High Schools Tackle Opioid Problem

by Madison Gomez
Delta Digital News Service

Opioid Crisis

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JONESBORO — Opioid use and addiction have become a crisis in the United States, but area high schools are working to help raise awareness and promote prevention.

High school students often encounter opioids, mainly through prescription medicine found in relatives’ cabinets.

“Probably one of the things that we struggle with most here at the high school would be pills, such as something you are going to find in your grandmother’s cabinet or your parents’ cabinet,” said Michelle Crain, assistant principal at Valley View High School.

A study of prescription opioid use among high school seniors found nearly one out of four high school seniors had exposure to prescription opioids.

Valley View High School works with an organization, Out of the Dark, which helps raise awareness of drug and alcohol abuse and awareness for teenagers. The community volunteer movement is located on East Mathews Avenue. This organization, and others like it, can be helpful in awareness and prevention. These clubs can help students band together while promoting safe habits.

“We have one of the most marvelous programs here,” Crain said. “We probably run right now around 85 – 95 in this club. I strongly feel that that sort of thing, sort of club, where like-minded individuals could come together is probably the best thing for teenagers.”

Valley View isn’t the only high school addressing the opioid problem and raising awareness. Jonesboro High School also is raising awareness and prevention amongst its students.

“I know that the school is very proactive now at trying to prevent drugs from coming into the school,” JHS school resource officer Brian Sawyer said, “and they deal with it if the drugs do come into school.”

If a student is found in possession of illegal substances — such as opioids — they are not only brought to the school’s resource officer, but also dealt a punishment through the school.

“If you are caught with any prescription that could be considered a drug of abuse … then we investigate that,” Westside High School principal Michael Graham said. “And if you have possession of it or distribute it or are under the influence of that while at school, then the policy says that the principal shall make a recommendation to the superintendent that the student be suspended for 10 days and recommend to be expelled from school.”

High schools use locker searches or backpack searches to help locate and deter drugs and other illegal substances from being in the high school. Jonesboro High School has an “open-door” policy with the K-9 unit that allows the police dogs to sweep parking lots and classrooms.

High schools are also attempting to tackle the problem outside of school by providing after-school programs and activities for students.

Parents and guardians are also encouraged to take action in prevention by locking up and keeping track of prescription medications for themselves and the teenager. Sawyer said parents must take steps to ensure their children do not abuse or sell household medications.