HARRISBURG - A new educational program focused on preventing prescription drug abuse among middle and high school students was launched today during two assemblies in the Mechanicsburg School District, Cumberland County.
Attorney General Linda Kelly said the program, known as "Consequences: Rx Abuse," will educate students, parents and teachers across the state about the dangers of prescription drugs and the lasting consequences it can have on teens and kids.
"Prescription drug abuse is now the nation's fastest growing drug problem," Kelly said. "It has been classified as an epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the illegal diversion and sale of prescription drugs serves as a major gateway to other forms of substance abuse."
"Middle and high school students are abusing prescription medications at an alarming rate," Kelly said. "Teens believe that these drugs are safer than street drugs. Our goal is to change common misconceptions that prescriptions are safer than illegal street drugs and educate students about the dangers associated with abusing prescription medications."
"Across the country the deadly toll linked to prescription drugs is now the second most common cause of fatalities in the U.S., trailing just behind traffic accidents - and overdose deaths related to these powerful pain medications far exceeds the deaths linked to heroin or cocaine," Kelly said.
Kelly noted that data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that nearly one-third of all the people who used drugs for the first time began by using prescription drugs in a non-medical manner - with many users regularly switching between powerful pain medications and 'traditional' illegal drugs, such as heroin.
Kelly said that one of the most alarming trends among teens is "pharm parties" - where teens mix lethal doses of drugs and often wash them down with alcohol. Drugs, ranging from over the counter cold medications to prescription narcotics like Vicodin are dumped into a bowl to create a "trail mix" and then casually passed around at the party.
"Teens often believe that they are invincible and they tempt fate every time they attend a pharm party," Kelly said.
"The purpose of the 'Consequences' program is not to scare students or give them the idea that medications are harmful," Kelly said. "When used under the direction and supervision of a doctor prescription drugs are safe. However, when mixed, abused, taken with alcohol and taken without authorization, the results can be deadly.
The "Consequences" presentation includes a DVD, which introduces students to Mike, an average kid who tells a gripping story about how prescription drug abuse escalated into illicit drug abuse and led to some very serious consequences in his life.
Kelly explained that the "Consequences" program will be rolled out in schools across Pennsylvania to promote a sense of awareness about the dangers and tragedies related to prescription drug abuse.
Presentations are available, free of charge, by contacting the Attorney General's Education and Outreach Unit at 1-800-525-7641 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.