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Editorial: No rest in war on prescription abuse

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Three Franklin Community Middle School students were detained and questioned last month in connection with the illegal sale and use of prescription drugs.

The incident started when a student was sent to the school office wobbling and with slurred speech. Staff members found that the student had taken alprazolam, sold under brand names such as Xanax that treats anxiety and that the student had been given the drug at school. The student was taken by a parent to an area hospital. And school officials quickly found out that seven students had either taken, handed out or sold the drug at school.

Police believe at least one of the two students who was handing out and selling the alprazolam stole 16 or 17 of the pills from home. Nine of the pills were found at the school, Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan said.

When she learned what had happened, Principal Pam Millikan said she immediately worried about how many students were taking a prescription drug without knowing how it might affect them.

“My first thought was: How many have ingested this? Are they safe?” Millikan said. “Kids don’t know the dangers of what they’re taking; and if they take too much, it could be serious for them, and they wouldn’t be aware of it. So it is extremely dangerous.”

Middle school officials haven’t had many instances over the years of students using prescription or other drugs, Millikan said. But she’s heard from police that adults are increasingly abusing prescription medication. And sometimes when drug abuse rises among adults, children and teens start using the same substances, she said.

O’Sullivan said, “It’s our goal to put an end to it because it’s disruptive and dangerous.”

For three years, the middle school has used a program called Not My Kid to help inform parents about the dangers of prescription and other drug abuse and how they can spot the problem with their children. The school hasn’t conducted the program this school year, but Millikan hoped to use it before the start of summer break.

Millikan also wants to find additional resources that teachers and school officials can give to students and talk with them about why taking medication they haven’t been prescribed is dangerous. That will include making sure that students are watching for anything they consider suspicious, including students who might be selling or using drugs, so they can tell a teacher, administrator or police officer what’s happening, she said.

“Our kids want to keep our school as safe as we do,” Millikan said.

Education and caution clearly are the best defenses against prescription drug abuse. The medications need to be secured when not being used, and young people need to hear and rehear the message about the dangers of drug abuse.

This most recent incident is a reminder that the fight against substance abuse is an ongoing one. Each class of students is new, and they need to hear about the problem both at home and in school, just as their older classmates did.

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