ETSU pharmacy students shared testimonies of Rx drug abuse with students at Indian Trail Intermediate school Tuesday. Pharmacy student Jake Peters talks with the students during the presentation. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Indian Trail Intermediate School’s gymnasium is not usually considered a quiet place when a large group of fifth- and sixth-graders are gathered inside, but Tuesday afternoon was a different story as East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy students on the Generation Rx Committee spoke on the serious topic of prescription drug abuse.
Broken up in segments of role play, skits and an educational PowerPoint presentation on prescription drug addiction and abuse by student pharmacists and committee members Jake Peters, Haley Trivett, LaNae Bess and Lindsey Slusher, students fell silent as student pharmacist Chris Lopez set the tone for the program with a personal testimonial describing his late mother’s battle with prescription drug addiction.
Program committee chairman Peters said Generation Rx was an initiative started by the American Pharmacists Association — Academy of Student Pharmacists, the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and Cardinal Health.
“Through this program we go out and reach out into the community to educate about prescription drug abuse and hopefully to impact others,” Peters said. “(To) inspire ... the students here today to be agents of change along with us and making the right decisions in their life, talking with others about that as well, in order to prevent this problem we see growing in our community.
“We visit schools as often as we can. We try to at least once or twice a month go out into different schools. We started our program last May and since last May we’ve educated over 6,000 students within the immediate area. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Eager to one day enter the medical field, sixth-grader Claudia Saucier said she felt as though the information presented not only prepared her for her future career, but also gave her resources to help others.
“I learned that ... there’s different hot lines that you can call if you know ... of someone in danger of drugs or if you’re in danger,” she said.
Tori Sparks said she, too, was grateful to learn about the phone and website resources that could help someone addicted to prescription drugs, but said she was surprised to hear that “there’s more medicines that are over the counter that I didn’t know.”
She also said that she enjoyed the skits because they depicted “real-life examples.”
David Nutter, health teacher at ITIS, said the Generation Rx group was scheduled to present the program to six different groups of fifth- and sixth-grade students, a program he said he viewed as an important tool for the middle-school age group.
“Peer pressure is huge, especially at this age,” Nutter said. “At the middle school age, they’re at a fork in the road. They’re starting to make choices on their own without their parents around and if they go ahead and decide now (about not abusing prescription drugs) before they’re faced with a real-life situation ... there’s a good chance that they’ll stick with it.”
He said prescription drug abuse is becoming a growing epidemic in society, and said having the Generation Rx committee in the school to discuss these heavy topics with the students was invaluable.
The PowerPoint presentation said signs and symptoms of an addiction to prescription drugs can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, hot and cold spells and extreme cravings.
The ETSU student pharmacists outlined and discussed with Indian Trail students Tuesday the commonly abused drugs, what can happen if they or a family member become addicted, who they should confide in about the problem and the ways to combat addiction.
“We want to inspire others to be agents of change,” Peters said. “We want the kids not only to learn about it, but be empowered with these facts. Prescription drugs are useful to treat different things, but it’s also important to realize that there is a safety issue and that education is one of the ways that we can tackle this problem.”
For drug abuse help and information, call the National Youth Crisis Hotline at 800-448-4663, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Helpline and Treatment at 800-234-0420, or visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens at teens.drugabuse.gov and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at www.samhsa.gov.