years old now say prescription drugs are their drug of choice. And in Johnson County, one in 10 students surveyed — kids in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grade — said they had used prescription drugs not prescribed to them.

That number in Johnson County jumps to one in five when just 12th-graders are included.

“In my opinion, we’re just starting to see the tip of the iceberg,” said Jason Verbeckmoes, prevention coordinator with the local Regional Prevention Center.

One goal of the program is for teen addicts to tell their stories, similar to what George Beattie did at Shawnee Mission South on Wednesday.

A high schooler from the outskirts of Detroit, Beattie told the crowd “my story as a pathetic drug addict.”

He figured to be a drug addict, “you had to want to be there,” Beattie said as he leaned against the stage inside South’s auditorium. “It just progresses. It just happens that way.”

After using alcohol and some marijuana, he started popping other people’s prescription drugs and liked how they made him feel — “like nothing else mattered.” As he consumed more, his tolerance increased, and when he couldn’t get the pills, he stole them.

Soon the prescription drugs weren’t enough anymore. He turned to heroin. After realizing he needed help, Beattie asked his family to help him get treatment. He’s been clean for nine months.

Students, like Shawnee Mission South senior Shawnta Addison, said Beattie’s story shows how addiction can rip a person apart and take away what he or she has worked for.

“He’s really brave to talk to us about what he’s been through,” Addison said.

Other students were shocked by the statistics.

“To hear numbers like one in 10 and one in five, it’s a bigger problem than I thought it was,” said Lauren Sharp, a senior.

Addison said some young people just don’t listen to the dangers.

“There are a lot of kids who do take advantage of things and they think, ‘Oh it’s so cool to do this,’ and that’s not true,” she said. “I think kids are really stupid when they do that kind of stuff.”

(Taken from www.kansascity.com, the Kansas City Star, written by Laura Bauer)

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 In a letter to NCAA President Myles Brand, a group of more than 100 college presidents and athletic directors called for a ban on beer ads during broadcasts of NCAA basketball games, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).”Given the persistent problems caused by underage and excessive college drinking, much of it in the form of beer, we find it inconceivable that the NCAA’s profiting from beer promotion during the telecasts of college basketball games comports with the best interests of higher education, sports or student welfare,” the letter stated. “NCAA allowance of beer advertising serves to enrich broadcasters unnecessarily at the expense of the values of sports and higher education.”

The group asked the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and Executive Committee to review its alcohol policies, which were amended in 2005 to impose limits on the volume of alcohol advertising during game broadcasts. An analysis by CSPI contends that the NCAA is exceeding those guidelines, which call for no more than 60 seconds per hour of beer ads and a maximum of 120 seconds of such ads per game (ads for liquor are prohibited).

CSPI said that CBS aired 200 seconds worth of beer ads during the recent UCLA vs. Memphis broadcast and 240 seconds of ads during the North Carolina vs. Kansas game.

“[E]xceeding that limit shows that the NCAA has a cavalier, ‘devil may care’ attitude about exposing kids to beer ads,” said Tracy Downs, manager of CSPI’s Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV. “They don’t even care enough to enforce their own policy.”

High-profile figures like Tom Osborne, athletic director of the University of Nebraska, and Dean Smith, former University of North Carolina basketball coach, are among the members of the Campaign’s national advisory council.

The American Medical Association also placed ads in college newspapers and the Chronicle of Higher Education during the recent NCAA basketball “March Madness” tournament, calling for schools to “Stop the Madness” and ban alcohol marketing in college sports.

(Taken from www.jointogether.org)

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A study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the University of Florida suggests that “tweens” should receive alcohol prevention programs prior to sixth grade, when nearly one in six children are already alcohol users.

The study found that adolescents who already use alcohol are less receptive to prevention programs aimed at all students. Intervening at earlier ages, specifically between third and fifth grade, would allow for truly universal anti-alcohol messages that would also provide support for high-risk students.

“Children who use alcohol in sixth grade respond differently to messages about alcohol use than those have not used alcohol,” said Keryn Pasch, M.P.H., Ph.D., University of Minnesota School of Public Health and first author of the study. “By sixth grade it’s too late; we’ll miss many of the at-risk kids.”

The study, published recently in the journal Health Education and Behavior, compared sixth-graders who had used alcohol in the past year to those who had not, in a multi-ethnic, urban sample of more than 4,000 students in 61 Chicago schools. Among this sample, 17 percent had used alcohol within the past year.

The study found that sixth-grade users of alcohol were significantly different from the non-users on almost all risk factors examined. For example, users were more likely to be male, engage in violent or delinquent behavior, and have friends who used alcohol.

Factors such as lacking the confidence to refuse alcohol and failing to perceive and value the negative consequences of alcohol use are critical in at-risk children.

Researchers suggest a prevention program prior to sixth grade in which parent involvement is central. Students should receive developmentally appropriate messages that correct inaccurate perceptions that drinking is normal and that provide “tweens” with the skills to refuse alcohol. In addition, interventions should include parental involvement in order to help create opportunities for increased parent-child communication and provide parents with the skills to increase monitoring.

“Parents and the general public don’t realize how early alcohol use starts,” Pasch said. “However, in early intervention, parental involvement is a key factor in delaying alcohol use.”

The article, “Sixth Grade Students Who Use Alcohol: Do We Need Primary Prevention Programs for ‘Tweens’?” was written by lead author Keryn E. Pasch, PhD, MPH, of the University of Minnesota, and colleagues Cheryl L. Perry, PhD, MA, Melissa H. Stigler, PhD, MPH, of the University of Texas and Kelli A. Komro, PhD, MPH of the University of Florida.

(Taken from www.cadca.org)

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WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) — Seven U.S. states are contemplating changing their laws to allow residents younger than 21 years to drink alcohol, officials said.

Kentucky, Wisconsin and South Carolina are considering laws to change the drinking age only for members of the military, ABC News reported Thursday. Missouri, South Dakota, Vermont and Minnesota are debating laws that would allow all residents to take advantage of the lower required age.

Kentucky state Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, who said he thinks the legal drinking age should be 18, told ABC News that military personnel exhibit their ability to handle alcohol-drinking responsibilities while serving their country.

States considering changing drinking ages face losing as much as 10 percent of federal highway funding because of the 1984 Uniform Drinking Age Act, which threatens to pull funding if states lower legal drinking ages below 21.

Advocates for lowering drinking ages argue that the act is outdated and binge drinking and drunken driving would be less of a problem for the United States if the drinking age were lowered.

(Taken from www.upi.com)

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On Wednesday, April 9, the Johnson County STOP Underage Drinking Project will host a community Town Hall Meeting to call those opposed to underage drinking to action.  The meeting will take place at Blue Valley Northwest High School, 13260 Switzer, Overland Park, KS 66213 at 6:00 pm in the Performing Arts Center.

 All those with an interest in the Blue Valley School System and the surrounding area are invited to participate and learn from professionals that work towards the prevention of underage drinking and related tragedies.

 For more information, please contact Karen Leisner at the Regional Prevention Center: (913) 715-7880 or karen.leisner@jocogov.org

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