Students Abuse Of Drugs On The Rise

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The number of middle and high school students taking prescription drugs illegally on school property is on the rise in the community, according to authorities.

Payson Police Chief Don Engler said the use of prescription drugs, especially pain killers, increased in the last few years.

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In one game students place pills taken from home medicine cabinets into a bowl. Students then randomly select pills to see what the effect is. Most pills are pain killers, but some affect blood pressure and other body functions.

"Both in high school and middle school students, but the largest is in the middle school age group," Engler said.

Summer Kelley, an eighth grader at Rim Country Middle School, said fellow students offered her pills at school last year.

"Out of curiosity I took one and put it in my pocket," she said.

She is not alone.

Prescription drugs remain the leading cause of drug overdose deaths among the nation's children and teens, according to the National Centers for Disease Control.

The use of dangerous prescription drugs among kids parallels an overall 60 percent increase in drug overdose deaths nationally, from 20,000 in 1999 to 33,000 in 2005, the most recent year for which national statistics are available. The rise in prescription drug overdose drove that increase.

More teens abuse prescription drugs than methamphetamines, cocaine and heroine combined, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health -- mostly pain relievers, stimulants, sedatives and tranquilizers. That national study of drug use found that 11 percent of teenagers have taken pain relievers for non-medial reasons and 4 percent have used stimulants as recreational drugs.

Each month, 4.3 percent of teenaged girls and 3.6 percent of teenaged boys say they have abused prescription drugs, according to the survey.

Fortunately, Kelley's story had an happy ending.

She had never been offered pills before or seen anyone with pills.

Kelley found out later a friend had overdosed and ended up in the emergency room.

"So while I was walking to the busses, I was kinda scared and had remembered the pill was in my pocket so I took it out and threw it over the fence at school," Kelley said.

A teacher witnessed her tossing the Percocet pill and she was called into the "I was a little scared, I did not think what I had done was very wrong," she said.

She did not plan on taking the pill and did not know what kind of pill it was.

The vice principal, Yvette Harpe, informed Kelley she could be charged with a crime and sent to the Globe juvenile delinquent center.

"That was officially the scariest moment of my life," she said. Kelley was suspended for a week.

Engler said police and school officials are taking a firm approach to punishment this year and students found with pills not prescribed to them will face criminal and school punishments.

Last year a couple students overdosed on pills, he said, but there have been no fatalities.

Payson police school resource officer Michael McAnerny said last school year five students were arrested on illegal prescription use.

Teachers usually notice when the student is on something, he said. They look drunk or can't stand up.

"Kids are taking whatever they can get their hands on."

However, they want more downers like OxyContin and Ambien because it helps them chill at school, they don't want stimulants, McAnerny said.

Summer's father, Kevin, said he was not aware that kids were taking pills at school. Summer had never been offered pills before and had not heard of kids taking pills, he said.

McAnerny said students usually get the pills from their parents' medicine cabinet and then trade them at school for other drugs or alcohol.

Kevin Kelley said if you have children lock up prescriptions, because "it is becoming more and more prevalent."

"If it is not prescribed to you by a doctor, it should not be taken," Engler said.

Kelley said she wished she would have thought before accepting the pill and says "Kids that are starting middle school, just be prepared for what is yet to come because you are going to be tempted and curious."

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