Montgomery County had one teen, aged 19, die of a drug overdose in 2016. A 2-year-old who accidentally ingested fentanyl was the only minor to die from an overdose last year.
But those on the front lines of the opioid epidemic are seeing more and more teens experimenting with pain pills.
Groups like Generation Rx are working with kids as young as elementary age to get the message out about the dangers of prescription pill and heroin use.
The group was started by the Ohio State University school of pharmacy in 2012 and has spread to other universities. The Cedarville University chapter targets middle schools in the area.
“We were really aiming for a program that was preventative,” said Rachel Bull, a pharmacy student from Illinois and one of the Cedarville Generation Rx committee chairs. They also chose that age range because the kids are able to understand and retain information about addiction.
There is evidence that middle school students are already experimenting with dangerous opioids.
Surveys have shown 60 to 70 percent of teens said their home medicine cabinet is their source of drugs. And 20 percent of kids that misuse prescription drugs started before the age of 14. In 2015, an estimated 21,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Generation Rx teaches kids not only about the dangers of abusing pain pills, or any medication not prescribed to them, but also about the common progression from pills to heroin.
“We spend a lot of time talking about that it’s a myth that you can just take (pills) for fun and not become addicted,” Bull said. “We also spend some time talking about how the heroin addiction in a lot of cases starts with prescription pain relievers, but at a certain point heroin becomes less expensive.”
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