Middle school town hall talks prescription abuse

Rachael Keating/Clinton HeraldGateway ImpACT Coalition Executive Director Kristin Huisenga talks with parents about drug abuse and misuse in adolescence during the town hall meeting on Wednesday at Clinton Middle School.

CLINTON — In response to possible middle school student overdoses, and the impending winter break, the Gateway ImpACT Coalition jumped into action Wednesday night to educate parents and the community on prescription drug abuse and misuse.

Misuse can include not only an ingesting an excessive amount, but taking a medication for a previous injury — whether it be for that same type of injury or otherwise “acting as a doctor,” said Kristin Huisenga, coalition coordinator. It can also take the form of misleading your doctor with information, or withholding it.

Prescriptions most commonly abused are sectioned into three categories: central nervous system depressants (for example Xanax or Klonopin), stimulants (like Adderall), and opioids.

The latter has become a serious topic of conversation; its abuse has been claimed to be an epidemic and the leading cause of injury or death for people under the age of 50. It can come in the form of Oxycodone or Percocet or other pills that are prescribed to treat pain.

Huisenga reported that Clinton County has the fifth highest rate of hospitalization in Iowa for opioid-related problems.

“A lot of our public health experts say that it will not reach its peak for another six to seven years,” Huisenga said. “So we’re still on this increase; we’re going to be seeing this for quite sometime.”

However, the issue has not reached youths at the rate of their older counterparts. In a recurring youth use rate survey, less than 10 percent of recorded sixth-, eighth- and eleventh-graders reported using theirs or others medications. Though, 5 percent of both sixth- and eleventh-graders reported misusing their own prescriptions.

“One of the main reasons for that is availability,” Huisenga said.

Huisenga said to pay close attention to how kids are interacting with loved ones, if there is suspicion of drug use, or really any strange behaviors that are abnormal. But above anything, Huisenga encourages open conversations with kids. She reported that, with parental discussion, kids are 50 percent less likely to use drugs. A safe space for this, without fear of getting in trouble, will more likely bring the child back to the parent for more serious issues or if a problem develops.

“This is about creating a community of support,” Huisenga said.

Sometimes, if people have a lot of pills or plenty left over, it’s hard to tell if only a few have been taken. It is suggested to know how many pills are in the bottles. More advice to stop the availability is to lock up the pills or properly dispose of them. Medication drop-offs are posted all over the county:

n Scott Thrifty White Drug, 629 Sixth Ave. in DeWitt.

n Wagner Pharmacy and Integrated Health, 1726 N. Second St. in Clinton.

n Camanche Police Department, 819 S. Washington Blvd.

n Clinton County Sheriff’s Office/Law center lobby, 241 Seventh Ave. North, Clinton.

n DeWitt Police Department, 1505 Sixth Ave.

A change in perception of the use of prescription pills was also discussed. Youths surveyed figure that marijuana and the use of alcohol were more risky than using prescription pills. “The perfect storm,” as Huisenga put it, is availability and misinformation.

“We all know drugs are bad,” said Al Fear, with Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative, “but when it comes to prescription pills: ‘Well I see my parents take them, they’re in our medicine cabinet at home,’ that’s the perception of harm that we all need to need to understand.”

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